People First! with Darren Kanthal

How Positive Intelligence Will Transform your Leadership


By Morag Barrett

Darren Kanthal is an executive career coach who combines a passion for developing leaders with deep expertise in the career process and more than 20 years of experience in human resources and talent. He has an unapologetic--yet compassionate!--individual results-based approach that helps leaders become the best versions of themselves.

Back to the Basics…
Darren had two lofty goals as a child--to become a baseball player or a doctor. While he quickly discovered that baseball wasn’t going to be an option for him, he fell in love with medicine as his grandma worked at a doctor's office and he loved going to his pediatrician. Eventually, as he discovered his natural gifts were not in Chemistry and Biology, Darren pursued business because his dad was an entrepreneur. This has worked out extremely well as Darren has a unique combination of skills that set him up for success in the business world.

The Emotional Arborist
While it might not be a term you’ve heard of before, Darren describes himself as an emotional arborist and spins the old Smokey the Bear saying slightly when he states that only we can prevent emotional forest fires. For most of Darren’s formative years, he displayed either happiness or anger with very few other emotions. Unfortunately, emotional illiteracy is common in western culture! After pursuing therapy after a divorce, Darren was able to awaken his emotions and started to exhibit emotions that had been bottled for a long time. His first reaction was to accuse his therapist of breaking him! For many people, emotional outbursts are the equivalent of emotional forest fires. These explosions can be defense mechanisms to cover up insecurities or uncertainty. We’re all emotional creatures, but some of us properly analyze and express emotions while others hide them inside lighting the kindling of an enormous, roaring emotional forest fire. 

Emotional Awareness
So, what can we do to avoid these emotional forest fires? One component of becoming an emotional arborist is to gain a greater awareness of your emotions. One helpful resource is to use an emotions wheel. This simple tool lists primary emotions in the center and secondary and tertiary emotions as you near the edges and can do wonders in giving a person the ability to accurately express the feelings bottled inside. Expression and awareness allow us to understand our emotions and express how we feel to others. Then, when we feel particular emotions, we can use this as a signal that allows us to pause and then figure out what’s going on. 

Pause 
Amidst our busy lives, there are rarely moments of quiet or silence! While busyness may give us the illusion of productivity and therefore health, Darren says that another component of emotional health is the ability to pause. After gaining a better awareness of our emotions, we can pause when we feel strong emotions and allow ourselves to consider the best plan of action, not the easiest emotional act. This “think before you act” approach allows us to orient our actions more around our thoughts and goals and less around our feelings and emotions. The more we practice pausing the easier it will become, an example of increasing our positive intelligence. 

Positive Intelligence
Positive intelligence is an idea rooted in an understanding that we should be mentally fit in the same way that we are physically fit.  You should exercise your brain in the same way that you exercise your body--give your brain a workout! A high positive intelligence allows us to handle life’s challenges with a positive mindset. If we are mentally fit we can overcome some challenges that may otherwise derail us. One of the best things about this is the ability to go from being mentally hijacked by emotions to a recovery state very quickly. One way to shorten the time needed to recover is to increase your familiarity with your most common mental saboteurs. Just like we need to be aware of the junk food that can tempt us into unhealthy eating habits, we must be aware of the mental and emotional habits that disrupt our emotional health.

Key to Positive Intelligence
Be able to recognize when your negative emotions come into play. 
Do some exercises to pump up your positive perspective
You have to give yourself grace--forgive yourself and learn from it

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