By André Ribeiro (United Kingdom)
Positive intelligence is a new term in the world of executive coaching as is positive psychology. But, as happened with emotional intelligence some 30 years ago, “positive psychology” is already revolutionising the way we look at coaching and performance.
One of the gurus of positive intelligence is Shirzad Chamine. Mr Chamine argues that research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and organisational science shows that companies with teams and leaders that have higher positive intelligence can perform up to 35 percent better than those without, while their staff are happier and report lower levels of stress.
In his book “Positive Intelligence”, published last year, Mr Chamine talks about invisible mental “saboteurs” which prevent people from achieving their goals. He identifies 10 saboteurs and gives them names, such as Judge, Controller, Victim, Avoider and Pleaser.
Saboteurs are automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own features, which work against our best interests. They are remnants of our primitive urges and instincts. Mr Chamine says nearly 95 percent of executives attending his lectures conclude that they have saboteurs preventing them from fulfilling their full potential.
Different people are affected by different saboteurs. But a saboteur common to all cultures is the judge. The judge is the universal master-saboteur, a tendency to notice and exaggerate the negative, to find fault constantly with yourself, with others, or with your conditions and circumstances.
The antagonist of saboteurs is the “sage”. The sage has access to your deep wisdom, creativity, compassion and clear thinking. It works to build positivity, using five powers to overcome the saboteurs: empathy, exploration, innovation, navigation and decisive action.
Grounds for divorce
Mr Chamine argues that positive intelligence is more important to effective leadership and performance than emotional intelligence or your intelligence quotient. The reason for this is that positive intelligence is a more basic, core form of intelligence. Without it, attempts to improve other sorts of intelligence are likely to fail because of “self-sabotage”.
Positive intelligence is measured by the proportion of time our minds are working in our favour rather than against us. The tipping point for positive intelligence is a score of 75, meaning our brain is working in our favour 75 percent of the time.
Mr Chamine arrived at this figure by using data from various studies. One set of data was from research by John Gottman. Mr Gottman, by making several studies and thousands of observations, learned to predict whether a couple would divorce. After just five minutes with a couple, he was able to predict correctly in more than 90 percent of cases.
An important factor in making his predictions was the ratio of positive expressions he heard to negative expressions. Couples that stayed married had, on average, five positive interactions for each negative interaction.
Other research that Mr Chamine used was done by Marcial Losada. Mr Losada adapted the methodology used by Mr Gottman to business teams. Mr Losada observed that the ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback was a strong indicator of the success of a team. Successful teams had, on average, three positive interactions for each negative interaction.
Another researcher Mr Chamine cites in writing his book is Barbara Fredrickson. Ms Fredrickson found that university students that made, on average, three or more positive statements for each negative statement were much more likely to be in good mental and social health.
The importance of positive intelligence suggests the need for self-improvement. There are three main ways to improve your positive intelligence.
The first way is to weaken the saboteurs. This is done by identifying those that harm you the most, properly labelling saboteur thoughts when they come to mind and then letting them go.
Fighting saboteurs head-on are inadvisable, as it can, paradoxically, strengthen them. For instance, when you criticise yourself for judging yourself, the judge is playing the part of a double agent. Remember, just a label and observe the saboteur.
A second way to improve your positive intelligence is to tap into your sage’s perspective whenever a problem arises. This consists of accessing your inner wisdom. Regard how you can turn a problem into an opportunity.
Third, give your positive intelligence workouts in the same way that athletes give their bodies workouts. This can be done through special exercises meant to build up positive intelligence “muscles” or the parts of the mind most involved in the sage’s functions.
Examples of practising Positive Intelligence are shifting your attention to feeling your physical sensations, focusing on breathing or how your body feels sitting on a chair or standing, or rubbing your hand fingers or wiggling your toes. Do these repetitions for at least 10 seconds.
It’s especially useful to do these exercises when a saboteur is in action or when we want to connect to the Sage. May your practices make your coaching flourish.
About André Ribeiro
Adviser and Executive Coach,
André Ribeiro has more than 15 years experience as a business strategist and expert adviser developing solutions for organisations and individuals. He has developed businesses from start to multi-million in sales with eCommerce, travel and online marketing.
He facilitates coaching with CEOs, senior managers, entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and families, family owned businesses and multinational organisations, including Bosch, Dinastia Vivanco, Multiplica, Portugal Telecom, Publicis Groupe and TNS Global.
He has lectured in MBA classes and facilitated executive training with several business schools in English, Spanish and Portuguese.