Successful Leadership: Make the Most of your One Shot

Dan Quiggle Raises the Emotional Intelligence of #TSAConf2016 Attendees

Serial entrepreneur. Premature baby. Debate club scholarship recipient. Political hack. Ozzy Osbourne fan. Ronald Reagan staff member.

These phrases all describe keynote speaker Dan Quiggle, who brought his storytelling acumen and positive worldview to the stage Saturday night at the 2016 TechServe Alliance Conference.

The Impact of “Yes, and”

Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Dan entertained and challenged the audience as he shared lessons learned from a lifetime of following a philosophy of ‘when you put in extra effort, good things happen.’ Dan challenged every member of the audience to raise their emotional intelligence and walk away from the presentation with a commitment to change. To illustrate this concept, he shared a personal story about a struggling high school student, a friend of his son’s.

After a casual comment about dropping out of school, Dan repeatedly asked the boy “Are you OK?” The true answer was no – his GPA was plummeting, his girlfriend had broken up with him, and he was struggling to keep his cool. Dan encouraged to take on a “yes, and” mindset, rather than blaming others and getting caught up in the negative. That might go something like this: “Yes, I’ve been really struggling with school and life, and now I’m on track to make a change for the better.”

Today is the Day

A recurring theme throughout Dan’s presentation was the realization that you can’t be in control of everyone around you. What can you control? Your attitude, and how you respond to crisis. Yesterday is gone, so ask yourself, what can you influence today? What can you influence right now? These questions are all part and parcel of writing your own story for future success. To borrow from Ronald Reagan’s famous “It’s morning in America” campaign ad, you must define what you want your own outcome to be.

The Reagan Years

Speaking of Reagan, Dan shared numerous stories from his life-changing years spent as a member of the President’s post-White House staff. He captured these stories and more in his book Lead Like Reagan: Strategies to Motivate, Communicate, and Inspire, which chronicles that period of his life and the lasting impact of Reagan’s defining traits:

  1. Attitude of Gratitude
  2. Loyalty
  3. Humility
  4. Humor

One story illustrates Reagan’s approach to life and leadership – even when people weren’t watching, he was the same genuine person. Every single day, a fan would go out of his way to salute Reagan’s motorcade, proudly carrying with him an American flag raised in honor of the President. After years of this, one day Reagan stopped to talk to the man. He thanked him for his commitment, telling him “Every day you make me so proud to be an American.” A few moments out of his day made a huge difference in the life of one person. Similarly, as business leaders, we must be aware of our impact on those around us.

Do you have “CEO Disease”?

Often those in positions of power aren’t aware of the impact – positive or negative – that they have on those around them. They have “CEO Disease,” recognizable through its symptoms of thinking they are smarter than everyone else in the room, demanding attention, and being blind to the reactions of others. If you find yourself thinking “They loved me and think I’m wonderful” after every employee interaction, you might just have it (as does the CEO who called the whole office down to check out his new Maserati).

Even if you aren’t that out of touch with reality, Dan encourages you to stop and think about how you come across. He suggests a strategy that works well with both employees and family members. On a regular basis, ask them a few simple questions:

  • What should I do more of?
  • What should I do less of?
  • How can I improve to be the best parent/boss/person I can be?

Here’s the critical point – now, you need to “Shut up and listen.” If you are open to honest feedback, you can experience the value that comes from asking others’ options. That’s an important part of self-awareness, which is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence at Work and Home

Dan shared the other components of emotional intelligence with the audience, along with some relevant examples and scenarios:

  • Social awareness: This hinges on the ability to understand others, and to put yourself in their shoes. As an example, one high-powered company has four senior level “SWAT team” members who personally approach employees in personal crisis and make sure their workload is covered and families are taken care of.
  • Relationship management: A core element of this is conflict management. What is your ability to handle difficult situations with diplomacy and tact? Dan challenged TSA members to change their crisis mindshift to believe they will come out stronger on the other side, because they have a shared experience of surviving crisis with their family or team.
  • Self-management: Dan reminded us to take control of how you adapt to change. He keeps a reminder on his desk that captures this point succinctly: “Positively contagious or deathly toxic?” It’s another way of saying that life is 20% what happens to you and 80% how you respond.

Defining your Legacy

To close, Dan emphasized the importance of building a legacy every single moment of your life. How you treat others, from the receptionist at the company to your spouse to a total stranger, is a crucial indicator of your life’s story and success. One way to see if you’re on track: ask yourself, “How will my children describe me to their children?” (This works with “friends” as well!)

Will they say “I didn’t really know her, she wasn’t around that much.” Or will they say, “Grandma loved me more than anything, she always wanted me to have fun?” That last statement depends on a lifetime of moments creating fun. When you are disconnected or mean, that leaves a lasting mark. But when you’re positive, kind, and visionary, you’re owning your story.

Dan referenced a powerful essay called “The Station” by Robert Hastings, which his son presented to his family as an indicator of his love and respect. The last paragraph reads:

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot more often. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

Dan’s core message to TechServe Alliance came through loud and clear: “Live. Lead. Leave a meaningful legacy.” His keynote address was the perfect capstone to several days of learning, networking, and writing our collective story for future success.