Drive Team Performance with Positive Intelligence


Claudia Williams, Ian Altman

00:04 Ian Altman 

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. We're joined this week by Claudia Williams. Claudia is an executive leadership coach and also is certified in something called positive intelligence as a coach, and she works with top-performing teams and CEOs on how to get the most out of the key players in their organization. So, Claudia, welcome to the show. 

00:31 Claudia Williams

Thanks, Ian. Great to be here. 

00:33 Ian Altman

And I've known Claudia for a number of years, and, Claudia, you just you're one of those people who always has amazing insight, and I always learn something every time we speak, so I'm looking forward to this discussion about positive intelligence. And, my guess is that many people in our audience are probably thinking, well, I know what emotional intelligence is. So, for starters, in the context of business leaders, when we talk about emotional intelligence, we're not even getting into positive intelligence yet. What does that mean for most organizations and for most individuals?

01:09 Claudia Williams

Sure. So, most people are familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence, and that's our ability to really understand ourselves and our ability to relate well to others. So, if we understand ourselves, then we can interact, read a room, gauge our emotions, and manage our relationships really well. So, at its base, that's basically what emotional intelligence is. And a lot of people and leaders, especially today, want and need to have a high level of emotional intelligence to be successful.

01:46 Ian Altman

Got it. And the people who lack emotional intelligence, what are some of the symptoms or characteristics that they display that makes it so those people don't work and play well with others? What would an organization see in their people if people lacked emotional intelligence?

02:05 Claudia Williams

One of the things I see most often is that people can have a high level of self-awareness, for example. So, they'll say, well, look, I'm a very direct person. Okay, well, that's only one piece of it. And so, they might have a good understanding of themselves, but there's more to it than that. And it's the what do we do with all of this? If we know ourselves, we have to have an ability to manage ourselves and to be able to see things in other people, and to be able to control and manage ourselves, and particularly our emotions and our emotional reactions, to and with others. And that's the piece I see missing so often. It's the ability to relate to others. It's the ability to self-manage and regulate our emotions. And we let that get the best of us, and it comes out in anger and frustration. And when we can't find a good way to manage all of that, it limits our potential and our ability to make good decisions, to think clearly. And if we can't do that, we can't be running our organizations well, and we can't be leading our teams to reach their full potential.

03:20 Ian Altman

And so, it sounds like the people who lacked that area of emotional intelligence, it's not necessarily just the self-awareness. It's their empathy for how other people feel and where other people are at. And then how those interactions affect your reactions and actions in the context of other people. So, I guess we can say that people without emotional intelligence suffer from what I like to refer to as “axis displacement disorder.” That's where they believe the axis of the earth has shifted, and the world revolves around them. And so that aspect could be it. So that's what we mean when we talk about emotional intelligence. And so, what is this idea of positive intelligence, and how does it differ? Because I know that when you and I had spoken about it, it was this idea of, well, it's emotional intelligence on steroids, but I know there's more to it.

04:18 Claudia Williams

Yes. So positive intelligence is the idea of ultimate mental fitness. It's our ability to respond to life's challenges in a positive way rather than a negative way. So, you take that emotional intelligence, you take that level of self-awareness, and then what positive intelligence does is it helps you not only really understand yourself, but it gives you really simple tools to say, oh, okay, I understand how I'm showing up right now. I understand what I'm feeling and what I'm about to do, and it's not going to be positive. So, what switch can I flip so that I can respond in a better way right now? And that's the key difference.

05:06 Ian Altman

And so, in some respects, it's almost, it's almost catching yourself before you make that mistake, that thing that when something happens and your emotions get the better of you, and all of a sudden you respond, and as you're responding, you're thinking this isn't going to end up well.

05:21 Claudia Williams

Exactly. So, think about putting your hand on a hot stove, right? So it is a negative emotion. Is the pain good for us? Absolutely. It sends us a signal. And then, in the most classic way, think about that email or that text message that you receive, and our natural immediate response is to type, type, type, and hit send. And how many times have we sat back 24-hours later and said, oh, maybe I really shouldn't have hit that send button. With positive intelligence, and with the strategies we learn through positive intelligence, we can catch ourselves way, way before we hit the send button and recognize what we were about to do so that we don't sabotage ourselves. And here comes my dog right into my office on cue.

06:11 Ian Altman

Your dog has a lot of positive intelligence.

06:13 Claudia Williams

She gets it. She knows exactly when to walk in the room. 

06:17 Ian Altman


06:18 Claudia Williams

And so, we can catch ourselves before we press the send button, and we can make a more thoughtful, more clear-headed decision. So, the hand is on the hot stove, we get the signal, and we catch ourselves, and we say, okay, I'm experiencing something not good right now. I'm going to choose to take my hand off the stove before I melt all my flesh. What can I do now instead? And that's the key.


So, let's give our audience some real-world examples of what might either a leader or someone in a sales role what might they do? What might be the trigger that they, without positive intelligence, that might happen and what their reaction might be? And then let's try and contrast it to what they might learn through positive intelligence on how to reframe it. Because I want to make sure that people kind of get a sense of what this is because it's got so much power to it. I don't want people to go, okay, gee, it's like a touchy-feely thing because it isn't. Because I know the effect you've had with the teams you worked with were all of a sudden people who didn't work so well together now are having these recurring Kumbaya moments where everyone's getting along and being more productive. So, what are some of those examples of what they might see without it and then with it?

07:41 Claudia Williams

Sure, so first, very real world, everyone can go to PositiveIntelligence.com and click on the assessments tab. In there, they can take for free an assessment that takes less than five minutes, and they will learn about the 10 saboteurs. Every single one of us has a judge. We judge ourselves. We judge each other. And we judge circumstances. So, we assign a feeling. We assign something as good or bad. Right? And that's a really powerful thing that we do, and we can control that. But then we all have these nine accomplice saboteurs. By way of example, I have a very high hyper achiever saboteur. So, what does that mean? It means I have a strong desire to do really well at everything I do. And that's good, right? These saboteurs they are our strengths. But our strengths can go into overdrive, and they can sabotage us. And how does that potentially negatively impact me? Well, for one thing, I might not be enjoying the ride. So, if I'm a leader of a group of people, that means I might be missing the opportunities to celebrate the small wins along the way that we are achieving goals. And we all know that if we're not celebrating the wins, we are missing out on key engagement opportunities with our teams. And, at the same time, if I leave something, I might ruminate and beat myself up on maybe the one or two things that didn't go really well. And I'm missing out on honing in on the successes, the 9/10/11 successes, so I could keep going and going. And what I really should do is look at maybe those one or two things that didn't go well, and instead of ruminating negatively, just ask myself the question, what's the opportunity for me to learn from this so that the next time I can do better? And not take all of this negative emotion and have an impact every other meeting, one on one, client/customer meeting I have that day. Because these negative emotions spiral and they overtake everything else we do. We have to do better with the negative emotions that will sabotage and take us down like a series of dominoes. And that's what we learn from all of these concepts in positive intelligence.

10:08 Ian Altman

It's interesting. I think of it as, oftentimes, I'll hear people in sales roles where they'll say, sell, I sent this message to this client, and they haven't gotten back to me. And they start extrapolating what that means. And I often say, well, what could have happened that they didn't get back to you? And they're like, well, they're playing us against somebody else. They're doing this or doing that. I'm like, or maybe they're out sick, maybe they're on vacation, maybe one of their kids got in an auto accident, maybe it's tragic, maybe it's not. Like, let's not assume that it's the worst and get yourself all wound up. You might want to, instead of sending a note saying, I can't believe you haven't gotten back to me. You might say, hey, I haven't heard from you is everything okay? And it's like, and just reframing it in a way that says, maybe the world isn't out to get you. Maybe it's not this horrible thing. Right? Does that work?

11:05 Claudia Williams

Exactly. And just think about that one salesperson example, if they're ruminating about all of the potential negative outcomes from that one customer client, potential customer client experience, that person undoubtedly will carry it into the next customer client call they're about to make.

11:24 Ian Altman

Yeah. And so, how does this dynamic play out in teams? Like when people have teams, and now you've got group dynamics that play into this, and you're trying to lead a team, you're trying to work with other people to accomplish something. How do these dynamics of positive intelligence play into that in terms of what are some of the dysfunctions that you might see in a team where positive intelligence can really help?

11:54 Claudia Williams

Well, human nature, and just by virtue of human nature, when we think we have all of the information, but in reality, we don't, we just have a tendency to assume the worst. And in team dynamics, we communicate a lot by email. We infer a lot when it comes to tone, and we assume the worst. And so, then we just continue to shoot emails back and forth, and then we show up at a team meeting, whether it's virtual or in person, and we come into it already with a whole host of assumptions. And people just aren't communicating well. When we bring positive intelligence into the mix in team dynamics now, there's a language that gives people an opportunity to talk to each other. And this is a language different from other assessments out there on the market. It's different from showing up and saying, Well, I'm a high D, and so I get to just show up and be direct, right? This is about the ability for people to ask questions now and to say, gosh, you know, you said something. How do you think your judge might be showing up right now. Or you know, Sue, I understand that you have a strong hyper-rational saboteur and that emotion or empathy might be one of the harder things for you to channel. I think it might be helpful for you in this scenario to maybe channel like a little tiny bit of empathy. Can we start this conversation over? And when a whole team is using a shared dialogue and understands how their saboteurs might be coming into play, it creates a safer conversation space to have what might otherwise feel like a confrontational conversation. It takes the confrontation out of it.


Got it. So, here's my question for you. I know you've worked with some teams where you've seen some pretty remarkable results. So, without describing or outing who they are, can you give us an example of kind of the before and after and what people saw and what happened differently? Because I think it's pretty powerful when you see what actually happens in the real world.

14:11 Claudia Williams

Yeah, from sheer performance numbers, I can tell you that groups of sales teams who've gone through this training together, their individual sales performance has gone up, but organizationally sales performance has skyrocketed. CEOs have told me, and through working with me, their teams are happier. Their teams are talking to each other more. So, they'll bring me in, and they'll say I don't understand. There's something holding my team back. We go through the program. Then the CEOs call me after and say my team is talking to each other again. My team has each other's backs again. My team is picking up the phone, and they are asking each other for help. These roadblocks where there was dysfunction, there's no more dysfunction. It breaks down silos, and especially where we have teams where some people are in the office and some people are remote. These are things that can help open up communication channels in ways where people haven't been communicating very well. And that's one of the biggest things I'm hearing. Folks just kind of forgot how to talk to each other.

15:35 Ian Altman

So, a lot of it comes down to an element, I guess, of communication. And I guess our default condition is, if I don't know, either why I'm frustrated or what's going to frustrate you, then I might just not say anything at all. And that person is probably thinking to themselves, well, I'm being the adult in this situation. I'm not creating something controversial, but the reality is that what they're not saying could actually be sabotaging the project, the business, and things like that. As opposed to, if you understand, okay, I understand how I'm wired, I also understand how everyone else in our team is wired. So now, when someone reacts emotionally to something, I can say, okay, it's not about me. Maybe I used this attribute that that's dominant for me to communicate in a way that ruffled their feathers. So now it's not so much a personal thing. It's more my communication style. I probably didn't do this as well as I should have. And I know that with this individual when I do it that way, they're likely to respond this other way. So now, let me see how I can change that and get a better outcome for everybody. Is that somewhat on target?

16:55 Claudia Williams

Yeah, you're spot on, Ian. I mean, we can tell people time and time again that the only person you can control is yourself. And you know, if you don't start working on how you show up, you won't have the ability to influence the people around you. You can't control anyone else. You can only influence others. And those are all great things to say This is the first and only thing I've found that teaches you how to do that. And I do workshops all over the place, and if you ask people what they remember about the great leaders they've had, they remember how they made them feel. And yes, leaders have to deliver results for business. And you can't deliver results if you don't have people who are talking to each other. And they can't talk to each other if they don't know how to talk to each other. And so, all of these things are connected. And it is just such a simple tool to teach people one of what seems to be the most difficult skills for leaders.

17:57 Ian Altman

Yeah, and it's funny because I think that so often, people refer to these as soft skills, and I look at them as essential skills. Because if you're not attuned to how your customer or client might be wired, if you're not attuned to how you're wired, and what might trigger you, then it probably adversely affects your interactions with everybody throughout the process. And so, my guess is, and you tell me if I get this right or wrong, my guess is that for those organizations where it's, hey, we've got this great team, but for some reason, they're not achieving their potential. They don't seem to be working as well together as they could be working. Certain people just seem to be like oil and water when they get together. And individually, they're great, but just we put them in a room together, they just, like, if one says light, the other one says dark. One says right, and the other one says left, and they just never get along. How do we impact that? It sounds like this notion of positive intelligence will kind of unlock the keys to the kingdom and says, okay, now you understand why that happens, and we can get better results.

19:03 Claudia Williams

Yeah, well, if you think about it, according to the research, only 20% of us are actually reaching our full potential. So, if you have a team full of people, only 20% of them, statistically, are hitting their full potential right now, and that's a whole lot of wasted potential. So, this is the tool that is researched to prove to help your team hit their full potential. It's a no-brainer.

19:32 Ian Altman

Yeah, that's great. And I know that you and I talked about you did this for a group of people. And I forget if it was 100%, or close to 100% of people who went through this initial program said, okay, well now we have to do this for the rest of our team. And it was almost people who were initially like, alright, we'll go along with this thing and, and we'll see how this works, and then as they went through it as a team, it was like, we need this for everyone in our organization. I think it's fascinating because for the longest time, we've had this idea of people's EQ or emotional intelligence, and that's the major measure. And it sounds like positive intelligence is a more proactive measure. So, it's not just okay, emotional intelligence says I understand what's going on with other people. And positive intelligence says, well, now you know that what do you do about it?

20:21 Claudia Williams 

Exactly and Ian, I mean, this extends even beyond the workplace. I've had some executives say, hey, can my wife participate, or can my husband, my partner, participate in this program too? And they want to bring it to their families and create a dialogue around their dinner table. It's so powerful that it impacts people, how they show up at work, and it changes their personal lives too.

20:48 Ian Altman

That's great. So, Claudia, if people want to learn more about what it is that you do and how you help organizations, what's the best way for them to reach you?

20:57 Claudia Williams

They can reach me at Claudia-Williams.com.

21:01 Ian Altman

So easy enough. So Claudia-Williams.com. We will include that in the show notes. But as always, I learned a ton from you. Thanks so much for sharing this insight about positive intelligence. And I encourage people to reach out to you, learn more about it, and I think it's cool that you have this assessment and people can take that doesn't even cost anything to see where they're at.

21:22 Claudia Williams

Thank you so much, Ian.

21:23 Ian Altman

You bet.

See how you rank in each of the five areas I've found in the decades of experience I've had working with high-performing organizations. Go to take the assessment.
B2B organizations call on Ian Altman when they want to accelerate revenue growth with integrity.
+1 (240) 242-7460
Receive proven insights and expert advice to help you modernize your approach to marketing and sales.
Sign Up
Copyright © 2022 Ian Altman. All rights reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram