NB Preword. His books were translated into 40 languages, he even wrote one with Dalai Lama. One of the greatest minds in the world, Daniel Goleman unfolded his theories and explained us how to implement his ideas into corporations and small businesses. We know him as an author of Emotional Intelligence, he knows Kazakh people as those, who ask intelligent questions. Just follow the letters ahead…
Interviewer – Raushan Nayzabayeva, correspondent of National Business
RN: — Capitalism nowadays shows its fangs. The problem of the gap between rich and poor is growing around the World. How would you reinvent the global economy? Are there any further steps that could improve this?
DG: — I wrote a book with the Dalai Lama. He talked about this gap and called it “moral crime”. He said that there is something wrong in the structure of capitalism. People who own create more capital, get more money than the people who work for them. Workers just stay flat or rise for a little, while profits grow. That is not just a problem, it is a tragedy. And it seems to be growing greater as time goes on. Economic data in the last 200 years shows that this gap is growing and growing. I think that at some point we are going to have to realign the way money flows, like in Northern Scandinavian countries or European countries where the rich pays a larger share to support those who are poor. And I think technology will put a lot of work into solving this problem. We need an innovative solution and I don’t know what exactly it would entail.
RN: — How could corporations contribute to these changes?
DG: — I think it has to be a structural fix because the problem is in the system itself. So systematically it has to be found how to bring more money from those who have much to those who have little, in terms of basics: housing, medicine, education, whatever it may be. And the Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark, Switzerland, and Norway can be a model of how to do that.
RN: — In your book “Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body” you said that mindful meditation transforms distracting emotions. How can we apply that to small business company owner? Can government provide trainings that teach staying focused? How could you see that implemented in developing countries, like Kazakhstan?
DG: — The data from 60 best studies in meditation and mindfulness out of 6000 existing, reviewed in my book, Altered Traits. So it’s top 1% in studies that have very good methodology. It shows that the more you meditate the greater the benefits become; and these benefits include better attention, better focus, better mind wandering, better memory, better learning, better reacting, and better handling stress. Meditation helps us recover more quickly which is resilience, so it allows you to be more adaptable, calm and clear. Particularly in today’s economy with all these technological changes, you need to be able to stay calm and clear in order to adapt to changes. So I would say with any company or any nation [meditation] will do well to help its employees, or citizens, or its children. If they learn these methods, they could handle the hard reality in a more effective way. I think it could be implemented easily in countries like Kazakhstan in school systems, as a course for kids. I saw 5 and 7 year old kids meditating very successfully. This is just helping kids to stay focused and learn better; also it gives them a tool for life that is very important. Moreover, I think companies and corporations can do it too. More and more companies in the US implement meditation. You need to change the environment in the company in a simple way — just support people who are doing meditation.
RN: — One of the business’s most dangerous problems is people’s distraction. Their faces are directed at their smartphones. Some of our authors call it Intellectual Musturbation, а person runs away from reality doing this. How can we save people’s mindfulness?
DG: — The bad thing about smartphones is that they are built in all the things we like to do, so it distracts us. The good thing about phones is that they also have tools to be more efficient in what we do. So we have a choice, which is: are we going to do the things that are distracting or we going to use it for what is useful? We could have decided. In fact, many companies in Silicon Valley will not let their people bring phones into the meetings because they are too distracting. I helped people to become more in control with their attention and their focus. It is the way to inoculate against a danger of being distracted by your phone.
RN: — What is Cognitive Control and how can grown men and women develop this skill? Are there any other skills we need to develop simultaneously?
DG: — Cognitive Control is simply being able to keep your mind on the goal or your focus, and ignore distractions and impulses. Meditations strengthen the psychiatry of focusing and concentration, which also is psychiatry that inhibits impulses. So I would say that training the mind is basic mental fitness exercise, it’s like building a muscle. Meditation means to keep your mind awake, notice what it wanders and bring it back. And you can start it [training] at any point of life. Any time you resist an impulse for major reward, this is called delayed gratification, and you pursue your goal, it is helping you become more in charge of your mind, more Cognitive Control.
RN: — How can we measure self-awareness and mindfulness, when we hire people? How can we evaluate the level of social intelligence development in certain individuals?
DG: — Emotional intelligence is built on self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill. When you hire people I recommend letting them work with you for 2-3 months on a provisional basis to see what the chemistry is, see what they are like in day to day life. I think at that time you really can say if you want them to stay. In a simple interview people always try to look good. I don’t think it is really useful to ask people to be honest with you about who are they like, but the best way is to have them work in a trial basis for few month and then you will really know.
RN: — The 3 month trial period is very popular in Kazakhstan, and it is allowed by labor law…
DG: — Good! You are lucky to have this system. Someday I hope to visit Kazakhstan; it seems like a wonderful country. I did a remote talk in Kazakhstan with client, and client’s questions were very intelligent.
RN: — Compassion is one of the qualities which allows person to communicate better, and as a result it drives processes – business, relationships, performance etc. Another very common quality in our region is self-sacrifice. People risk their lives to better their community, family or business. It is some sort of heroism. Is it a part of compassion or it’s a higher point?
DG: — I think that is the common misperception about compassion. I see compassion as first for yourself, and also for others. Self-Sacrifice that harms you, even though it helps others, is not really compassion; it is self-sacrifice. Compassion is asking for a way, which is beneficial for both yourself and for others; is finding a correct balance. Moreover, I think, it applies in business and in relationships, teamwork, and so on. It’s very important to find that balance. I would question this concept of sacrificing yourself for an idea, family or business. Really? If I sacrifice myself I am not going to be a part of helping; instead, it is going to harm me. Everybody should benefit, including myself. It is a matter of surfacing the hidden assumptions; questioning in order to change how you behave.
RN: — The social brain makes people act in a similar pattern. Some call it “the corporate culture”. But sometimes external image of a company does not match the internal, and the other way around. We can say this about some persons too. How can a leader align a company’s inside and outside?
DG: — I think the question is the nature of authenticity. Authenticity is what a leader senses and does, or what we are espousing. [In a right environment] what we say, everyone says. You want this to be aligned. If you are looking to the outside, but you are ugly inside whether it is a company or a person, the answer, I think, is to find a way to articulate if your mission or feeling, or state or motivation, resonates both with you, the sender and with the receivers. Rather than trying to hide some discrepancy, it is better to align all of those: what you feel, what you believe, what motivates you, what you say; and if it resonates with people who are receiving that, who are part of your family or company, or whatever.
RN: — What could a mismatch lead to?
DG: — There are companies which are profitable for the short term, but they do so by driving people to work too hard, cutting costs, cheating. Look at Volkswagen. VW is the company that looked good from the outside, it was spreading sales and growing, and then it turned out that inside there was a big ugly secret. The diesel emissions regulators had been testing them, so VW would cheat and look good when they were examined, but in day to day operations they were terrible. And what happened? It was a terrible blow to the company when it was exposed. They lost billions of dollars; they will probably survive, but will not have the same abilities for financial success as they could have had. I think that is a good example of a company that looked good outside but was ugly inside. There might be many more [examples]. The financial downturn in the world and in the US happened because companies were looking good in numbers, but, actually, the way they operated created a deadly problem, where some company had to be saved, and some of them went out of business. So, I think, that authenticity is a pivot of corporate culture, because the way you look outside resonates with the way you look inside.