If you’re familiar with my work in coaching and leadership training, you know that much of it is informed by several things:

  • H.U.M.A.N. Strategies™, my dynamic approach to personal and professional leadership, communication, and effective decision-making skills 
  • The Core Values Index™ (CVI™)
  • Positive accountability 
  • The Story we want to tell with our lives
  • And The Leadership Triangle

The underlying question with these approaches isn’t whether they are good or whether they truly work. There’s plenty of evidence to support them. 

The question my clients and I face again and again is this: Why is it so hard to do this? 

To be human? To invoke H.U.M.A.N. Strategies? To be a good leader? To have effective, positive communication and positive accountability? To have the courage to live our story?

Why is trust so easily broken between people and within teams? Why are we so skeptical, doubtful, and resistant? 

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been digging into a concept that I think might help us answer that perennial question of why all of this work is so ridiculously hard.

That approach is called Positive Intelligence™, and it was developed by Shirzad Chamine, the author of the New York Times bestselling Positive Intelligence. He has lectured on Positive Intelligence at Stanford University and has trained faculty at Stanford and Yale business schools. (You can learn more about him here.)

Never heard of Positive Intelligence? Here’s the Reader’s Digest Condensed version: 

Positive Intelligence — and the breakthrough, research-based tools Chamine has developed — “reveals how to achieve one’s true potential for both professional success and personal fulfillment. His groundbreaking research exposes ten well-disguised mental Saboteurs. Nearly 95 percent of the executives in his Stanford lectures conclude that these Saboteurs cause ‘significant harm’ to achieving their true potential. With Positive Intelligence, you can learn the secret to defeating these internal foes. Positive Intelligence (PQ)SM measures the percentage of time your mind is serving you as opposed to sabotaging you. While your IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) contribute to your maximum potential, it is your PQ that determines how much of that potential you actually achieve.

Positive Intelligence teaches that each of us has an emotional operating system that underpins everything else. But that operating system has a bug, and we need to reboot. We need to recognize that the thing that’s making it hard isn’t all bad, but it is disruptive. We can’t overcome it until we recognize what it is and give ourselves an alternative way to behave instead. That’s where PQ comes in.

Boiled down to its essence, PQ can also be described as the battle between the devil and the angel on your shoulders, whispering in your ear. The OS of humans is Positive Intelligence — and the battle between Saboteur and Sage. Too often, we listen more to the devil (the negative) than the angel (the positive); the Saboteur wins out over the Sage in those of us with a low PQ. 

With the work I do, tools like H.U.M.A.N. Strategies™, the CVI™, and coaching are great, but if a person doesn’t understand their emotional operating system — and how to make it run well — they’re bound to have less than optimal results, regardless of the tactics and tools they work with. 

When it comes to H.U.M.A.N. Strategies™, our ability to be positive impacts our ability to respond well and Manage Reactions (and, subsequently, our ability to Honor the Person and Understand Perspectives). If we react, we’re in a Saboteur mindset. If we respond, we’re in a Sage mindset. It all comes down to conscious vs. unconscious choices. 

Positive Intelligence also helps us understand the relationship — and the powerful mental and emotional forces at work — between the positive and negative sides of our CVI. Innovators, for instance, have the gifts of wisdom and problem solving, but when the going gets tough, they often resort to a conflict strategy of interrogation. It’s the eternal internal battle between good and evil.

Consider this: When bad things happen, we are being sabotaged. Why else would we hear the things we do? Why would we choose to tell ourselves negative thoughts? Or wake up at 3 a.m. racked with anxiety? Why does that happen? The 10 Saboteurs are the culprits.

Mental fitness, a key component of Positive Intelligence, helps us make better choices — and listen to the voices that matter. Just like you might go to the gym or hit the trails to build your physical fitness, Positive Intelligence helps you to strengthen your mental acuity with concrete mental fitness exercises. They help us quiet the Saboteur and turn to — and empower — the Sage instead.

We tend not to think about our minds this way. Most of us don’t make a conscious effort to build the muscles and practice the exercises necessary for optimum mental fitness. We mistakenly think our mind is already fully developed. But it’s not. We’re reactive, not proactive. As a result, when something challenging happens, we don’t have the mental control and strength to deal with it. So we react. We can’t respond thoughtfully because we haven’t built the capacity to do so.

Do you see the breakdown in your own life? I certainly recognize it in mine.

I’m convinced that Positive Intelligence is going to provide some truly breakthrough discoveries — in work with my clients, of course, but also in my own life. In fact, during two of my most recent presentations, at the Oregon Coast and in Eugene, the topic of Positive Intelligence came up really fluidly and organically in conversations, despite the fact that neither talk was centered around the concept. Funny how things like that happen, isn’t it?

As a trained Positive Intelligence workshop facilitator, I am excited to bring this to life in the  lives of others — and to continue developing my understanding of Positive Intelligence alongside them. If you would like to explore Positive Intelligence further, let me know; I’d love to help — and pass some nuggets of Sage wisdom to you along the way.

Look for more in the weeks to come!


*Positive Intelligence™ is trademarked by Shirzad Charmine

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash