Q: I have employees interested in researching and applying emotional intelligence research for themselves and their teams. I encourage grassroots initiatives in many situations (that I will also help model, support, grow, etc. as seems appropriate). I love the Personal Histories Exercise from The Advantage. It’s easy, safe enough, resonates well with people, and leads to good discussion. I’m curious if you have other suggestions for similar, proven, engaging, team exercises to help push/pull/nudge individuals and teams towards more openness, awareness, vulnerability, etc. related to the benefits of strengthening emotional intelligence.
A: Beyond the Personal Histories Exercise, which is so simple and yet surprisingly effective, there are other ways to help people get more vulnerable and open with one another. The best ways seem to use behavioral models that allow people to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses, but without feeling too exposed. I’m thinking about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC, Social Styles, and a number of others that I’m less familiar with. The reason these are effective is because they are 1) accurate (they really help people discover and describe their true tendencies), 2) judgment-free (there are no right or wrong types), and 3) practical (they provide a framework that can be applied in the real world, as opposed to something that is too academic or theoretical). When we work with clients, we do the Personal Histories Exercise (PHE) first, which is quick and relatively easy and then move to the behavioral tools I mentioned above. Finally, if you’re looking for more exercises that are similar to the PHE, I like to ask people to describe the worst job they’ve ever had or the most embarrassing moment in their lives. These exercises allow them to be vulnerable, but without going too deep too fast.