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Relias Vitals+Vision Podcast, Season 1

Episode 2: Emotional Intelligence

With Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP 22 min

We continue our discussion with Cara Silletto, President and Chief Retention Officer at Magnet Culture. This time Leigh and Cara explore emotional intelligence in the workplace. Our emotions impact our behavior and decision-making. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence can regulate employees’ emotional responses to changes, better communicate bad news, and diffuse difficult situations.

About Cara Silletto

Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP

Workforce thought leader Cara Silletto works with organizations of all sizes to reduce unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers more effective. As President and Chief Retention Officer of Magnet Culture, Cara has built an incredible team of generational and turnover experts to provide relevant live and virtual keynote speeches, specialized training programs and consulting, all of which are custom-built to make businesses more profitable.

Workforce Magazine in Chicago named Silletto a “Game Changer” for her innovative approach to solving generational issues in the workplace, and Recruiter.com listed her in its “Top 10 Company Culture Experts to Watch” list. She is also the author of Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave & How to Keep Them Longer. Today, she’s a highly sought-after national speaker conducting 50 to 100 engagements annually and has already earned her Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation. Louisville Business First named her one of their 2018 Forty Under 40.

Key takeaways

  • [1:45] The importance of leaders with emotional intelligence
  • [7:00] The value of open communication and trust
  • [11:50] Key factors that contribute to employee retention

Leigh Steiner:

Welcome to the Vitals and Vision podcast. I’m your host Leigh Steiner a partner for Behavioral Health Solutions at Relias. Today’s discussion is the second-half of our inaugural two-part episode if you haven’t heard part one we encourage you to go back and listen to it. My conversation with renowned workforce thought leader and president and Chief Retention Officer of Magnet Culture Cara Silletto letter explores emotional intelligence how to ensure a better sense of belonging and major contributors to retention. So without further delay here’s the second-half of my chat with Cara.

Yeah, when you go back to the key concept of being a flexible organization, and it seems like a precursor to that is you’re like, we have to have leaders, managers with emotional intelligence.

Cara Silletto:

Mm-hmm, absolutely.

Leigh Steiner:

And you obviously teach that you say it was a course that is highly requested.

Cara Silletto:


Leigh Steiner:

Let’s talk a bit more about how you teach emotional intelligence or reinforce emotional intelligence so people can act on what may be part of their character portfolio, but they don’t know how to bring it into work. That makes sense.

Cara Silletto:

Right, absolutely. Yeah, so emotional intelligence is your ability to identify emotions, both in yourself and in others around you, and to regulate those emotions. We’ve all worked with somebody who would kind of blow up and have that knee-jerk reaction, right? So that’s a lack of self-regulation if you have trouble. and struggle to keep those emotions in check. But also the big piece of it is to understand how your emotions impact your behavior and impact especially your decision making.

So a lot of people may not know that it takes about four hours if you are emotionally hijacked from either really bad news or really good news, either one can be positive or negative. If you get emotionally hijacked, It takes about four hours on average to get back to a clear cognitive state and to be able to make a rash, you know, or a rational decision, not irrational, because a lot of times when we’re emotional, we’ll make an irrational decision or have an outburst or say things we shouldn’t say. And a leader with great EQ or emotional quotient, it’s also called. a leader with great EQ is gonna know I am emotionally hijacked right now, it is not a good time for me to be making decisions, for me to be coaching or mentoring someone, for me to be actively participating in a group at the moment because I am not in a clear glass, we call it, right, a clear glass state of mind where I have high cognitive function and I can think strategically and really put all the pieces together.

So. There are different aspects of emotional intelligence. One is being aware of yourself and regulating yourself.

And then an even higher level of EQ would be to be aware of others. You know when you’re in a team meeting, you know how one person shows anger is different than another person shows anger. One person might slam a door or roll their eyes or get loud and a different person on the team, they get quiet. or they turn red, or different things happen to them. So if you’re really good at reading the room, you know your team well enough to understand and to pick up on their emotional responses when change happens, or bad news is given, or good news is given. Anything that’s gonna trigger them emotionally, you’ll be able to read the room and address that.

And then the highest level of EQ is really being able to even regulate or control to some extent other people’s emotional responses. So I’ve had people on my team in the past who I knew they were gonna have that knee-jerk, emotional, outburst type of reaction to the news I’m about to share. And if I know that about them and I know how to work around it, then I’m gonna craft my message, I’m gonna prepare the way that I’m gonna tell them this. I might start with… We have a plan and everything’s going to be fine, but I need to let you know, right? So I’m kind of softening the blow that it’s all gonna be fine, but I need to tell you this bad thing happened, right? Instead of just saying, hey, I need to tell you this bad thing happened. If I can be a stronger leader by preparing them mentally, I can actually regulate and keep their emotions a bit more in check by the way that I… approach the situation and the way that I mentor or even communicate that news to them.

And so we need more leaders who can really help people keep their emotions in check, especially because something else we haven’t even talked about, Leigh, is people are bringing their whole self to work. So it’s not even just like emotional hijacking of something that happened at work, but maybe their significant other and them just got in a big fight right before they came to work. Well, you need to know as a leader, it’s gonna take them four hours to make good decisions. You know, because they are emotionally hijacked right now and they’re just gonna bite anybody’s head off and you know, or whatever it is that is their style. And so really being able to coach and mentor people as they bring their whole self to work. That EQ can be a lifesaver to help them. You can speed up that four hours if you have coping mechanisms, if you have a community around you that can help you diffuse a situation, for example, but you’ve gotta understand that that’s what’s happening in your brain even.

Leigh Steiner:

Yeah. So I think that is highly related to obviously good communication. Maybe even a precursor to being able to communicate well is that you understand where you’re at emotionally and where the other person is. But would you want to add anything else about ensuring strong two-way communication and how that helps? a sense of belonging in an organization.

Cara Silletto:

Yeah, absolutely. I think a word that I would bring to that conversation is trust, and trust helps people feel that they belong in that organization if they really trust their team, trust their leader, they feel their leader trusts them. And so I think another piece that we need to talk about and work on and teach leaders is around how to build and maintain trust. and how to realize when you’ve broken someone’s trust. I know we got so desperate with staffing, for example, that there were times where we would say, if you work tonight, I swear I won’t call you this weekend. And then what happened, right? Then the weekend–

Leigh Steiner:

Calling you this weekend.

Cara Silletto:

Yeah, the weekend got desperate again. Two more people quit or didn’t show up for their shifts. And I know I said I wouldn’t call you this weekend, but. And so those incidences, particularly over these last two or three years when staffing was really tough, I mean, just tougher than we’ve ever seen it in ever before. And some managers don’t realize that their team. doesn’t trust them anymore. Because that manager didn’t lie, they didn’t mean to say something that wasn’t true, but they couldn’t follow through on their word. They couldn’t, you know, sometimes even, I saw managers make promises that the corporate group couldn’t keep. Then the manager said, I’m so sorry, but the company won’t let me, or the company has changed their mind, or their plans, or the policy, or whatnot.

And so I think something we need to be aware of is that trust has been eroded over these past several years and that is something that’s gonna take time and consistency and intentional effort to rebuild the trust between folks. Even little things as simple as a two minute team building activity or a two minute team building question. in your staff huddles or when you change shifts, you know, your team meetings, your staff meetings, shift huddles, whatever you call those, doing a quick one minute or two minute team building question and get to know you time. You know, do you like cats or dogs? Do you prefer beaches or mountains? You know, the other day, our question on our team was, what’s your favorite french fry? Like, who has the best french fries? By the way, I’m on team Rallies. And there were the Rallies team kind of beat out everybody else and we were all joking about it but you know it made you laugh it made us laugh and It was just a great little team-building exercise because now the Rallies team we kind of give each other Virtual high-fives like hey, yeah, Rallies. We got a connection. And so building that connection with people. That goes back to the belonging.

I talk a lot about helping people find work friends. It’s a young people term. I think older generations might say colleagues, but the younger generations, like we want work friends. We don’t just want colleagues that we see during the day and that’s it. We want work friends that we can talk to about our lives and maybe even go out with for dinner or meet up with our spouses and kids and things like that.

And so… really the team building aspect and the trust building aspect has to be sprinkled back into all of those interactions that we have and that will help build camaraderie, build trust, and then people don’t want to quit their work friends. They don’t want to leave them behind and that becomes another sticky retention point that is more magnetic for the organization.

Leigh Steiner:

Yeah, Cara, I’ve heard that if you want to ask a single question that will help predict retention it is, do you have a best friend at work?

Cara Silletto:

Oh, yep.

Leigh Steiner:

And I thought that’s pretty fascinating. So riff off that theme for a minute here.

What are the major contributors to retention? And one might be what you’ve already addressed, that I have friends at work, not just people I know or I work with, whatever, I have friends at work. So that’s a stickiness for me.

Cara Silletto:

Right, yeah, so it’s not a magic bullet, right? It is a lot of things that we have to have in place and some of our organizations do, well, all of our organizations do some of those items very well and they know that they’re not doing as well in other areas, right? So you have to kind of audit yourself on those. But I would say the group… of them. This falls under, we have both a magnet framework, MAGNET, from my book, Staying Power, as well as we have a 10 question retention audit that kind of mirrors that framework and asks those questions. So it is gonna be your management effectiveness and have you given those people the right tools and time to be great managers.

You have to look at the real attractiveness of your organization, meaning, Would you come work for you? Would you come work for those wages that you’re offering and those schedules that you’re offering and the benefits package and whatnot? How attractive is the job that we are posting, right?

So really thinking about that and how can we make it more attractive and more flexible. That’s part of the conversation. Opportunities for growth and advancement are huge for folks because while we used to… have people who stayed at a company or even in one job for five years, 10 years, 20 years. Now a lot of those positions are now considered a stepping stone position. So if you have not taken your positions and created a level one, level two, level three within the one job, you know, not that they have to go back and get more education or another degree or something like that to get the promotion, but within the job, as they grow their competencies, can they grow and advance in that role? Those are some of the big pieces.

And then you mentioned earlier, Leigh, incentives. Why would somebody stay? And most companies are still budgeting 3% for an annual pay raise, and they think somebody is gonna work their tail off. for a year and then be excited that they got a 3% pay increase. And that’s like a slap in the face because I worked hard. I should be able to buy more than just the same bread, milk and eggs that I bought last year. If I’m really better at my job and I did a good job this whole year, then I should be rewarded for that.

So I’m seeing a lot more companies put higher four to 5%. increases back in their budgets as an incentive, as well as other incentives. You can put mentoring programs in place after 90 days or six months. You can give out special perks after six months or 18 months, but don’t rely on that one year carried on a stick. We’ve gotta kinda chop that up and give greater incentives at the 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, six month, nine month, 18 month.

Put some different added benefits in there and I’m seeing a lot of companies break up their comp and do Increases twice a year and my company that’s what we do We give pay increases twice a year instead of once a year to make sure that people feel appreciated. And that they feel they’re continuing to level up in their career as well as their life.

So those are just you know a handful of the things that are really needed But all of those have got to be in place and really stable and really consistent around the organization, if you wanna keep that talent you can’t afford to lose.

Leigh Steiner:

Yes. So, Kara, you have spent, it seems like, all of your life studying this topic because you are just like mesmerizing too,

Cara Silletto:


Leigh Steiner:

Our listener can’t see you, but I am just like mesmerized by watching her talk about this. So, what is it about? retention that has been so magnetic for you. I mean, what is it personally or professionally that has said, spend your life studying me’s?

Cara Silletto:

Yeah, so I didn’t wake up one day and say, I’m gonna be a retention expert. That did not happen. But that’s such a great question. What did happen is my personal mission in life is to help people and businesses grow. And once I started my own business in 2012, I was just looking for ways to help people and businesses grow and I started listening to the market. listening to the workforce and just finding out where those gaps were. And then we saw coming out of that previous recession. So in 2012, 2013, 2014, we saw people becoming less tolerant, I will say of bad bosses, bad culture, bad schedules, bad uniforms, whatever it was that they didn’t like. And they were becoming less tolerant and changing jobs more and more.

So, By 2015, we had really put all of our effort into understanding why do people quit, why do people stay, and what is evolving in the workforce, what is evolving in the workplace. I’ve seen a lot of those pendulums swing back and forth, everything from uniforms and attire to office space configurations, to scheduling, to pay. all these different things,

And I’m just really passionate about helping people sleep better at night. If we can create better cultures, better teams, better bosses, then the employees sleep better at night, the employers sleep better at night, leaders at every level are happier and less stressed. I just want more happiness, more kindness, and more realistic. workloads, you know, bring back realistic workloads so that we can all go home after our shift and feel like we did a great thing that day and be ready to go back tomorrow and want to give back again.

Leigh Steiner:

Yeah, it sounds to me like you have lived what you are teaching now.

Cara Silletto:

Absolutely, absolutely. We constantly talk about ways that we can practice what we preach here at Magnet Culture, and I’m not perfect. I certainly have some missteps in some areas of our business that I know we should put a little more time and effort into those, but we are self-aware. We know what those gaps are, and we decide what our priorities are every year to continue making it a better place to work for our team.

Leigh Steiner:

Is there a final thing that you would like our listeners to hear?

Cara Silletto:

You know, sometimes we have a chip on our shoulder because it’s not fair. It’s not fair that the new workforce has so much say and that they get their schedule they want, but I never got the schedule I wanted, and they get to give their boss a piece of their mind and say what they’re thinking, and I never got to do that with my bosses, you know? And I just have to say… I kind of think of it as when I was a scout, when I was young, they taught me to leave the campsite better than you found it. And so my mission is to help companies now leave the culture better than you found it. If you didn’t like working that schedule back then, why would you make somebody work that schedule now?

If we can be more flexible, incentivize the behavior that we want and the schedules that we want, you need people to work holidays. You got to pay more. Right? That’s how it works. So if we can figure out these formulas and get the coverage we need to provide great quality care, great quality services, great quality products, but we can do it with our employees, you know, build that, that model with them, then we don’t need to have the chip on our shoulder and feel bad or angry about the evolution of what has changed and instead embrace that and say, Let’s figure it out together. Let’s build this together, and then we can all have a better place to work.

Leigh Steiner:

Oh, Cara, this has been such a magnificent conversation. I could sit and talk with you for at least days.

Cara Silletto:

Right? Agreed, agreed.

Leigh Steiner:

Thank you so, so much for being with us. We so appreciate your wisdom and the energy and love that you put into making our workplaces better places.

Cara Silletto:

Excellent. Well, thanks again for your partnership. I love working with you all and I thank all the listeners for Taking time out of their day today to listen to a few new tips.

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Meet your host

Leigh Steiner, PhD, is a Partner for Behavioral Health Solutions at Relias. Leigh has extensive national, state, and community experience in organizational development, executive development, coaching, and consulting. She served as the commissioner for mental health for the state of Illinois from 1989 to 2002 and has also served as an adjunct lecturer at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and as a lecturer at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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