How to manage people through culture with Dr Sandeep Atre
Dr Sandeep Atre is a counselling psychologist and social intelligence expert. He has written two books and is a coach in our Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program, where he teaches individuals and organisations how to build social intelligence and foster more fulfilling work and lives.
FEW: So, how did you get into social intelligence?

Dr Sandeep Atre: I'm a counselling psychologist and entrepreneur. Throughout my career, I've seen the ways that when people are fulfilled emotionally, they're able to excel. We're not called social animals for nothing! Our brains are the only social organ that we have — whatever happens in our lives, we live our lives in and through our brains. Yet people know very little about how our brain is designed or functions. I lament the fact that so few people know how our brains work and how to use them optimally.

I started teaching social intelligence skills as a way to combat this and help people live more fulfilling lives. I started my company, Socialigence, to help others develop the social and emotional intelligence they need to perform at their best.

FEW: Tell us, why is social intelligence so important?

Dr Sandeep Atre: The reality is, you can't manage people. You can only manage culture and culture manages people. When organisations lack social intelligence, people tend to just get along with the work. But they never produce quality work. They never excel.

As an entrepreneur, I want to excel — for myself and for my teams. When we have high social intelligence, we're more creative, innovative, and come up with better solutions. Our teams function better, too. But, on a more personal level, we also feel better about our work and lives. And that leads to being more energised, motivated and fulfilled.

FEW: You work with individuals and organisations. What's the difference?

Dr Sandeep Atre: When I'm working with individuals, it's about addressing the core beliefs and attitudes that might be holding them back from achieving their best. Emotions are contagious. When I look at someone who is sad, I get sad. People are not comfortable with negative emotions. However, all negative emotions have power and are there for a reason — when we help individuals become comfortable with that it's life-changing.

When it comes to organisations, we're looking at a much bigger picture. We know that the same person will work differently in different contexts. We adapt to what we are given. That's why the flow-on effects of being a socially intelligent organisation are so huge.

The solution for an organisation is not in teams. It's not about managing individuals or teams or departments. It's in the larger culture of an organisation.

FEW: So how can organisations foster a culture of emotional intelligence?

Dr Sandeep Atre: I don't think of it in terms of there being organisations that have or do not have social intelligence. Rather, there are organisations that do it better or worse.

Ultimately, for an organisation, it takes gradual change. I coach people and organisations to foster this through three skills: awareness, attunement and adaptability. Leaders need to know what is going on inside themselves, what is going on between colleagues — even junior colleagues — and then have an awareness of what they should do in that situation.

It's a really clear skillset that is applied situationally. However, as is the case with anything: use it or lose it. If you don't practice social intelligence you lose it. How can you get better? Connect with people. The more you do it, the better you get it.

FEW: Sounds like it's not about table tennis and Friday night drinks.

Dr Sandeep Atre: When we talk about things like Friday night drinks or table tennis we're talking about apparatus. Apparatus alone doesn't bring spirit. Spirit is brought by people. You can bring all the apparatus in the world but you need the connection to underscore that.

Organisations are not wrong in trying to facilitate connection through things like drinks and games, but you can't stop there.

FEW: What do you wish more people knew about social intelligence?

Dr Sandeep Atre: People don't realise that even if we buy a washing machine it comes with a user manual. We buy a toaster, it comes with a manual.

However, there is one machine we work with all the time that doesn't have a manual: Our brain. Our brains are the only social organ that we have. Whatever happens in our lives, we live in and through our brains. Yet most people do not know anything about the way our brain functions.

Because of this, they make a lot of mistakes. If we knew more about it we would do better with it.

For example, we know our brains need oxygen, sugar and water to run. That's why in conference rooms you find candies and water. Our decision making is affected by sugar levels. If that's dropping, our decisions are worse. Our decision making is similarly bad if we don't understand and support our intrinsic social needs.

If you know how it works, you'll use it better.

FEW: What advice do you have for people who are unsure how to start working on social intelligence?

Dr Sandeep Atre: Start practising connection today and you will get better at it. Stop closing yourself off to the social side of work — and life.

Many people have still not realised that, while the core skills (or hard skills) are extremely important, so are the soft skills. Soft skills are not just for enhancing how you feel. They have a clear, proven, concrete bearing on the actual bottom line.

Too often people look down on soft skills. They're not the icing on the cake — they are the cake.

If you want to learn how to build social intelligence for yourself or your orgainsation, register for our Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program. You'll learn directly from our skilled coaches, including Dr Sandeep Atre himself.