“The shift in thinking by researchers like Dweck and Baumeister dovetails with a revolutionary educational philosophy called social and emotional learning, or SEL, which takes the eminently sensible position that if students are going to be intellectual risk takers, they need to feel safe, and teaches a wide range of skills to help them navigate the world. “
“The value of self-mastery skills is already taking hold in the workplace, with organizations ranging from American Express to the United States Marine Corps integrating SEL into their leadership training. At Fed-Ex many senior managers now complete a course named Legacy, developed with a California-based international nonprofit named Six Seconds. One of the exercises is called Sneetch Marbles, inspired by a Dr. Seuss book. The group is divided arbitrarily into Star-Bellied Sneetches and Plain-Bellied Sneetches, working together with an equally arbitrary set of rules as an assembly line rolling marbles through pipes. But the Star Bellies have all the information and power; the Plain Bellies can’t speak unless they’re called on, and they don’t get any treats. Some of them mutiny, some want to please the boss-like Star Bellies, some undermine the process, some start cheating, some check out.
Then everyone is asked questions: What helped them be engaged or disengaged? Were they optimistic or pessimistic? Did they notice anybody else’s feelings? Did they find any purpose in the exercise? “It creates an opportunity for all kinds of interesting discussions,” says Joshua Freedman, chief operating officer of Six Seconds. “This work tells you your patterns: When I think the rules are unfair, I cheat. Or When I think it’s not going well, I blame others. Or When I think the senior manager is a jerk, I rebel. Even at very high levels of corporations, we’re all still in the schoolyard. We feel vulnerable and we’re protecting ourselves. But once people become aware of a pattern, they’re asked if it’s getting them what they really want.” Then they can change it.
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