JOURNALIST • EDITOR • DIGITAL STORYTELLING
Santa Cruz Sentinel
CORRALITOS — In the complex, global world of business, the subtle nuance of emotion can be one of the most strategic tools to master, according to Joshua Freedman, who heads up Six Seconds, a global nonprofit organization pledging to transform society one feeling at a time.
Emotional intelligence EQ is not about controlling feelings or suppressing them, rather it is the science of using emotions strategically, Freedman said from his home-based office in Corralitos. He is preparing for an annual conference on the topic next month in Silicon Valley.
“We’re not taking American ideas and exporting them, Freedman said. “Really Six Seconds is a global entity. We’re bringing a perspective of how do people work, not just in one city or in one environment, but how do they work equally in Johannesburg and Dubai? I think we’re on to something special. We draw on the neuroscience of how emotions actually drive people.”
Six Seconds was founded in 1997 in San Mateo by people who started the Nueva School for gifted children in Hillsborough 30 years earlier and, in 2009, the Synapse School in Menlo Park, both of which blend academic, social and emotional learning for 5-13 year olds.
In all their work, the group educates others about neuroscience and what they describe as the practical application of emotion and cognition in our personal interactions. Six seconds refers to the time it takes for neurotransmitters chemical signals in the brain to react to a stimulus.
“If you keep thinking about same emotion you keep releasing the same chemical,” says Freedman, the author of “At the Heart of Leadership: How to Get Results with Emotional Intelligence” as well as “Inside Change: Transforming Your Organization with Emotional Intelligence, which he co-wrote with Massimiliano Ghini and numerous other books. He calls it a six-second “window of opportunity” in which someone can choose to interrupt their thinking with something else to change what’s going on in the brain chemically.
Counting to 10 doesn’t engage the brain enough but research shows that thinking about six favorite restaurants or five favorite places will shift things, Freedman said. That can be particularly important in the workplace or office.
“Emotions are contagious and there’s very strong research to show that,” Freedman said. “When we started, we thought we’d be working primarily with education but we started getting inquiries from all kinds of organizations, ranging from FedEx to the Israeli army.”
At Capitola-based Bay Federal Community Credit Union, emotional intelligence work with the management team began in 2007 and including more than a year of meetings with management staff to work on team building, leadership training and processes for making personal change.
It was before the economic downturn. Carrie Birkhofer, president and chief executive officer for Bay Federal, said she was strengthening the team to work more collaboratively during a period of rapid growth. The training, she said, soon proved invaluable in helping the leadership team cope with rapid change due to the recession.
“EQ helped us uncover areas in which we needed to improve,” Birkhofer said. “With Josh’s help, I found that the leadership team was not as cohesive as I thought. To address this, each person identified one challenge that they committed to work on and one strength that they agreed to leverage more. We also opened up to discuss the group challenges and focused on defining what shared leadership looked like. In other words, it was important that people were not pointing fingers without accepting responsibility to make changes for the better.”
The sustaining shift, Birkhofer said, has been a deeper sense of trust with the leadership team.
“And, I have learned how to use the EQ tools to uncover issues and address them in a more effective way,” she said. “Plus, on a personal level, I believe that every successful leader should understand the components of EQ and lead from the heart.”
Donations make up less than 5 percent of the Six Seconds budget so the nonprofit uses corporate client fees to fund other social benefit endeavors. With the economic downturn, 2010 was the toughest year ever.
Losses that year, however, have been recouped this year and Freedman projects 30 percent growth for 2012.
The Living EQ Conference will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 6-7 at the Synapse School, 3375 Edison Way, Menlo Park. The event will include practical demonstrations of how to use emotional intelligence to boost business productivity and profit, improve educational outcomes for students, and create happier, healthier, children and families. For information, visit 6seconds.org or register with Jenny Wiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 763-1800.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: A nonprofit organization that provides training in tools and systems to increase emotional intelligence in the workplace, educational and military institutions and the diplomatic landscape.
GOAL: To support change-makers in every sector of society.
CLIENTS INCLUDE: U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps & U.S. Army, FedEx Corp., Pfizer Inc., Lockheed Martin, Make-A-Wish Foundation, numerous school districts, offices of education and universities, Nestle DANCOW Parenting Centers in Indonesia, University of Bologna Alma Graduate School, Brunei Shell Petroleum Co., Kids’ Turn, and Canadian Youth Solvent Addiction Committee.
TRAINERS: About 3,000 people have participated in certification trainings. The organization expects to add about 400 people to its network of practitioners in 2012.
PRODUCTS: Seven statistically validated assessment tools, plus curriculum and training tools for adults and children.
HEADQUARTERS: Corralitos and nine network offices in Amman, China, Italy, Australia, Malaysia, India, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Japan.
BACKGROUND: Founded in San Mateo in 1997.
LEADERSHIP TEAM: Anabel Jensen, president; Karen McCown, chairwoman of the board; Joshua Freedman; chief operating officer.
EMPLOYEES: About 30 people and certified consultants operating in more than 75 countries.
INFORMATION: 763-1800; www.6seconds.org