Connecting with Debbie Muno & Jeff Summers on Improving Our Emotional Intelligence

This week we are getting to the core of the social aspect of human nature: Emotional Intelligence. Debbie Muno  &  Jeff Summers are experts in the Emotional Intelligence space and helping teams and organizations improve EQ, one of the most influential skills for workers and leaders in the 21st century.

Episode Notes and Bio at

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human






Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human







Alex: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 


Cristina: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 


Alex: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.


Cristina: This is Cristina Amigoni. 


Alex: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.


Cristina: Let’s dive in. 


Alez: Let’s dive in. 


Group: Authenticity means freedom. 


Authenticity means going with your gut.


Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.


Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself. 


It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.


Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be. 


It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.




Alex: Well, hello, and welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. This week, we are joined by a duo of guests. We have husband and wife team, Debbie Muno, and Jeff Summers, joining us from the Genos Company. So please welcome Debbie and Jeff.


Jeff: Hi, Alex. 


Debbie: Thanks for having us. 


Cristina: Welcome. Welcome,


Jeff: Hi, Cristina. 


Alex: So for those who don't know, Genos works in the emotional intelligence space with all kinds of assessments and connections to how you use emotional intelligence. And they're here to talk to us a little bit about that, because it is kind of the baseline of everything we want to talk about in uncovering the human. It is a very basic level of how humans operate, and something that's always been interesting to both Cristina and I. And here, we have some experts to talk about it. So Debbie and, Jeff, do you want to give us a little overview of Emotional Intelligence before we dive right in?


Debbie: Sure, absolutely. So one of the coolest things about being a human is that we have emotions, right? And we have the opportunity to express them. So any of us who've walked the planet for any length of time, we know that sometimes we have emotions that are really cool, and powerful, and productive. And they motivate other people, or they bring other people together, or they craft environments of trust and being collegial. And sometimes we express emotions that do the exact opposite, right? We get angry, or we get really frustrated. And we might react. Who among us hasn't walked away from a heated discussion and kind of done the smack my head and said, “Geez! Debbie, why did you say that?” And that is because we are emotional beings. And so it is a really great thing about being human, but sometimes it can really get in our way. 


So Emotional Intelligence is really this wonderful awareness and understanding of really just understanding all of the information that's included in emotions. Our bodies have evolved with those emotions, to tell us something to give us information. And so when we recognize them, when we understand them, when we reason with them, and we make good decisions, considering the information in them, we get really good at connecting, and collaborating, and communicating with our other fellow humans. So the real key is to do that productively, right? We're going to be in conversation and discussion with each other anyway. How do we do that in a way that really drives toward being connected, being collaborative, being creative, and really being productive with one another and avoid that unproductive side? So, Jeff, I don't know, you might have a couple things to add to that.  You might also add how being emotionally intelligent helps when you're married and you work together. But I don't know if we go down that path. 


Cristina: And you’re on the podcast together.


Debbie: Yes. 


Jeff: And Debbie knows this, Cristina and Alex, but I tend to – I go into a more of a story or an analogy and describe things. That’s kind of how I learn best. So I'll do my best here to take the science side and make it more of an analogy and sticky. Andif you can imagine, everybody, every one of us, we all want to be heard. We all want to be valued. We all want to be appreciated and included. So we know that is the case with every living person. And in the workplace, where that goes, if then, is if we are feeling – If everything else is in alignment with the company, and we're in the right job, and we have the right office. But if we have a whole organization of people feeling appreciated, and heard, and valued, and included, that is a direct line to engagement, and productivity, and retention, and a great culture. 


So I want to set, and maybe kind of have a little fun with this, but imagine you have a company, Alex, with 100 employees, and 10 of those 100 are leaders. And you're probably not old enough, but if you remember back in the day, you're a little kid, you line up, you go to dances. And there are guys on one side and girls on the other side. Let’s just imagine you have a big gymnasium with all 100 of your people. 90 of them were on one side with their backs to the wall and each one has a sign above them that says, “I just want to feel valued, appreciated, heard and included.” And on the other side, you have 10 leaders or managers. And to get people heard in those things, guess what it doesn't include? It doesn't include me telling you how smart I am, where I got my education. People are not – They don't feel that way because of our IQ. I may have both. But imagine that for that group of 10 leaders to make their way over, they had to make a step each way. And part of that step is showing up and being somebody I want to be around and that self-awareness and being comfortable and approachable. But because there's that heard and valued, that's not a one size fits all. So you have to really get to them. 


So I look at emotional intelligence as that space between the 10 leaders on one side and 90 people that want those things. It's the intelligence to know how do I make that – Do you make it all the way over to that side? You've done work along the way to get to know that person, to hear that person, to be comfortable around that person, to inspire. So to me, emotional intelligence is they all – We all want that. How does that person, whether it's a spouse, a coworker, a teammate, or a boss? It's about understanding those things that Debbie talked about in order to get over there. Again, it's not about me, and how great I'm doing. It's about making that person feel a certain way.


Cristina: I love that analogy. And I like the fact that it does include the other person saying yes too, I want to dance with you.


Jeff: Yeah. 


Alex: I really love the idea of approachability in that. As you're moving across trying to approach the other person, there has to be that kind of mutual social contract of, “Yes, I allow this to be approached.” And when you do things like establish your education and how fancy you are, that might make other people take a step back. Maybe a reverse approachability step.


Debbie: And when you think about what makes – Now we have to stick with this analogy, right? So what makes those two groups of people start moving toward the center of that gymnasium, right? Toward each other. And it's each of those folks doing the same thing, right? So it's leaders encouraging their colleagues and their direct reports to really put forth their best effort, create environments of, a big thing right now, psychological safety. That it's okay to make a mistake. This is how we learn, to be creative, to collaborate and connect. But each side is doing that. 


And so one of the interesting – we can probably talk about this while we're together - one of the interesting things about emotional intelligence is that organizations who really begin paying attention to this, which is a really, really good thing, because it's on the top 10 list of required job skills for every job that's out there on almost every kind of survey that you'll find around social sciences. So it's really good that organizations are paying attention to this. But almost always, it lands in the leadership category, right? It's almost always that leaders are getting this insight, and this awareness, and this growth and development, which is great. 


Yet, in Jeff's analogy, there are 10 of those leaders who are influencing everybody else. Yet we have 90 other people who are still engaging with each other and their leaders, and most likely, the prospects, and the customers, and the clients of that organization. So I think when we look at emotional intelligence, everybody's human, whether you're a contributor, or a leader, we all can agree to that, right? That everybody is feeling and expressing these emotions. And so when you get everybody on board, when everybody starts to learn about how to be the other kind of smart, if you will, to be smarter with your humaneness. Really, some phenomenal things happen, right? It works like horsepower. One horsepower, but two of them will pull four horsepower. Everybody's paying attention to this. You really can end up with highly engaged, highly productive, highly creative organizations that have those kinds of cultures that make them like the employer of choice. This is when you have employees who refer their friends, “Hey, come work here, because it's great.” And that's kind of the Holy grail what organizations are after, right? They want to be able to attract and retain top talent that is engaged and energized. And one of the ways to do that is by helping people to feel, as Jeff said, heard, and valued, and appreciated, and included. It's not rocket science. It's not hard to see. It's just sometimes a little difficult to put into action, because we're human.


Alex: I imagine, we've all been at various cultures and organizations where that has not been the case, where it is a little bit harder to feel heard and feel safe. So if you guys were approached by organizations like this, what's an approach look like to help them either be aware of these things? Or the second step, taking some action on these?


Debbie: Yeah, that's a really fabulous question. It has such a broad answer, because all of this data is now coming out, right? You have data coming out from the World Economic Forum. You have data coming out from Capgemini Research Institute. You have information coming out from LinkedIn, and Inc., and Forbes, and all of this, Harvard Business review, was all saying a couple things. One, the more that artificial intelligence advances, the higher the demand for emotional intelligence, right? Because a program – I don't know. Alex, you might be the exemption to this. But a program is almost always going to compute faster than I can or a standard human can, right? They're going to solve equations quicker. What is it that a program can't do? An AI program can't emote. They can't motivate. It can't inspire. It can't express empathy. It can't just be with. 


And so these very human qualities – And I love that you guys focus on this humaneness. These very human qualities are increasing in demand. As AI advances, it's just pushing that along. And so this is one of the reasons why a handful years ago you saw emotional intelligence having this surge that hasn't quit all over business publications, because AI is not going to not advance, right? And so people who have these EI skills that they've grown and honed will make themselves more marketable, more competitive. Organizations who invest in developing those skills in their people are making themselves more competitive, having more market share, acquiring and keeping more clients, and attracting more talent. 


So, Alex, that's a long winded way to get to part of the answer to that question. But in some cases, organizations are looking for EI skills, because they're just looking to increase engagement, productivity, and profitability. And there's so much out there now that says, “Boy, if you have your people lift their EI skills, you'll get that.” 


So sometimes organizations are interested in this for the fiscal endgame. Other times, you have organizations who, in the face of COVID, which has been the other driver of emotional intelligence. When you think about the last 15 months, and that every human being on this planet was under a different kind of stress, and anxiety, and uncertainty than any ever has been in the last generation, right? The last time we went through this was 100 years ago. All of us collectively have been operating in all of that stress, and that anxiety, and that uncertainty. And so organizations who are really interested in keeping their talent, who are concerned about the emotional well-being of their employees, these organizations began looking at emotional intelligence as a way to help their people navigate these changes, circumstances, rather than attempt to cope with. One of them is very pro-active. The other is very reactive. 


So we had organizations who are very intentionally looking to help their employees and their leaders navigate through this. And that was really wise of them, because that helped them in the here and now, and also will pay off in the future. So sometimes it's culture development. Sometimes it's fiscal outcome. Sometimes it's very specific. We’ll hear things like we have a lot of turnover. Or we are promoting people, but they're not succeeding in leadership. Or we're trying to design a leadership academy. Or we really want to work with our high potentials. And still, this was something that years ago everybody was talking about, and it's still prominent out there, is the multi-generational workforce.  You still have this vast array of people working together who come from a very different generational viewpoint or perspective toward work. 


So it's exciting, because of the myriad of reasons that people investigate emotional intelligence, we probably wouldn't have time on this podcast to list. But it's really cool that developing this skill set has so many productive outcomes, whatever somebody is after. And sometimes, by the way, the outcomes are unintended, wonderful consequences. And then I'll pause here. But where the organization says, “Look, we know that lifting EI increases engagement. We know engagement lifts productivity. That's what we're after. We want more engagement.” The ancillary benefit of that is that they'll say, “Oh, wow! Sales are selling more. Sales and customer service are getting along so much more effectively. Or our leaders have been really productive.” But the other pieces of that are that the human beings who occupy those roles are also benefiting because they're becoming better partners, better parents, better siblings, better friends, better community members. And so there's this duality that's really something quite wonderful for everybody who participates.


Jeff: I'll just give you a very specific micro example of a company in Sales. So Cristina, I'll pick on you now. Let's say that Cristina has a sales staff, and younger sales staff, new, and you're looking to – It's a very relationship kind of staff, and you're trying to build trust in those people. Well, in some organizations, when they talk about trust, Debbie is an example. I go out there and be trusting. And that's difficult to do. So how we operate, if I'm one of your sales people, and I'm really working with emotional intelligence, and I want to build authenticity and trust and show it that way. It could be as specific as my calling Alex two weeks ago and we have a scheduled appointment on the phone at 10am in the morning. And Alex told me at 11am he's got a hard stop, because he's got to go somewhere else. 


So we pick up the phone for that appointment. It's 10 o'clock. And I say, “Alex, before we get started, I know we talked, and you had a hard stop at 11. Is that still the case?” If so, Alex says yes. Part of authenticity is honoring and keeping your promises. And so I, on this call, want to really start to develop that trust and build that up. I now check with Alex. So let's say at a quarter till 11, I have an alarm that goes off. I stop and say, “Alex, I'm going to stop right now. And let's close down. I'm sensitive to your next appointment at 11 o'clock. And I just want to make sure you have time to do what you need to to get there.” So that is being very intentional going into a call. But my game plan is that day is to start to build authenticity. And it's an action that comes from a behavior that we work with. So instead of just saying just be trusting. I may or may not do something. But that's as specific as it gets, is you have a behavior. You create an intentional action that, Alex, if somebody ever – A family member. Usually, how long you have, like 10 minutes. And 10 is like I got to go. I got to go. Mom, I got to go. You're like, “Ugh!” But if somebody – Really, if you're the prospect, and somebody asked you the question, and a quarter till the salesperson stopped and said, “I'm sensitive to you. Let’s shut this down.” I'm guessing there would be an era of, “There's somebody I may want to talk to again. They respect me.” It's a little bit of that. I feel valued as a person. People don't do it. So that's a micro, micro level, but that's how the stuff operates. 


Cristina: It definitely is, and especially when it's consistent. So when building trust, one of the things that I found, especially with working with teams that are new teams, or haven't been formed yet, or they don't know the leader yet, any of those, is the consistency. So it's not I'm going to ask you, or I'm going to tell you that you can come to me if you have questions once and then sit in my glass palace. And if you don't come to me, I'm assuming you don't have any questions. It's actually going out and asking every day, “Hey, how's it going today? Do you have any questions? Anything I can help with?” And then doing it 10, 15, 20, 30 times to the point where it starts getting that we're on the other side of the dance floor. 


Debbie: Yeah, we're in the middle dancing. 


Cristina: It’s like, “Oh, wait. She actually means it. So I will talk to her.”


Debbie: Cristina, that's a really good point. And Jeff, you made me think of this when you were talking about this is a behavior, right? And so one of the things, because of what we do and how we measure these things, is we're not asking do people do this? Or don't they? It's not an either or. It's really – And you just hit on it, Cristina. It's about the frequency. It's the frequency of demonstration. And what we see is that, most often, people are demonstrating some emotionally intelligent workplace behavior. The thing is, sometimes the teams around them just want more of it. You're doing it. If you just did it more, that would be great. 


So you really just hit upon that point. These are not boxes to be checked, right? This is about shifting our skill set. It's like your health. Wouldn't be great if all we had to do was eat like five brussel sprouts and do five push-ups and we'd be considered fit? Yeah, we don't get to do that in one event. It is that consistent eating healthy, exercise, meditating, being grateful. It's a systemic process. So trust is absolutely the foundation for every relation, I think, every relationship that's out there. 


And I know Alex, we've talked a bit about authenticity. And you can't have trust without being authentic. And so being authentic and living authentically instills that trust in what you say and then in what you do, and that becomes such a strong foundation for so many things


Alex:  Yeah. I always like to think of trust is almost a buffer.  You get enough trust going. And it helps when there's inevitably moments where there’s either extra stress or there would be a misunderstanding. If somebody seems short or hurt, it's a lot easier if you've built up that trust with somebody to be like, “Well, they're probably having a bad day.” Or like, “Yeah, I don't feel like this has been –” Or you reach out in reverse, and you're trying to help them. You have the trust. You have the – You want to go aid whatever is happening. And rather than just being like, “Wow, that person was a jerk this time.” And if you have no built up trust, it’s just being like, “Well, I'm done. I can't approach this right now.”


Debbie: Yeah. Well, yeah, so if I ask both of you, because I've asked this a lot. Jeff, you can answer too if you want, but you I've asked you this a whole lot of time. But if I asked Cristina, you and Alex, share, if you would, one word, if you think about the very best person who you've ever had the opportunity to work, either for or with. Or maybe it was a coach, or a teacher. If you think of that very best person, and I said just share if you would one word that really describes how you felt around that person or how they made you feel, what word comes to mind for you?


Alex: Safe


Debbie: Yeah, I like that. Did he take your answer, Cristina? 


Cristina: I’m going through the Rolodex in my head and I’m like, “Which word actually describes all of them?” I would say SEEN.


Debbie: So we felt safe, and we were seen. What one word would you use? You don’t have to limit it to one if there's more that come to mind. But one word that describes that person? So if you're going to give Jeff and I an adjective that really describe that person, what word would you use to describe them?


Cristina: That’s a good question. 


Alex: I think I'd have to go with OPEN, because there’s just like this availability.


Debbie: So you felt safe, and you describe them as open, as having this approachability or this availability? And Cristina, you said that you felt SEEN.


Cristina: Yes. And I would say – One word is still hard. 


Debbie:  Yes. Well, I won't limit you to one. Come on, we’re friends here. It can be more than one. 


Cristina: Okay. Thanks. I would say – It's interesting, because I can feel it, but I'm having a hard time describing it. I would say HONEST and GENUINE.


Debbie: Okay. And, by the way, I love that you said I can feel it, because that’s really what – It’s this humaneness thing, right? It is about – And since you said that, Cristina, did you feel it in a certain place in your body? When you feel that, is there a place where that occurs? Sometimes for some people, that's pretty overwhelming.


Cristina: I would say definitely around my heart, but an overall feeling of safety, and peace, and lack of tension, I would say. No parts of my body were tense and in that kind of fight or flight, I need to protect this mode. I guess, in a vulnerable place, like I could just be.


Debbie: Oh. We should put that on a T-shirt. Let's put that on somebody’s shirt.


Jeff: I want to come back to that, Cristina. At some point on this conversation, I want to come back to something you said.


Debbie: Tell me now about the opposite. Think about – Yeah, so that person, that you just sort of audibly groaned about. How did you feel around that person? Or how did they make you feel?


Cristina: That I didn't exist? 


Debbie: Oh, I'm sorry. 


Cristina: I know very clearly about that one.


Alex: I’d say more than didn't exist. It was that apathetic, really? I mean, it was a feeling like I didn't matter. The existence was somewhat acknowledged, but the meaning was not.


Cristina: Yeah, I didn't matter. Yeah, didn’t matter. 


Debbie: And how would you describe that person? And it's your show, so you describe them whatever you want. Sometimes we ask that question and it gets pretty colorful. So just –


Cristina: Untrustworthy, lack of integrity. The longer description is, when they share information, you're always wondering how much of the story you're not getting.


Alex: Yeah, I think it's very similar for me. I would describe it I guess as shape-shifting. You feel like you can't get a grasp on what's happening on the other side.


Debbie: So it’s like constant uncertainty, or like standing on quicksand, right? There's no foundation there. We’ll circle back to trust as the foundation of everything. So thank you. I didn't mean to do that and put you on the spot. But thank you for being good sports about that. Because listen to what we talked about, right? You two, each of you, you’re the same Cristina. You're the same Alex. You showed up in those two very different environments. So to kind of use a cliche in a very proper way, like it's not you. It's them. It's not you, right? It's the way that you experienced those two very different environments, because you didn't need us to ask you a couple questions to know these two people are really different for each of you. You're the same person with the same set of skills, and the same set of talents, and the same DNA. It's the way that you were treated in those workspaces that changed everything about you. 


On one hand, we talk about safety. And boy, I can't describe it, but I can feel it right. And I feel it around my heart. And I felt like I was safe, and I was seen, and they were open, and they were honest, and they were genuine, right? These are the places that we want to flock to, right? These are people who you two described, who whether they intentionally worked on it or not, were displaying and demonstrating emotionally intelligent workplace skills frequently. Have you feel seen, to have you feel heard, to have you feel that way? 


So the follow up question to that is – And Alex, what made me think about this whole thing is what you said. So if either of those two people who were your really great people you thought about, if they asked you to go the extra mile, or stay a little late, or pitch in with another project, or hop in and help on another team, what will be the likelihood of you giving it your all for that very best person?


Alex: I’d say 99%. I mean, there's no way it wouldn't – Unless there was like a meteor just hit my car. Like I've got to take care of something else right now.


Cristina: Yeah, I would say 200%. Like if a meteor hit my car, I would have had a backup of somebody helping in –


Debbie: You’d get some help to move the meteor so that you could – 


Cristina: Yes. 


Debbie: Yeah. Like these are the people that we would run through a brick wall, or we’ll stick with this example, right? We're going to run head on into the meteor, right? Because of how they made us feel, this is the reciprocity, right? I feel seen when I'm around you. So I feel valued, and I feel appreciated. And I trust you. You need something from me? Absolutely, I'm not even going to think about it. I'm just going to do it. 


And then the opposite is, I wonder if the person who unfortunately made you feel like you didn't exist or was totally apathetic to your existence, I wonder if they asked you to go the extra mile? Yeah, what’s the likelihood of doing that voluntarily?


Cristina: I wouldn't even go the first mile. 


Debbie: Yeah. There is no extra. 


Cristina: There's no extra. I would be out the door somewhere else.


Debbie: Yeah. Yeah. It's like I have a friend who talks about having their kids like do the dishes after a holiday, right? So parents are sitting around the table, send the kids into the kitchen to do the dishes. Parents come in in 30 minutes. Cups and saucers everywhere, forks and spoons and knives. Like, “I told you to do the dishes.” They’re like, “We did. We washed the plates.” “But what about the cups, and the saucers, and the forks and knives?” “Oh, you didn't say that. You just said wash the dishes.” So he told me that story probably 20 years ago. And that's the analogy that I think of when we find ourselves working for or with people who are not demonstrating emotionally intelligent workplace behavior. We do what the minimum is required, because that's our job. And that's what we have to do. And we have work ethic. And we're dutiful. But you didn't say wash the fork. So I'm not voluntarily going to wash the forks, right? I've washed the dishes. That's my gig. 


And so this is the essence, right? Imagine if we created workplaces where everybody felt like you guys felt when you were around your best. Imagine what happens when everybody not only voluntarily gives their all, which is the whole engagement discretionary effort thing. But this is when you have people who wake up in the middle of the night because they have a great idea and they're zipping an email off to somebody saying, “Hey, I've been thinking about this work. This is where we get all of this discretionary effort,” but all of this creativity, and all of this innovation, and all of this community and collaboration. 


And so it's so powerful that, Cristina, you're the first person who's responded to some of those questions in that way. But when you said, “I don't know that I have the word, but I can just feel it.” Yeah, that's what we're talking about. That feeling, that's what emotional intelligence is. And we feel those ways because of some biology that happens in our brains, and because we're human, and we're celebrating our humaneness. Once we understand that, then we can be really productive with that. And, Jeff, I know that you wanted to circle back to something.


Jeff: I’m not going change much, but where I envisioned, and innovation is so huge. And psychological safety and people feeling safe to contribute without fear of – I mean, that's a big thing. So what was going through my brain is, Cristina and Alex, you’re in the same sector. You compete very strongly against each other. And it's COVID. Things are happening. And your world, because of the type of business you're both in, has been turned upside down. And you can call it agile. You can call innovation, creativity. But I think of Cristina, your organization, the culture is set off of your best person. People feel safe. They feel vulnerable. They feel like they can do it. And Alex, let’s assume your culture – And not because of you, is like –


Debbie: Caveat there. 


Jeff: I've got Cristina's culture and organization and sector A that has to pivot. And all these people are getting together and staying up and calling people. And Alex, your organization, same brick and mortar, same system, same number of people. All of a sudden, people are afraid. And imagine four, five, six months down the road, same brick and mortar, same system, same kind of product, same pricing, but you both had to pivot and do things differently. And one had a culture like Cristina's best person. How they laid that out there and how people felt. And yours, Alex, was either of your two words, people, and that person was spreading through your organization. Because, really, systems or systems, brick and mortar brick and mortar, parking lots look the same. Products look the same. It comes down to that stuff. And one is flourishing, one is probably shutting the doors – I mean, it's crazy. That's where my brain went with how you were describing, Cristina and Alex. But the whole culture of that good and bad. How different? When it's great, and everybody's doing well, unfortunately, sometimes people get to low hanging fruit. And it's just busy. But we're in times, AI, COVID, where it's about staying a step ahead. And everybody's needing to be as Steve Jobs and be creative and outside the box. But the way you described your best, that would flourish. The way you describe your worst, it wouldn't happen.


Alex: Let's think about that. When you're saying it, would you go the extra mile for these people? And my first thought is for the people you have had a less positive experience, more negative experience with. My first thought is like, what could I conceivably be too busy with to be able to help this, right? What is already on the calendar, which maybe I would, I could have moved, but I'm absolutely not going to for this person. And on the flip side, if somebody you do want to help, the first thought isn't, “Do I have something on the calendar?” It's, “If I do, can I move that? How quickly can I move that?” And I think it falls exactly to ‘are you going to be able to change as an organization within six months?’ And yeah, I also loved what you said, Jeff, about it spreading too. Because, to use your dance analogy, if the idea starts to spread that somebody is not to be trusted or not seeing or hearing people, that's going to go along the other wall. That's going to go along all 90 people. That's not just going to be isolated to the interaction.


Cristina: Yes. There's not going to be a line anymore. There's going to be this group saying, “No, no, no. Don't come to me. Don't come. I don't want to be part of that.” 


Alex: It's like the gazelles moving away.


Debbie: Yes. Yes. And that kind of feeling spreads, and spreads rapidly. And it’s a difficult word to use given our given circumstances. Yet emotions really are contagious. And we all know people who – We even have phrases in our language that we just use all the time where we’ll say, “Boy, he just walks into a room and he lights the room up.” Or he's just so full of energy. Or, yeah, I follow him. He's where the fun stuff is, right? And then conversely, we have the people who are like energy vampires, right? They just walk into a group of people and just literally suck the life right out of that conversation. That's emotional contagion. And that is a part of being emotionally intelligent, where we talk about positive influence. Are we going into conversation with the intention of it being productive? But if I have to have the discussion anyway, can I use different words or different phrases? Or can I adapt my behavior in that discussion so that it has a productive outcome? 


If I have to say 100 words anyway, it's like putting fuel into your vehicle. If you put high test in, your vehicle runs more effectively. If you put the low test in, you get the knocks and the pings. Why wouldn't I want to have a high test conversation? And so when people become aware of those things, which is just a skill set, then it creates what you said, Cristina, I just feel it, right? Or what you said, Alex, I felt safe. And I felt seen. And I felt heard. And it creates that environment. And the opposite of that, are people who are indifferent is the word that we use. And Alex, I thought that when you said the word apathetic. It's that whole notion of just I don't care. It doesn't matter. I'm going to say this, because I just need to say it. 


When we're going to say it anyway, if we're going to expend that energy anyway, why not expand it in a way that is creating connection, and collaboration, and strong communication, and positivity, because we get so much out of it on the backend. And it's not just about the getting, but it's about the being, right? It's about the environment. It's about that whole sense of community. And I think that as we see people returning to the office, we're in for a tsunami of talent juggling. I feel like there are a lot of people over the last 15 months, some of whom their leaders and their organization have done a really great job at staying connected with them. And not connected in a micromanaging, “Alex, I'm checking in with you. Did you do those seven reports? When will they be done? Thank you very much,” right? 


I mean, the connection of, “Alex, look, I haven't talked to you in a bit. It's really good to see you. Grab a cup of coffee. Just tell me how it's going,” right? In that connected way. There are organizations who did that really well. Some of them had – they would have breakfast on Wednesdays together. Or it was the midday coffee break. But they stayed connected and concerned with one another in both work and a personal environment. 


We've talked to other people who their leaders, like months went by. I guess the good news is they were being micromanaged. But the other news was they weren't being seen or heard or acknowledged in any way. So I think people have re-evaluated what's important. What are they looking for from work? And how attractive is it for them to return to the work environment that they were in? And for some, they'll say, “Yeah.” And for other people, I think there's going to be kind of a collective washing of the hands and saying, “I'm not doing that anymore. I'm going to go someplace where I'm treated better, or people listen to me.” 


So I think there's this talent. It's bigger than a pool. Like a talent ocean that is about to be out there and available. And organizations who are committed to the emotional well-being, to the culture, they're the ones who are going to attract and retain these folks who are looking for something different can be interesting.


Alex: I think that's absolutely correct. And I love the fuel metaphor. I'm really stuck with it, because you're going to be spending the time anyway. I kind of think of it in terms of spending the time to fill up your car. I mean, you're going to have to stop at the gas station. You're going to have to wait for it to fill up. Would you rather spend those five minutes having a cup of coffee saying, “Go get your coffee. Let's talk. Let's just connect.” Or would you spend those five minutes reiterating the 90 tasks everybody already knows are on the plate because it's on your Jira board? You're already there. So which one are you going to do? Because one gets you 400 miles, one gets you 200.


Debbies: Exactly, exactly. And the one that's very tactical, very transactional, that's like erosion. Over time, that will just erode away at our – I'm going to keep coming back to just be, right? It's going to erode away at our being. It erodes away at our, “I'm going to go the extra mile. I'm going to help you.” And ultimately, we go from being really engaged to presenteeism, right? I'm on the robots. I get a paycheck at the end of every two weeks. I'm present. I’m here. But it's like I'm home, but my lights aren't on. I might be there, but I'm not really there with you.


And presenteeism is the enemy of engagement, right? It's not disengagement, because people who are disengaged, who are actively disengaged, they're giving you information about it. It's that kind of I’m a passenger. Yeah, I’m here. I'm here. There's so much in that group of people that if we simply operated slightly differently, we just did a couple of things differently, we could get that group to say like, “Oh my gosh, they do see me.” “Ooh! They told me that they appreciated my report that I did last week, or that the presentation I made landed really well.” These are not – We don't need to go land on the moon, right? We just need to communicate a little differently. We just need to be more human. It's our humaneness. It's a superpower. Emotional intelligence, it’s a red cape superpower that everybody can learn, which is the great thing about it.


Cristina: It definitely is. It reminds me of a couple of things actually as we talk through this, is the increasing the engagement, the innovation, the going the extra mile when asked. And one of the things that I found too is when you do have this big focus on emotional intelligence and people do feel seen, and safe, and heard, and valued, is that you don't even have to ask for the extra mile. They do it by themselves, and then they present it to you. They're like, “Hey, we thought about these three things that we haven't even been able to touch yet. What do you think?” 


And the other big piece is, especially given, well, the pandemic, and the technology advances in AI, is change agility. It's not just let's go the extra mile. It's like, “Hey, this big thing just came through. We've got to completely pivot, to use a word that's been overused for the last 18 months. We have to change our technology, or we now have a fire and we have to drop these three things that we were working on. And you see the people really just not even blinking and be like, “Yep, got it. We'll let you know when we need your support, just tell us what needs to be done.” And change resistance, it's the opposite of, then, it’s that I'm not safe. I'm not heard. I'm not seen. So if you're going to tell me, we're going to use GSuite instead of Microsoft for email. Watch us resist for the next 18 months on how painful that's going to be.


Debbie: That's right. Alex, I think you earlier said something about fight or flight. And, Cristina, that sort of circle back and reminded me about that, because what happens in our very human brains, we're lucky that this happens for us, is that we are all products of our very ancient nervous ancestors who didn't have words to communicate with. So they had to rely on their Cristina powers, right? When you said I feel it, that's all that they had, was to experience their environment and the amygdalae in their brain sent them bodily, physical messages to kind of say like, “Knock, knock, knock. There's something going on in the environment.” Now that could be something absolutely fantastic. And that created a whole set of physical sensations, or that can be something incredibly scary or causing death. Like, “Oh, boss, saber toothed tiger around the corner,” right? 


And so our very nervous ancient ancestors paid attention to those physical signals and that there's information in emotions. And I talk about that a lot. And people say, “Why do you keep saying our nervous engine ancestors?” Well, because the ones who weren't nervous, the ones who didn't pay attention to it got eaten by the saber-toothed tiger, right? They didn't live long enough probably. None of their relatives are around. So it's our relatives who were like, “Oh, I have –” And today we have these phrases, right? I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, or I got a really good feeling when I met her, or that deal just feels right. We use these phrases, yet we discount where they come from. 


And when we are in a situation where, luckily, our amygdalae tell us that it's dangerous, or it's a foe, or something's happening, a whole set of biochemical processes happens in our brain and in our body. Like blood drains from our brains and goes to our extremities, right? So that's so we can fight or flee. Our adrenal glands kick in and they just push adrenalin through our body. So we have that surge of energy and strength. 


Now, when we are in that, we call that threat circuitry. When we're in that circuitry, we lose our ability to think critically, to problem solve. We are not engaged at all, because we're in survival mode. We are simply about surviving. So, okay, our nervous ancient ancestors felt that way because they didn't want to get eaten. We don't have saber-toothed tigers today, but we have the modern day versions of that. You too talked about them earlier. Somebody who says your idea is stupid, or they steal your idea, or they're a screamer in the office, or they're very condescending, or apathetic. Our brain experiences that the same way as the saber-toothed tiger. And so we can't think critically. We're not creative. We can't solve problems. We're just trying to make it. We're just trying to cope through the moment. 


The opposite to that, the people that you described where you felt safe and you were seen in your best. See, now when we're treated that way, our brains go in reverse. A whole different set of chemicals is released in our body, oxytocin, dopamine, the feel good hormones. Now, when we're in that reward circuitry, we're kind of smarter. We have this ability to broaden and build in our thinking. We want to learn more, and we can learn more. We're at the height of our creativity. There's a whole body of neuroscience around these like epiphany moments. And they happen when we're in that circuitry. So if either of you ever have your best ideas like a hot shower in the morning, or when you're out for a run, or when you're meditating, just because of the chemical reactions happening in our body. So why care about that? Because you were talking about this, Cristina. Because when you're under a tight deadline, when you're trying to creatively solve a problem, when you need people all pulling in the right direction, what do some managers do? They come kind of putting the anvil on your head, right? The deadline is at five. You have to get it done. Do not get up from your desk until you come up with a great idea. So I've just taken you in my vehicle metaphor, and I've just put the lowest grade fuel into your tank that I possibly can. And you are knocking, and pinging, and stalling, and smokes coming out of your hood, and you can’t get there. 


But if the leader approaches, these individuals and the way that you described your best, and we want to come up with a solution. Putting folks into this reward circuitry, this is not about rubbing your puppy's belly, right? This is scientifically about putting people in a zone where they're at the height of their creativity. They're at the height of innovation. They're at the height of collaboration and idea sharing. And so this is the thing about emotional intelligence that's so cool. When people understand, “Okay, I am human. Because I'm human, what goes on in my body. I can't tell my adrenal glands like, “Hey, don't squirt.” Like, “No, no, don't do it,” right? The only way you can do that is by developing skills that make you aware of it and help you respond to it. And then how do you do that with other people? And that's really the essence of why this is so critical and so important, because this enhances everything at work, which is kind of what we're talking about. Yet, it enhances everything with every relationship that any of us ever have. And this is why we become better partners, and better parents, and better friends, and better siblings, because we become so acutely aware of reward circuitry and threat circuitry. And we want to avoid one and do more of the other, because it makes everything better. 


And my last piece, and then I'll stick my pen in my mouth. So when you were talking about your worst, right? And now we know all of this adrenaline is squirting through our body. And this is inhibiting our ability to be creative and problem solve. Also, by the way, ebbing away at our physical health, right? This is why we can't sleep. And this is why people have acid reflux and indigestion and why stress causes so many problems. But it takes adrenaline a full 24 hours to dissipate from your body. So if we're lucky and we get that 24 hours, okay, we kind of get a clean start. But usually it's a constant squirting of the adrenaline, because somebody is constantly engaging that threat circuitry. And so we never get a chance to come up. And maybe we get a chance to come up on a Friday when we walk out the door, but it kind of takes the whole weekend to recuperate. And this is why people have Sunday night sickness, right? Because they just started to feel better and now they have to go back and do it all over again. So there're so many things that can become so productive and so collaborative if we just communicate with each other slightly differently by enhancing our skill set in this area. I'm sorry, I'm on my soapbox. I'm passionate by it.


Alex: No. That's actually a really good example of emotional contagion, for one, because that's one of the reasons we love having conversations, and we really want to be able to talk to you guys especially, it’s you guys have the passion for it. This is such a core tenant of what we want to talk about and explore. And it's so much fun and so contagious to have that kind of passion. It's really exciting to be a part of too.


Debbie: So we have to be careful, I guess how we say this, but we're so excited that it's contagious for you guys, then you will be contagious for others. You will be sharing this out and helping other people to really just understand it. It's not so hard. But you will be able to, in so many respects, gift and grow and help develop the humans that your business focuses on. And that's kind of like this bigger thing, right? In the short term, you have clients who want to get from point A to point B. This is one of the vehicles to get there in addition to all the things that you do. But at the end of the day, it's this giant ripple like the butterfly effect, right? It's the impact on every one of those people in their work environment. And that was the ask. But it's everybody who impacts everybody that they connect with. And I don't know. That's a pretty cool way to share something so powerful and be so passionate about it.


Cristina: That's definitely a pandemic that we need. 


Debbie: Yes, the good kind.


Cristina: The good kind of pandemic.


Alex: Yeah, you’ve hinted at that earlier, Debbie, talking about contagious is a hard word currently. But, yeah, we talk about the turnover tsunami coming from people wanting to leave jobs. We talk about the coronavirus pandemic. We talked about the loneliness epidemic. But we never talk about the fact that you can take the opposite. You can also spread a bunch of good feelings, good vibes, more productive epidemics.


Debbie: Yes, a productidemic.


Cristina: Ooh! There’s a word that we need.


Debbie: Yeah, a productidemic. Yeah. Or a passiondemic. An eidemic, maybe. Something like that. 


Cristina: An eidemic. Yes.


Debbie: Eidemic. Yeah, there'll be more dancing in the middle of the gym, in Jeff’s analogy.


Cristina: Yes. I keep picturing Grease, by the way, as we keep talking about the dancing. I'm a graphic person. So I have to picture either images or movies in my head for anything that anybody says. And Grease is exactly the image I have of the two sides. 


Debbie: Oh, yeah. A West Side Story?


Cristina: Or West Side Story. Yes.


Alex: I thought you were in the country Greece for a second. I was like, “I guess they dance a lot.”


Cristina: Grease the movie. 

Yes. But West Side Story is even better, because you've got the rivals that then have to figure out how to communicate.


Debbie: Or famous scenes from the movie Anchorman, or Dirty Dancing. Ultimately , one lifts the other one up, right? We can go down that path for – So now, thank you, Cristina. I'll be singing. I've got chills and they’re multiplying for the rest of the day. 


Cristina: You’re welcome. 


Debbie: Chills, no. That's good. Those are the good times to have. Because we're having an eidmic. So these are the good chills to have.


Alex: It’s another contagion. 


Debbie: Yes, yes. 


Alex: So we usually have a few questions we'd love to explore with people and towards the end, but one that I want to ask you specifically, Debbie, because you've got the sign in the background there. I would love – The words Ancora Imparo. I would love to understand that better and know what that means to you.


Debbie: I will happily share that out, Alex. Thank you. So our colleague at Genos Europe is Deiric McCann, who has in his professional lifetime supported a lot of people throughout Europe and Asia. And as a result, he has this wonderful smattering of languages and phrases from multiple languages. And I don’t know, probably four or five years ago, we were working on something together. And in the midst of one of those emails, it was something that we had both learned. And he used this phrase Ancora Imparo in this email. And I thought, “Oh, Deiric is teaching me, yet again, another language. I wonder what this means.” And I looked it up. And it is a phrase that you'll find attributed to Michelangelo and to Da Vinci, most frequently to Michelangelo. And it literally translates to, “I am always learning.” And the moment that I looked that up, I thought these are two words that is the way that I hope and aspire to live my life. May I always be learning. 


And at the time allegedly that Michelangelo said this, he was 87. And I thought, “Ooh, boy. If at 87, we can still have this desire and hunger to always be learning, this voracious beginner's mind, this is like a two-word description of growth mindset, right?” Plus, I just love everything that has to do with Italy. I mean, it's just great food, and it’s great people, and it's great wine. And so the moment that I read that, I put that in the signature of my email. And so I have sent thousands of emails from the day that I adopted that. And every so often somebody will say, “Hey, by the way, what's Ancora Imparo?” And so that's actually a gift from one of our practitioners who we had worked on something together, and completely unnecessary, but significantly appreciated. And I put it here because, as I'm talking to you on Zoom, I of course can see behind me. So I get a chance to see it all day and be reminded, right? This is the way that we need to approach everything that we do. And this is the way that we want to approach everybody who we communicate with. And it's an aspiration for me, right? I don't live there. It's like emotional intelligence, right? None of us are emotionally intelligent all of the time. The idea is to more frequently operate there. And so it's a nice way for me to catch myself if I'm not – I don't know, Ancora Imparo-ing. I don't think that that's – We can make that a word for our podcast. But thank you for asking me about that. It's more than two words for me.


Cristina: Well, I don't know if I've shared this with you guys. But I grew up in Italy. So I lived there until I was 20 or so, through high school. 


Debbie: So just five years ago?


Cristina: Yeah, sure. Something like that. So, yeah, so I've always kind of known what it meant, and I've always really liked it in your signature.


Debbie: And I think some of our connection actually occurred because of Italy and because of the beautiful Italian wines, Cristina. So, see? This is why Italians, this is the language of love. This is the language of connection. This is what brings people together. 


Cristina: I would agree. 


Debbie: Absolutely.


Alex: I think that's a wonderful reminder that Ancora Imparo, I love that as just a motto, a mantra, something to continue to repeat to yourself. That's a few that I really like. That's excellent. I really like that.


Debbie: Thank you. I do too. I will give Cristina's fellow country folks the credit for the phrase. And I'm appreciative that I could just – I hope that I'm not stealing it. If I am, it's too late now, because it's out there. And now it's on tape. But it's all good. I’m positive still, right? It's contagious, productive, contagious thing.


Cristina: Yes. Isn’t the copyright statute 75 years? I think Michelangelo and Da Vinci are way past that.


Debbie: Okay. I feel better. Thank you. I’m starting to sweat on my side of this conversation for a fair bit. But, yeah, you think about if we had people in organizations who always had that curious mind, right? What does that look like? One of the things that I often talk about is when we talk about empathy, that's another – We could have a whole other discussion someday just around the power of empathy. But when you talk about empathy, if everyone got just incrementally stronger, just displayed one of the behaviors that make up our competency around empathy, just one level higher, not big giant, just one of them, one little tick higher, the ripple effect of that would be – Well, stick with all of our metaphors now, right? A tsunami of positiveness. There's just so much power in the way we treat each other, right? And so we all have used, probably all four of us in this discussion, have used Maya Angelou’s quote, that “People forget what you say, they forget what you do, but people never forget the way you make them feel.” We never forget the way people make us feel. And people who we engage with never forget the way we make them feel. 


And when you put that quote and look at it through the lens of emotional intelligence, it really makes you quite mindful of did you smile at the person who made your coffee at Starbucks? Did you thank your UPS person for working so tirelessly over the last 18 months to deliver every single thing that you got to your home? Do we smile at someone who might be really having a difficult day? These are all these micro expressions of emotional intelligence. So it's not always these big grand gestures. There are these small, tiny things that we all can do with one another all day, every day that really we put out there into our communities and with the people we engage with. So it is a superpower. 


Jeff: I want to disclose one thing Debbie said and kind of wrap up, because in the world of leadership development training and focus, so much of it lives on both ends of the bell curve. We have superstars, and we have strugglers. And that's the bell curve. In a 100 employee company like Alex, that might represent a few here and a few there. And that's the focus. But this little exercise that Debbie did with you guys, where she had you pick your best and worst, your most difficult, that's an extreme and that's real. But we work with this exercise. And I've done some recently just for the heck of it, that I'll ask somebody, like Debbie did, “What's your best?” And it's a very strong emotion, enthusiasm. I felt appreciated. I felt safe. I felt this. And just the same feelings on the other side with the negative. And I would go through a brick wall and I would do nothing. 


So recently I took – Because, really in a bell curve in a company, 90 employees are in the middle. They're not the best or worst. And I asked individuals, “Pick somebody who you've worked for that isn't like your best your worst.” And they did. And I said, “Tell me how did they make you feel.” They couldn't answer. And there was no emotion, good or bad. It was indifferent. And so what they're basically saying is sometimes they did it, sometimes they don't. But it's not one good extreme or a bad extreme. It's in the middle. So we're not asking people to jump off cliffs. People are, like Debbie said, they're doing this. I see a huge, huge opportunity. It's almost like there's an elephant in the room. And that’s in that middle of the bell curve. But it shows up as the invisible man, because companies think 20% of our people do 80%, but 80% of those people are doing things. They don't know what they're doing. They're doing it, doing it. There's a huge opportunity in the world of, again, not against the two ends, but that big middle area, people are doing things already. They just don't know they're doing it. That to me is you shine a light and give people clarity and some accountability. But it was sad to hear people not being able to say, “I'm glad they didn't say bad things.” But as Debbie said, they're going through the motions. And if that's how they go through their day, they're indifferent. They're not loyal to their company. It's nothing great or bad. But when things go bad, they don't have that safety net, and they're super stuck somebody. 


So I just see that we talked about the end so much in leadership development. That's where the attention, that huge big middle area of people that display this stuff, whether they want to or not, why not give them some clarity and a way to bump that level? It's an area that doesn't get enough attention. 


Debbie: Jeff, that’s such a good point too, because it's awareness, right? So once you learn kind of how our brains work, one of the other things that's a really big learn that happens when people go through an EI set of assessments and training programs is we say things all the time like I'm sad, I'm angry. The reality is no, we're not. I'm feeling sad. I'm Debbie, and I’m feeling sad. And I'm Debbie, and I'm feeling energized by talking to you two, right? But we say I am in the emotion. The reality is we're not that emotion. We are experiencing that emotion. And once people learn that, and that seems like semantics, but it is a huge distinction. Once you uptake that information, you can't unaware yourself of something you've just learned. There's like no rewind button. 


And so to Jeff's point, a big piece of people showing up in a way, because that's really what we're concerned with, right? How do you show up? It's not what do you have the ability to do? Or what can you do? It's what do you do? Now I know you're going to sing the Baby Shark Song, because it's about what we do do, right? But it is about what we do. How we show up? What we say. How we say it. And once you learn a couple of these distinctions, how our brains work, and I'm not angry, I'm Debbie, I might be feeling angry, then you can't let that go. And just simply that awareness helps people to start behaving in a way that is slightly more emotionally intelligent, because we learned a little something. And we don't learn – Like we learn reading, writing arithmetic in school. We don't learn, “I'm Debbie. I'm feeling sad.” We don't learn about that stuff as kids. And so we have this opportunity to really help enrich people's lives, certainly in the world of work, but also in their personal lives and in their personal health.


We know that people who have and demonstrate more emotional intelligence, who have more resilience, they have better emotional well-being. They live happier lives. They have more job satisfaction. They have more life satisfaction. So Jeff, your point is very well taken, that it is just taking that if we paid attention to those folks who are in the middle, and they just did a couple things incrementally different collectively for them, and for an organization, and for their community, that's a huge thing. So that's a really good point. Those are big Jeff points for today. 


Jeff: Is the elephant in the room that’s showing up as the invisible man that, because that group just is that people just assume they're just middle the road, that's 80%, 90% of your people. But there's all the money and the focus goes on that one where there are problems. And they're missing that huge gap. And that area in the middle of that, people are going through their day as present. It's just a huge, huge opportunity for the world to get that group, everybody. But that's the group that really needs it quickly.


Cristina: It reminds me of when people say, “I asked for an opinion and nobody had one.” I'm like, “Oh, everybody has an opinion.” They're just not in a safe space to share it. So it’s that 80% reminds me of like it's the people that, in theory, don't have opinions. They have opinions.


Debbie: Yes. And Cristina, so that circles back to Alex to something that we've been talking about, which is authenticity. So when we talk about trustworthiness, psychological safety, authenticity. So if we have those things in the culture, and you ask what's your opinion, then people will share that. And there's so much information in how people are feeling about something. But when those foundations aren't laid, you're right. They all have an opinion, but nobody is going to share it. And so we end up operating perpetually like we've got an eye patch on, or one arm behind our back, or we've got one leg tied up, right? We're at such a disadvantage when we don't pay attention to all of the information that exists in our very human emotions. There's so much in there. And if we just paid attention and harnessed it, that's a whole other spark of energy for everything that we're doing.


Alex: There's so much potential left on the table if you don’t.


Debbie: Yes, so much creativity. The next best, great idea doesn't get said or doesn't get expressed. And what so often happens in meetings, or collaborative meetings, somebody will put forth an idea, right? And then somebody sitting next to them, or the team leader, or the boss says, “Well, that's a stupid idea, Debbie,” right. And so who else has an idea? Yeah, well, who's going to raise their hand next, right? Cool. Let me get my head chopped off too, right? So that shots off. And maybe my crazy idea, Jeff adds on to that crazy idea with something else that's kind of out there. And then Alex, you come in and say,” I know it's really out there. But what about this?” And then Cristina says, “Wait a minute, if you put all three of those things together, we could do this. Maybe that is either the next really great big idea. Or it's simply the solution to something that we as a collective group are trying to get to.” But if it gets cut off here at the beginning, it never gets a chance to get built upon and get to Cristina. 


So one of the things that people can do to avoid that is when you're in a meeting and you're idea sharing, that whoever puts forth an idea, the person who speaks next has to say something like, “Jeff, that's a really good idea, or that's a really creative idea, and let me tell you why.” And they have to articulate something about that idea that has a spark of why it's good, or why it's interesting, or what. So what that does is, number one, it short circuits the, “Oh, that's a stupid idea,” right? Because if you're going to speak, you have to say it's a really creative idea. It's really good. And let me tell you why. So it forces your brain to flip its gears. Instead of being in that negative neural pathway zone, it has to flip into that positive zone. And something simple like that, sounds like it's simple, kind of can sometimes be difficult to get into a routine. But you can.  You imagine all of the things that flutter out from having a discussion like that, versus, “Hey, Debbie, that's a really dumb idea.” And even if my idea really is kind of out there, if I get cut off enough, I'll just not share them with you anymore. And now it's eroding. Now I'm suffering from presenteeism. Now I'm just washing your dishes, but I won't wash the forks unless you tell me. And I'm also on indeed, because now I'm looking for another place to share my really good ideas.


Cristina: Well, I'm sure we could go on for hours and hours on end, and we need to break for wine bottle opening in the middle. 


Debbie: Yeah, salute. 


Cristina: Yes. So we'll probably have to continue on another time, which I'm sure we'll find all sorts of things to talk about. So one of the things, and you guys both touched on this, one of the things that we ask our guests at the end of a podcast is what does authenticity mean to you? So Jeff, I'll let you go first.


Jeff: Authenticity to me just is showing up in a way that – For the most part, I'll lean on what Brené Brown says, you're showing up as your real self. And not that you're exposed in everything, but who you are as a person and how you operate, where you're not holding back, and you're just – It's trying to just show up, or you don't have to think about what am I saying? What am I doing? What are the repercussions? And you're just being. So to me it's just showing up as your real self without all the body armor and trying to appease and do all that.


Cristina: I love it. Just being.


Debbie: I think that for me, the roots of authenticity lie in self-examination, right? First of all, do I really know who I am? Do I really know? What are my personal core values? What's really important to me? What are my deal breakers? And if I can explore that and know what those values are, then that becomes the Northstar of behavior, right? Then everything that I do should be weighted against that core. 


So if we talk, for example, about inclusiveness, then everything that I do, I need to look through that lens. And if I'm doing that, then I am really authentically living to what my value is. That can be completely different from what somebody else's value is. But then everything I do should have that guide rail attached to it. And then we have to make sure that – And I'll take one of our behaviors, because, really, it's important to me. It's, are we expressing ourselves to the right person, in the right degree, at the right time, in the right place? So this means that we don't have false harmony, right? We're not always saying, “It's fine,” right? 


I think if you ask every spouse what's the worst thing if you ask your partner, “How are you?” “I'm fine.” That really doesn't mean that they're fine. You could translate fine into “you have a big problem”. But if we're not effectively expressing what's wrong, or why it's wrong in a calm manner, in an empathetic manner, right? Then these are the little grains of sand in the eyeball that turn into something giant, right? 


People write novels about one person just not expressing one feeling. One of my favorite authors is Ian McEwen. He's written so many books about just the one thing that one person didn't say to the other person, I love you, I value you, whatever that one thing is. So he probably countered against this, because that's how he earns his living. But I think that being authentic is knowing what your value is, or your values are. Using that as a lens for all of your communication, for all of your behavior, and effectively letting people know how you're feeling. So if we have trust – Because these are all interwoven, right? This is like the tapestry of trust, and being genuine and being authentic. And so if – And Jeff and I can talk a little bit about this, because people will say to us, “Gosh, you guys, you’ve been married for 20 years, you live together, you work together. How do you do that?” The foundation on all of that is absolute unequivocal trust. And when you have that, then you have to have empathy and paying attention to the other person, and expressing how you feel accurately and effectively in a way that's empathetic. And that has open communication. 


And by the way, I can say that out loud. But I don't always do that, right? Sometimes the person I'm the most emotionally unintelligent with is Jeff. And he's the person who I'm closest to that I picked in the whole wide world. So it's a good daily reminder for me that how important everything we say is and everything we do, and where are we each coming from? So there's no second guessing. Each knows where the other is. So Jeff, thank you for being married to me and working with me for 20 years. This seems like a good place to say that publicly.


Cristina: It's beautiful. Thank you for both definitions.


Debbie: Do you guys – Because I know authenticity is such a an important fundamental value for your organization.- Do you each have a preferred definition or something you identify with authenticity? I would like Ancora Imparo from you too.


Cristina: We do. And I think they're similar, but slightly different.


Alex: Yeah. I would say part of it is preferably learning more about authenticity from discussions with other people and what that means to them, one. But a lot of it comes down for me to a lot of – Similar to what Jeff said, it's very much a comfort level. It's feeling like you can be yourself, like allowing other people to be themselves. And it kind of goes back to the social contract idea of there being this mutual connection of authenticity where you can both feel comfortable, express your full self and allow other people to do that. And everybody feels a little bit more broadly accepted.


Cristina: Yeah, for me, it's very much of that dance floor. And it's a social contract. My definition is that authenticity is a social contract between my courage to show up as my true self, and the acceptance, and value, and being seen, and heard when I do that.


Jeff: Wow, that's cool. 


Debbie: It is beautiful, if everybody could pause and work really hard to take the perspective of someone else. I think there's probably something that people think that they have to agree on everything. None of us have to agree on everything. But it is really valuable when we see something through someone else's eyes. And that does lead to acceptance. And it is courageous to show up and be who you are. I love that. Thank you both. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to turn the tables on you. But yeah, it's a good chance to learn on a topic that I know all four of us are always focused on.


Cristina: It's good reminder for us. 


Alex: It was learning about. 


Cristina: And we're learning. We're still learning. 


Debbie: We are always learning. 


Cristina: Yes, always learning. 


Debbie: Absolutely. 


Cristina: Well, where can people find you, Debbie and Jeff?


Debbie: So you can find us at That's Both Jeff and I are on LinkedIn. So Debbie Muno, and Jeff Summers. I think that we are the only Debbie Muno and Jeff Summers on LinkedIn. But if your name is Debbie Muno or Jeff Summers, and you're not either one of us, I apologize for that. And we're on Facebook, Genos North America on Facebook as well.


Alex: Thank you guys so much for joining us. This has been an incredible conversation. It's very much just truly the base layer of so much of what we want to dive into. And you guys have given amazing explanations for how to connect to what this is and applying it. So thank you so much for joining.


Jeff: Thank you guys. Appreciate it, Cristina and Alex. Thank you guys for the opportunity.


Debbie:  Thank you for having us. 


Cristina: Thank you so much.


Debbie: And thank you guys for the work you're doing, the podcast that you're doing. You’re out there being so human-centric. Like the things that just make people's hearts sing. So thank you both for having us. And thank you both for the work that you do. 


Cristina: Thank you.


Alex: Thank you.


Cristina: And thank you, everybody, for listening. 


Alex: And thank you, everybody, for listening. Perfect.




Cristina: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 


Alex: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood. 


Cristina: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 


Alex: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.


Cristina: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.



Jeff SummersProfile Photo

Jeff Summers

Managing Director - Genos North America

My interest in Emotional Intelligence started in 1985 when I began paying attention to, and applying the ideas that I learned from my reading. Now, as an Authorized Distributor for Genos International and as a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, I have the opportunity to work with coaches, consultants and trainers, Organizational Development Specialists, Human Resource Professionals, Corporate Trainers and business owners – enabling them to fill this need of advancing Emotional Intelligence inside of their client companies and organizations.

Debbie MunoProfile Photo

Debbie Muno

Managing Director - Genos North America

My fascination with Emotional Intelligence started long before I even knew that it had a formal name. Working in television, competing in gymnastics, owning a business and being married all taught me to address, manage and try to understand my emotions and those of the people around me – this was my informal EI Education.