Friday, 26 August 2011

Harnessing the Power of EQ in Youth!

There is a good chance that you have come across the term Emotional Intelligence, or EQ as it is often referred to, some point during the past decade. In fact, the last book I was reading on EQ starts off simply stating that “By now, Emotional Intelligence needs little introduction – it’s no secret that it’s critical to your success”. And yes on the one hand I have to agree, ever since Daniel Goleman published his ground breaking book on Emotional Intelligence in 1995, it has certainly become a hot topic in business and academia with countless articles published and books written on the subject.

Yet, as I sit here, I’m left to wonder if people have fully embraced EQ in their everyday lives? Or could we perhaps inject some vibrancy into this field by making it more accessible outside of business circles? I am specifically referring to the “future generation” of young men and women who would clearly benefit from EQ development, but unfortunately, most have not been exposed to it.

When I ask my young clients (mainly highschool and university students) if they have ever heard of EQ, I am surprised at how many have not. And it seems even the ones who have heard of emotionalintelligence are unsure of how to apply to their own lives.Of course, when I ask them if they think they might benefit from being more confident, improving their interpersonal relationships, or being able to better cope with stress and/or change …..The resounding answer is yes!

And research has shown that these are precisely the personal qualities and skills required for a successful transition to university from high school. Research has also shown that many students who don’t possess these skills when entering university or collage have a much higher dropout rate than their peers. So how can we help youth build these skills before embarking on higher education….?

One option to consider is encouraging high school students to take a gap year!At the very heart of a gap year is the idea that young men and women can choose to take some time away from the accepted, and often “expected” path carved out from kindergarten all the way through to university and opt for personal growth outside the classroom. A gap year is a year away from formal education, and a time dedicated to self discovery. It is a time for self reflection where individuals can gain self awareness and insight into what is important to them through travel, volunteering and other life experiences. And it is a time when they can build those fundamental EQ skills that everyone agrees is so critical for success. It has been said that life experience itself is the best classroom when it comes to learning and developing the emotional and social skills associated with emotional intelligence so why not urge students to take a journey of self discovery and build the very skills that will empower them in university and beyond.

Emotional Intelligence can help youth to
  • Identify strengths and personal goals
  • Adapt to environmental demands and pressures
  • Increase and build self confidence
  • Gain self awareness and insight
  • Instill leadership qualities
  • Foster emotional health
  • Facilitate career development and career planning

It can also affect the ability to:

  • make friends
  • get along with a roommate
  • decide how to spend free time
  • manage money
  • work well in groups
  • deal with feeling down

Friday, 19 August 2011

Learning Languages Opens Doors

We are very lucky as English-speakers that our native language is widely understood in business and travel. So if you can “get by” with one language why should you learn a second? Check out the following list of why you should learn a second (or third) language.(taken from

10 Resons to Learn A Second Language

1. To increase global understanding
2. To improve employment potential
3. To increase native language ability
4. To sharpen cognitive and life skills
5. To improve chances of entry into college or graduate school
6. To appreciate international literature, music, and film
7. To make travel more feasible and enjoyable
8. To expand study abroad options
9. To increase understanding of oneself and one's own culture
10. To make lifelong friends

One of the many reasons I love to have French as a second language:

Language is more than words, it is a culture, a relationship and an identity. I had always struggled with the notion of Quebec proposing separation from the rest of Canada – I could not understand why they would make such a radical proposition. In learning French, I was able to begin to understand the Quebecois struggle with maintaining their language and culture and their place in the francophone world community.


We call dried grapes raisins. Explorers actually brought grapes from France back to their home countries by boat, but because it took so long to get home, the grapes dried up. When the dried grapes were presented to the home country, they were presented as “raisins,” the French word for grapes. Cool, eh?

 Why not study a second language as part of your gap year?

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Millennials - Generation Me, Google Generation, Gen-Y, the Gap Year Generation (?)

We all know the Baby Boomers and Generation X, they have been around for a while and have been studied intensely.  Who are the new kids on the block?  They are the Millennials - born between 1977 and 1993(varies depending on your source), this is the generation that is making its way through high school, university and into the work force.

This new generation has been given a bad reputation already by those that preceded them.  They are perceived as self absorbed, entitled and unfocused (Espinoza et al., 2010).  These perceptions are made by people who, as a whole, have a different set of values than the Millennials.

As parents, educators and employers, we need to make ourselves aware of what the trends in values are in order to better support our youth.  Espinoza et al,  have identified 9 Intrinsic Values of the Millennial Generation but we will focus on 4 and how they relate to taking a gap year.

Work-Life Balance: More than previous generations, Millennials aren’t prepared to sacrifice their personal life for the sake of work.  They are prepared to be paid less in order to be able to do the things that they find most satisfying outside of the work place.  A gap year is an excellent way for youth to find the things that are most inspiring for them and expose them to a new set of activities that they can engage in to balance their work.

Attention:  Millennials can be seen as self-absorbed but it is actually the individual attention that they crave.  This generation was raised with a softer touch where most of their needs were preempted or quickly met by their parents and they have come to expect individualized attention.  This could be why the higher education system is not as appealing to many of this new generation - learning broad topics in large classrooms does not appeal to this value.  A gap year through mygapyear allows for individualized coaching and the creation of a plan that is specific to the goals of that individual.  This learning experience will appeal to the value of attention while encouraging learning and development.

Simplicity: Many of the Millennials have learned to be focused on the “small picture” and how they are personally affected.  This is a wonderful trait to have because Millennials are acutely aware of their personal state and how they manifest themselves.  Where a gap year could benefit this value is in teaching the Millennials how to see the “bigger picture” and help them relate their personal state or actions with the world around them.  Traveling can teach youth about stewardship, cooperation, diversity and how they fit into the global perspective.  Broadening their understanding of the world will help them integrate into the demanding world of globalization.

Meaning: In general, the Millennials need to feel that they have a purpose, that their contribution is valuable and going to be contributing to something great.  Taking a gap year exposes Millennials to a wide variety of experiences.  Youth my find new passions, be fulfilled by working towards an existing passion or discover ways of combining their passions with work.  There are so many jobs out there that we don’t know exist unless we actively search for them - we are not confined to being a teacher, firefighter or banker anymore (although these are equally valuable jobs!).

Espinoza, C, Ukleja, M. & Rusch, C. (2010). Managing the Millennials: Discover the core competencies for managing today's youth. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Leadership: More than a Buzz Word

If you Google the word “Leadership” you come back with 439 million Hits.  WOW! 
We hear all about corporate leadership, youth leadership, personal leadership, leadership this, leadership that - What does leadership really mean?

That is a loaded question!  Leadership has come to take on so many different meanings over the past decade that its true meaning has been defined, redefined and maybe even diluted.  I have studied leadership, taught leadership and engaged in leadership but pinpointing a definition is still very difficult for me.  The definition that I have found that works best for me was referenced by Stephen R. Covey in “The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time.”

“Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” (Covey, 2008, p. 41)

Along with the above definition, my view of leadership is grounded in Inspiration, Empowerment, Awareness and Action.  Let me explain.

Inspiration:  How does a good leader/boss/teacher/parent/friend encourage someone to accomplish a task?  How does someone see how they can contribute to the greater good?  How does one feel connected with a task or project?  Great leaders are able to relate to people and knows how to tap into the passions of individuals to ignite a fire within each individual.  What motivates or inspires one does not motivate or inspire everyone, good leaders know how to illustrate meaning in multiple ways.

Empowerment: Leadership should not be something that can be held onto.  It should not be synonymous with power or titles.  True leadership is something that allows others the opportunity to grow, thrive and achieve with help and support from others.  A leader’s job is to give others the tools, skills and processes they need in order to be successful.

Awareness and Action:  A true leader is someone who sees an opportunity and steps up to meet a need.  Leaders are aware of their surroundings, the physical and the human, and are able to see potential.  Leaders will identify the possibility and take steps towards making it a reality by tapping into the talents and skills of those around them.

What does leadership look like to you?  What attributes to you value in a leader?  What are you doing that makes you a leader?  How will you lead yourself?