Winter 2006

Letter from the Editor

UES: The Hardy Organization

Emotional Intelligence at Work

EQ Assessments

Raise Your EQ

Book Review: Resilience at Work

Book Review: Emotional Capitalists

Book Review: Primal Leadership

"There is a healthful hardiness about real dignity that never dreads communion with others, however humble."

~ Washington Irving

Newsletter Archives


Martin Seligman developed a construct called "learned optimism." It refers to the casual attributions people make when confronted with failure or setbacks. Optimists tend to make specific, temporary, external causal attributions while pessimists make global, permanent, internal attributions.

In research at Met Life, Seligman and his colleagues found that new salesmen who were optimists sold 37 percent more insurance in their first two years than did pessimists. When the company hired a special group of individuals who scored high on optimism but failed the normal screening, they outsold the pessimists by 21 percent in their first year and 57 percent in the second. They even outsold the average agent by 27 percent.

UES: The Hardy Organization

When founded in the early 80s, UES had ten employees and generated a million dollars in revenue. Now, two changes of ownership and 26 years later, UES employs 110 people and generates over 21 million in revenues. How did the same leadership team stick together for 18 years and grow from a small family-owned business into a large and very successful company? 

During a recent interview with Lesa Gary, Executive Vice President for UES, we uncovered some of their critical success factors: leadership training, innovation, good people, and superior systems. But it was the company's resilience by which we were most impressed...a legacy of their culture of hardiness.

During our acquisition in 1988, we practiced "tough love," and tried to combat our employees' fears by minimizing them or flat-out ignoring them. We've learned, though that we need to be empathic to people's fears, so when we hear concerns, we'll call a meeting of the Dream Team and figure out how to best address them.

To drive empathy throughout the organization, we instituted A-Day-in-the-Life, whereby employees would draw names and follow their chosen co-worker around for a day to see what it was like to perform his or her responsibilities. Over two-thirds of our employees participated and we believe this helps reinforce their social support system.

What we called compassion in the early days, we soon learned was coddling. In order to have a hardy organization, you can't be afraid of "hurting people's feelings." If you lower your standards to make underperformers feel better, you're only punishing the great employees, and killing their motivation.

Another thing hardy organizations share is an appreciation for reality. Our business is constantly changing, and the formula for success that worked last year, probably won't work this year. We can't afford "happy talk," so we're careful to address the facts, seek improvement, but remain confident and optimistic in our ability to find the formula that will work today in these particular circumstances.

UES' Dream Team further expanded and applied what they were learning in their leadership school during a team building exercise. However, mid-way through the workshop, the team (and the Adventure Associates facilitator) decided to alter the agenda and participate in Active Forum with a strategic focus on their desired business model to prepare the team for an upcoming organizational transformation.

One of the hallmarks of good leadership is the ability to get the team moving in a different direction, quickly, and with total alignment. Together AAI and UES were able to pull that off.

Read the entire interview with Lesa Gary about UES' Leadership Dream Team and their current formula for success.

© 2006 Adventure Associates, Inc.