Confidence, Clarity, And Connection: Harnessing EQ In Leadership And Life With Dr. Karyn Gordon

2 Jun , 2023 podcasts

Confidence, Clarity, And Connection: Harnessing EQ In Leadership And Life With Dr. Karyn Gordon

CMO Dr. Karyn Gordon | EQ


Embrace the transformative power of emotional intelligence, cultivate confidence, and gain clarity to unlock a more powerful path in leadership and life. Join us for an enlightening episode as we engage in a captivating conversation with Dr. Karyn Gordon, Wall Street Journal Bestselling author, TED Talk speaker, and CEO of DK Leadership. With a heart of service, Dr. Gordon discusses how to cultivate confidence and clarity in both leadership and life. She centers the discussion around her book, The Three Chairs: How Great Leaders Drive Communication, Performance, and Engagement. Explore the transformative power of emotional intelligence (EQ) as she guides us through the key beliefs and patterns that shape our way of being. Dr. Gordon explores how these elements influence our connections, problem-solving skills, and overall sense of fulfillment. She provides examples from her experience working with diverse individuals such as executives from Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, and family-owned businesses to showcase how her approach has worked out. Get ready to feel motivated as we explore how confidence, clarity, leadership, and personal growth intersect, and discover practical tips to unlock a more influential path in your life. Tune in now!

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Confidence, Clarity, And Connection: Harnessing EQ In Leadership And Life With Dr. Karyn Gordon

How Your EQ Can Unlock A More Powerful Path

I was reflecting on this. One of the great things about being able to do this show is the incredible honor to be in conversation with people and to learn. We’re meant to be together, in conversations and co-create something new. That’s what we do when we connect. This is no exception because I was able to have such a wonderful conversation with Dr. Karyn Gordon. She’s a leadership and relationship expert, but beyond that, she shows up with such a heart of service to help people think about how are they approaching their life? What’s their way of being? What are the beliefs and patterns that come into how we connect, serve and solve problems? She is the CEO and Cofounder of DK Leadership, which is a global leadership coaching company.

She’s worked with many people, more than 500,000. These include Fortune 500 executives, family businesses and entrepreneurs. She has a Doctorate in Marriage and Family with additional certifications in leadership, EQ, wellness and career direction. She’s consulted for Good Morning America, Forbes, The New York Times, and many more. She has been doing some work with us here at Coca-Cola and in the lab. She is a joy to work with.

There are a lot of people doing good things in the world, which is beautiful to see. When you get a chance to interact with someone like Dr. Karyn, who brings all that she has into helping us have greater awareness about how we are walking through our lives, what we’re producing and the joy that we get from doing that. I know you’ll enjoy reading her wisdom. She shares much with us in the conversation. Without any further delay, please enjoy the conversation with the amazing Dr. Karyn Gordon.

Karyn, I am grateful that you’re taking the time. I’ve been looking forward to this because I know we’ve been talking about some of the amazing engagements you’re going to be doing here at Coca-Cola. We’ve had a chance to dive a little bit more into your work. I think that this conversation’s going to be of such service to people. Thank you for taking the time.

Thank you for having me. I’m curious in terms of as we explore this whole topic around leadership and service in terms of what direction we’re going to be going. I’m excited to be with you.

You are like a soul sister because conscious leadership and the ripple effect of that is a true passion of mine. I know that we share that and look at it in our own unique ways, but we also come together with a lot of commonalities. This will be a very rich conversation. Before we get into a lot of the details of that, let’s talk about how it all began and a little bit about your origin story. We all find our way into our calling in different ways. How did you end up here?

Karyn’s Origin Story

My origin story is interesting. I’m the youngest of three children. My parents are wonderful salt of the Earth kind of people. For those folks who have seen my TED Talk, I shared my struggle with learning. I love learning. We come from a very educated family, but I found school very challenging and was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was in grade eight. How my family and my parents responded to that learning disability, cutting edges that don’t even summarize it. They were countercultural on focusing on character and not results, my work ethic, self-discipline and learning how to ask for help. They responded well that I was able to turn my learning disability, which at the time seemed like a massive curse and later on see it as a massive blessing.

In high school, I learned very quickly that for me to achieve any success, I had to do things differently. I had to go in for extra help, talk to my teachers, advocate for myself and set different kinds of goals. I had to stop comparing myself to other people. Essentially, high school ended up being this incredibly shaping experience for me around learning a lot about my leadership and how I had to start developing it. In that process, I was starting to build my own confidence. When I eventually went off to university, I wanted to study Psychology and eventually did my Doctorate in Marriage and Family, but I wanted to help other people with tools.

A lot of times, we think that life happens to us, that we have these circumstances. We’ve got these horrible things that happen to us, these external variables. When you realize that we cannot control these variables, but we can control how we react to these variables, that’s a very powerful feeling. When I started my work in my early twenties, my focus was to help teenagers understand their value and understand the power that they had in terms of the choices that they could make and how that could completely change their outcome in terms of their life. That is what kind of led to my work in my twenties. That evolved eventually into my work with organizations and leadership development to the work that I’m doing now with C-Suite and senior leaders globally, which has been an amazing privilege.

A lot of times we think that life happens to us. When you realize that we cannot control these variables, but we can control how we react to these variables, that's a very powerful feeling. Click To Tweet

It’s fascinating to me when you look back and you see all these moments of truth that materialized in certain ways, the way your parents chose to respond to the situation. There are these times in our lives, these crossroads where something happens and it makes such a lasting impression. Look what you do now and how you’ve used all of these experiences to be of service to others. I think it’s amazing.

I speak obviously on leadership, how to do it, what it is and all of that. One of the things I try teaching because now my audience generally are business leaders and people are always very curious about, “How do we teach this to our children? Is leadership learned? Is it nature or nurture?” I believe leadership is a mindset. It’s a set of skills that you start teaching young. Before our talk, I was doing a session with senior leaders.

They wanted to know like, “How do you teach leadership to children?” I have explained all these different kinds of principles you can start teaching. To me, it’s exciting and empowering when we realize that we can all consciously choose every single day to learn different tools that will help us lead our own life but also help those around us lead their life as well from our children, teams and our clients. To me, it’s empowering. It all comes down to education and when we can learn it. I’m very passionate about it, as you can probably tell.

I have a follow-up question to that. This is something that hits very close to home because I have teenagers in my house. I love all of these things. I’m all about growth and development. I’m always reading, listening to a podcast or getting into a conversation because I’m endlessly fascinated. I have turned into that very annoying mother who is chirping out life skills to a point where I think they rolled their eyes any further back into their head. This is the truth.

I’m like, “How do I take all this wisdom that I’ve learned and give it to them at the age of seventeen?” I’m very curious about your thoughts on this from your background and marriage, family and what you do. Due to how you try to tell but you have to make your own mistakes, you have to live through this and be ready to receive, do you think people in their teens or early twenties can receive some of these lessons, this wisdom that we’ve gained or do they have to live into it? What do you think?

I think they can definitely learn it. We have a joke at our home because I have like so much information in my brain. When my twins were 15, turning 16, I’m like, “I want them to learn all this stuff.” A lot of times at dinner, I’ll share something and what seems as if it’s supposed to be a conversation all of a sudden turns into a one-way wiz. My boys start laughing. They’re like, “Is this a Mommy’s minute?” They call it a Mommy minute or sometimes my husband will put his hand on my back and start rubbing it. That’s my cue like, “You’ve gone into that mode.”

I have to catch myself not to, but I do find with teenagers that they do listen, but you have to pick your timing, use it in a story format, something that’s relevant that they’re experiencing and make it super short. If they’re sharing with me something about if they get something back from a test and they’re surprised about their mark, it’s a way for me then to talk about, “Make sure you advocate for yourself. Put your hand up and try to assert yourself bit.” I’ll try to use that story that they’re experiencing, but I’ll try not to go on a massive one-way. It is hard, but I feel like I’ve got accountability. I got three people that will hold me accountable to making sure that I’m staying on track to making sure that I’m a mom and not the coach. I don’t want to be the coach.

I’m laughing hard because I relate. I think if your twins and my twins, the four boys, got together, they’d be like, “Does your mom start giving you life lessons over dinner?” I try to use the drive to school. It’s like hostage coaching, like, “You can’t move. I’m going to drop these pearls.” The phones come out and they’re like, “Mom, I’m tired.” It’s hilarious, but I digress.

That’s amazing and we need to keep talking about how do we do this in a way that’s not painful but in a way that they can learn things that maybe would help their life go in a better direction. Speaking of teens, in your TED talk, it was the conversation with the teenagers and the inner critic. Since we begin the Compassion Lab and we get into conversations with people at the company about what’s going on with them, do you hear the voice of the critic. “Am I worthy? Am I good enough? Am I doing enough comparisons with other people?” It is an epidemic for all ages. Why do you think that is?

The whole inner critic, the Imposter Syndrome, when you look at the data, it’s 70% to 80% of the population. When I speak about it, a lot of times, people think it is a gender thing, it’s female. It’s like, “That’s not what the research says.” In fact, the very first person I ever remember hearing about imposter syndrome was a male that I coached. He was a very successful corporate lawyer in Toronto.

This is my first year of practice and I found it interesting that this person is highly successful from an external perspective, but internally he said,” I think people are going to figure I’m not that smart or I don’t know what I’m doing.” That’s a powerful thing in my field in terms of how that counseling background is that people share what’s going on. People can look like they have this put-together front but inside.” The study says, I mean, 70% to 80% of people question their self-worth, “Am I enough? I am enough if?” That word if is insanely powerful and two letters, “I’m enough if.”

Constant if or, “I’m enough when,” something happens.

“I’m enough if I get this grade, this school, this amount of money, marry this person, or weigh this amount,” A lot of us will have that thinking that is the root of anxiety. When we talk about the anxiety epidemic that’s happening in America, that is the root. It is the root, toxic thinking. Where does that come from? It comes from a lot of places. In the TED Talk, when I talk about three chairs and I try to get people to think about it. This is a good resource for everybody. For those of you who want to watch it, we have free discussion questions on our website that would be good for people to watch. We have discussion questions for parents of teenagers and children for classrooms and also for teams and companies. It’s all free. You go to Dot-org in Canada is a profit and nonprofit.

For Mother’s Day, my boys are like, “What do you want?” I’m like, “One thing, make me card. I love handmade cards. Give me some fresh flowers from the garden,d watch my TED Talk and do the discussion question.” That’s what we did. For Mother’s Day, we watch my own TED Talk. We had the best conversation for an hour and we literally printed off the discussion questions from our own website. It’s funny for me to create this and do it with my own family. We had the most amazing conversation with our boys about those three chairs and where they sit.

The reason I’m sharing this is that when we’re talking about imposter syndrome is usually the person that is left in the right chair. The best predictor that I have seen in my many years of practice is the best predictive where our children sit is, where we as parents sit, and even more specifically, where the same gender parent sits. That’s what I have found is the best predictor. There are exceptions for sure on that, but that’s pretty powerful.

If I’m in that left chair and I’m putting myself down, I’ve got that toxic thinking and I’m constantly caring about with what other people think and I’m afraid to take risks and set goals, and I’ve got a daughter, there’s a very high chance that she’s going to unconsciously learn all of that thinking without me even directly saying it. That’s when we talk about conscious leadership. Research tells us 95% that our decisions are made unconsciously. So much of how we think about ourselves is learned unconsciously based on what we are seeing around us.

Research tells us that approximately 95% of our decisions are made unconsciously. So much of how we think about ourselves is learned unconsciously, based on what we are seeing around us. Click To Tweet

How much of it is family? You’re spending a huge amount of time there, but you have teachers, coaches, friendships and even culture. It’s changing a lot, but all the messages coming in from culture., it’s probably a mixed bag from all these things.

I’ve seen cases where parents are sitting in the middle chair. They’ve got a healthy sense of self. Their kids are sitting in the middle chair and all of a sudden, they get into a school. The school is not a great culture, their friends are not great and all of a sudden now, they move to the left chair. The thing about the chairs is that it’s not like these three boxes. People move around. We’ll have experiences that will help us solidify sitting in one chair. It moves.

It’s not fixed. The biggest thing is that the more we, as parents, can help our kids sit in that middle chair and develop a solid sense of self, then they are able to withstand some of these heavy, hard-hitting external factors, whether it’s friendships, breakups, rejection or failure. The more that we can help give them a sense of self, they’ve got more strength with some of the difficulties that life can throw at us.

What I talk about often in the lab is one of the best ways, and you’ve outlined this, that you can help your kids is to work on yourself because that modeling, even if it’s very unconscious, they’re going to pick up on how you’re feeling. How do you take care of yourself? How do you deal with challenges? The more we do our work, the more we help our children. You’re referencing the chairs. You’ve got the book, The Three Chairs. I just finished it, and it’s such a fantastic read. The stories, the examples you share, how you walk through the dynamic of how these different mindsets translate into what’s happening in your relationships are important. Can you walk us through The Three Chairs?

CMO Dr. Karyn Gordon | EQ

The Three Chairs: How Great Leaders Drive Communication, Performance, and Engagement

The three chairs is a framework I created many years ago. In my TED Talk, I talk about it how it was a teenager that basically told me that she was very successful but internally was plagued with a lot of insecurity. I got my hands on a lot of research and started seeing this crazy pattern based on dozens of scientific journals around the research that was done around the power that mindset had on decision-making, a person who has low self-esteem. Things in psychology are not black and white. I can’t say if somebody is insecure, they’re going to do this, but I can say if somebody has low self-esteem or insecurity, they’re more likely to do this. Things are all measured in correlation. When I got my hands on this incredible research and I started seeing this pattern, I thought, “This is powerful.”

The Three Chairs

It was sitting on dusty shelves and university libraries. I thought, “How can I make this come alive?” I created this concept called The Three Chairs. I started teaching it to high school students many years ago. Now I teach it to business leaders because it’s the exact same principles you can apply to organizations. What it is is I want everybody to visualize three chairs and picture them up on a stage. You’ve got three chairs. You’ve got the left, middle and right chair. I’m going to go through the three different chairs. I encourage everybody reading to think about where do you see yourself sitting the majority of the time.

The person in the left chair is the person that struggles. I call it the blind attitude. They’re blind to their own strength and values. They could externally look extremely successful, but internally, they are struggling and plagued with a lot of insecurity. They’re blind to their own strength and value. The person in the right chair, I call it the arrogant attitude. This is the person that are cocky, arrogant and full of themselves.

They tend to put people down either overtly or covertly. They do a lot of digs. They come across as extremely confident but overly confident, but it’s not confidence. It’s arrogance and that’s important for people to differentiate those two. You’ve got the person in the middle chair, which I call the confident attitude. That’s the person where they have this healthy mindset about themselves. They know that they are enough. They know that they have value. Their value is not based on external achievement. It’s based on because they are who they are.

CMO Dr. Karyn Gordon | EQ

EQ: The blind attitude is when people are blind to their own strength. They’re blind to their own values. They could externally look extremely successful. But internally, they really are struggling and plagued by a lot of insecurity.


“I am enough.” They know they have strengths and weaknesses, but they’re working on their weaknesses or they accept their weaknesses. They’re more likely to set realistic goals and achieve them. They’re more likely to ask for help when they need it. They are more likely to lift other people up. They have a very solid sense of self. It’s like their emotional capacity. Their emotional buckets are full. Being authentic, they love to lift up other people. One of the ways you can sometimes tell where somebody’s sitting, whether they are in the left, middle or right chair, is do they authentically lift up other people? That’s a good indicator. Not always, that’s not the only factor, but one of the variables in terms of whether or not if somebody’s sitting in the middle chair.

Those are the three attitudes. I explain that in the book in the first few chapters. That part’s pretty easy to understand, but the part that becomes interesting is based on science, what we now know is that where a person sits, you can make very highly predictable, fairly good estimations in terms of how they’re going to make decisions. Everything from who do they date to how they set goals to their mental health to how they manage their time.

In the book, I go through all these different decisions that all of us make every day. You can see how this mindset that we have highly impacted the decisions. That’s where people almost get goose pimples when they understand that. The last part of the book is, “How do all of us can learn how to sit in the middle chair?” because this is learned. We learn where to sit. That’s one of the reasons why I love the topic much.

I love the way you outline it because I think it makes it very reachable for people to think through those chairs. The different times in our lives where perhaps we’ve sat in each chair and you mentioned earlier in our conversation about the power of our ability to respond and the agency that we have. As I think about it, the more that middle chair is this grounded intrinsically versus extrinsically motivated individual who’s done their work enough to understand the difference between the noise, voices, expectations and their true inherent power and worth.

On the right chair, you think about all the bullies in school. You’ve always heard, “The bullies like themselves the least, thus the need to tear someone else down.” As you look at this, and there are probably no stats because it is a continuum. At any given time in the population, are people in one chair or the other, but I imagine we’re moving all the time.

We’re moving all the time. There are a lot of people who will say, “I see myself at all the chairs. I see myself maybe at work. I see I sit in the middle chair. When I’m at home, I sit in the left chair. When I’m with my in-laws, I sit in the left chair. When I and with certain friends, I sit in the right chair.” It’s very interesting. It’s a self-assessment tool. It’s a leadership framework, but it’s a self-assessment. I don’t tell people, “You are sitting in that chair.”

I ask them, “Where do you see yourself sitting?” The questions that I was referring to for the TED Talk talk about the three chairs that it’s worded in a certain way, especially when you’re having this conversation. If you want to have this conversation with your family or your team, you want to make sure you’re asking the question in a certain way because you don’t want to tell people where they’re sitting.

If they answer a certain way, they’re like, “I think I’m in the middle of the chair,” you’re thinking, “I don’t know.” There’s a way you can ask the question to get them to do a little bit more self-awareness thinking in terms of getting them to look at maybe from a little bit different lens. It’s a great framework to think about, “In all the different parts of my life at work, at home with my spouse, my children, friends, where do I sit? Where do I see myself sitting?” It’s a cool first question to ask yourself.

You then ask yourself, “If I’m sitting in the left chair with this group of people, why is that and what do I need to do differently to get myself in the middle chair?” The power is all within ourselves that we all have a choice. Even though we cannot control other people in the left or right chair, we can always choose to sit in that middle chair even when we’re with people, especially in that right chair or the left chair and getting people to realize the power they have. It’s such an empowering concept. I’ve been teaching the three chairs of my boys for a long time, but even when they were younger, remember they had a teacher that, in my opinion, I saw that teacher in that right chait. It is not a great teacher in trying to teach your children to sit in the middle chair when there’s a power imbalance.

CMO Dr. Karyn Gordon | EQ

EQ: The power is all within ourselves. We all have choice, even though we cannot control other people.


You don’t get to have a world where everyone’s in the middle chair all the time.

To teach your children and yourself, what does it look like to sit in the middle chair, even when there’s a power imbalance and you’ve got a teacher or a coach that’s sitting in that right chair? There’s a way to do it. That’s why I was saying earlier. Leadership starts young. You got to start teaching us these concepts young so kids get a solid sense of self. They now understand how they can respond to these different circumstances that they face.

There are a couple of things that you said that I want to punctuate even further. You mentioned the word awareness. Everything begins with our awareness to have an honest assessment of where we sit and then the power we have to make those changes. The second thing I find fascinating is the different domains and how we can be in different chairs in those different domains.

I had a conversation. I was traveling. I was in a retreat environment. There were other women there. I got into a conversation with a woman very successful and very high-up executive leader in a company, accomplished and respected, but she was going through a divorce with a highly narcissistic relationship. She said, “If anyone at work knew what I allowed to happen in my personal life, they would be shocked.” there’s the same person who sits in that middle chair, solidly, grounded in herself, professionally moves over into her personal life and suddenly is in the left chair.

The Family of Origin

I hear stories like that all the time. This is where the family of origin is powerful. My Doctorate is in Marriage and Family, specifically in family systems. The thinking behind family systems is you kind of go back three generations. You uncover patterns in your family and you understand the patterns in your family and then you consciously decide which ones you want to keep and change.

I had to do it for my own family. As part of my doctorate dissertations, I had to interview every living relative and talk and understand my family patterns and all the spoken rules and unspoken rules, and there are a lot of layers to it. I remember when I got all the data back and I realized I was blown away with how many decisions, and I was 30 by when I was doing my Doctorate. At that point in my life, I was making unconsciously repeating the patterns of my family of origin.

By that point, I had started developing quite a great professional career. I was a newlywed at the time and yet there were thoughts that I had that did not even realize I had them until, except until I had to do this massive research paper and interview. All that to say is that we can develop one part of our life. That’s where a lot of people, in some ways, I think it’s easier to work on our professional life than try to work on family stuff.

It’s because it’s not as personal.

That’s where a lot of us will kind of like focus on that area first. For a lot of times, we have more control over it. We work hard and get our degrees. The personal stuff goes off to the side. It’s important when we talk about great leadership, we have to learn how to develop great leadership skills instead of that middle chair in all parts of our life. Are we sitting in that middle chair at work? Are we sitting in the middle chair with our spouse?

It's really important when we talk about great leadership, we have to really learn how to develop great leadership skills. Click To Tweet

The other thing that happens sometimes is that we might be in the middle chair with our work and we might be in the middle chair with our children, but with our spouse or our friendships, we sit in the left chair. It’s important to look at all these layers of ourselves and think, “That’s an area I got to start developing myself. I got to start working on certain skills in myself.” Clearly, the person that you were sitting with, she developed one part of her leadership, but she didn’t develop the other part.

This was your field of study and your passion. When you’re in your 30s, you interview all these people in your family. That’s a lot of work. It yielded such understanding and realization. I always think it’s very interesting, even as we do different sessions and segments in the Compassion Lab. It’s very easy if we talk about presence, breathing or how to manage our nervous system and stress. Sometimes it can seem a little like, “That’s warm and fuzzy.” I always tell people, “This is the hardest work you’ll ever do if you want to take a look at why you do things,” because you have to become an observer.

You talk about growth mindset in the book. Growth mindset has a developmental play that says, “Sometimes I’m going to fail, but that’s okay. I’m going to grow. I’m learning.” Often on this path going, getting back to that inner critic, people be like, “Why did I do it that way? I need to change,” versus staying curious and being like, “I didn’t handle that well. That’s interesting. I wonder what was triggered. I wonder why.” I love having that ability to play. It’s a real journey.

If we can have that mindset going, “I’m curious, why did I do that? Why did I allow that?” That’d be the question I would have for the person on the airplane that you’re sitting beside. Why did you allow it to happen? Why did you allow it to happen for that long? Where do you think that comes from? Getting the person to dig deep because the challenge is we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.

The challenge for a lot of us is like, “I’ve married the wrong person. He’s a narcissist.” This is what also research says. The reason why the divorce rate jumps from 40% to 60% and then eventually almost 75% by second and third marriages is because people haven’t learned. They’ve changed partners, but they haven’t learned about what the problems were from the beginning.

If I’ve got a client, I’m like, “I want you to take some time and figure out what did you learn about yourself. What’s the learning about yourself? If you don’t dig deep, then there’s a high chance you’re going to repeat the same pattern.” The same thing applies to relationships at work or work choices. Whenever there’s a conflict, I try to get clients to collect, dig deep, what did you learn about yourself? How could you respond differently? You cannot control the other person. You can control how you respond. Always putting the power back into a person’s lap because that’s the middle chair is realizing they always can control how they respond to external situations. That is empowering.

CMO Dr. Karyn Gordon | EQ

EQ: You cannot control the other person. You can control how you respond. Always putting the power back into a person’s lap because that’s the middle chair, is realizing they can always control how they respond to external situations. And that is just empowering.


That middle chair, you know you’re enough, even when you make mistakes or poor choices because it doesn’t say, “I’m a failure.” It’s like, “I chose that. I have a chance to learn about a pattern that might be working in me that I need to illuminate and change.” That is the journey we’re on. That’s why we’re here. It’s what we’re supposed to do. We weren’t born in some state of perfection. We were born to learn and grow, fall, stand up again and feel so much better about the journey because it wasn’t easy because we’ve had to learn all these things. I love this much.

I want to pivot a little bit and go deeper into EQ because this is all connected to what we’re talking about with our sense of awareness, beliefs and how we’re making choices. There’s a lot to that. Many people may have heard the term EQ, but do they understand it? Can we talk a little bit about what it is and what are some of the skills underneath that?

The three chairs are a framework teaching EQ. I don’t use the word EQ because a lot of people don’t know what it is. I spoke at a conference and asked 400 people, “Who has heard of EQ?” Everybody’s hand goes up, “Who can tell me what it is?” Five hands go up. Nobody had a solid answer. Third question, “Who can tell me what it is?” Nobody’s hand goes up. That’s where the gap is. There’s been a lot of research that it’s important, but very few people can say what it is and almost nobody can talk about how you can build it, which is where the power is. This is what I’m going to be speaking about at Coca-Cola, which I’m excited about.

I’m going to give it simple for everybody. It’s five core skills. It spells the acronym CARDS. There are a lot of different ways you can measure EQ. I personally like the EQ-i as a scientific assessment tool to measure your EQ. What we’ve done is we’ve taken all the different kinds of skills and summarized them into five core skills that anybody can kind of assess themselves. We’ve got a wonderful free scorecard. If people are curious to measure your EQ, you can get it off of our website. It’s free as a great starting place. Here are the five core skills.

C stands for your Communication skills, your ability to give and receive feedback, and build trust with other people. The feedback piece is critical. People in the middle chair are open and hungry for feedback. People in the left and the right chair are what I call feedback fragile. Somebody who has a very high EQ knows how to give and receive feedback effectively. A stands for your Attitude of yourself. Are you arrogant, confident or insecure? What chair are you sitting in? It also looks at your humility. That is the cornerstone of the middle chair. It’s the person that says, “I know a lot but I don’t know everything and I’m open to learning and I’m open to hearing other perspectives.”

It’s also your ability to set meaningful goals. When you look at somebody who is very high EQ, they have a very solid sense of direction with where they want to go. They know where they want to go and have a vision for their life. They have goals that they want to set out for themselves. They have very meaningful goals and a pathway, and that’s all part of their EQ.

When you look at somebody who is very high EQ, they have a very solid sense of direction with where they want to go. They have a vision for their life. They have very meaningful goals and a pathway. Click To Tweet

R stands for your Relationship skills, your ability to put yourself in the shoes of somebody else. This is where empathy comes in. This is where generational, cultural and racial differences come into play. It’s realizing that the way I see it is different than how you see it, which is different than Jane, Bob and other people. This is a realization that people experience life differently and we need to lean in and hear their perspectives. R is a huge one when from a corporate perspective.

D stands for your Decision-making, self-discipline and your performance skills. A lot of people don’t realize that when they talk about high performance, they talk about time management. They’re talking about EQ. Someone who has very high EQ, they know how to prioritize, step on the gas, take the initiative, focus on things and what needs to happen. Even though they don’t feel like it, they do it anyway. They’re very value-and purpose-driven. They pay attention to their feelings, but they don’t let their feelings lead them. They listen to their heart but lead with their head, which is significant. That all comes out of your D.

The S stands for your Stress, energy and emotion management skills. Somebody who is very high with EQ knows how to set boundaries, say no and take care of themselves. They’re fantastic at self-care. By that point, hopefully, they will know how to manage their time well and because of that, their stress is a lot lower.

Those are the five core skills. On the scorecard, I go into more detail, but it’s a good starting point. Another self-assessment tool for people to do the scorecard and figure out, “I’m good at 3 skills and these 2, I need to work on. Maybe we’re good at four. We need to work on one.” Knowing that’s a great starting point then kind of like leaning in, what are the skills and tools I need to kind of develop that pillar? There are essentially five skills or pillars.

I want to acknowledge all the tools you’re providing, which is great that people can go on your website, delve into some of this, and gain greater self-awareness. It’s very interesting. I’ve been in the corporate landscape for a very long time and have been through a lot of different training programs. Whether you get into selling programs, negotiation, public speaking, or presenting all the various capabilities we can build in all very important capabilities, some of what you shared is woven to some degree. Some levels of giving feedback or communication is in there. For the most part that there’s a deficit in the ability to help people understand EQ. We have our IQ and these very specific competencies and skills, but we feel like we’re still emerging in this. Do you see that in your clients or do you think it’s getting better?

What you said is what I’m seeing globally over and over again. It’s interesting when I describe people are like, “We don’t have anything internally.” A lot of the companies we work globally with, they have massive leadership and development academies. They’ve got universities on site. They’re all these departments, but it focuses heavily on industry-specific information or more on the IQ side, which is important.

The Superpower: IQ with EQ

The IQ is still extremely important. It all matters. The superpower is the IQ with the EQ. That’s the superpower. When you get that team member who know their content, they know the IQ, those skillsets, but then they have the EQ and they’re open for feedback and they’re willing to learn and they know how to deal with conflict and they know how to manage their time, that is a whole other level. With a lot of the organizations that we work with, once you know and understand EQ and you understand a three chairs is a framework and a picture of the middle chair is basically EQ, then all of a sudden you know how to hire.

The superpower is the IQ with the EQ. Click To Tweet

It gives you kind of insight in terms of who you should be promoting, especially to managers, but also obviously for senior leaders. It gives you this extra layer of framework. The simple way to think about it is a question I love asking audiences when I speak is, “Think of one of the best leaders you’ve ever had in your life, and what chair do they sit in? Chances are they probably sit sitting in the middle chair. What is it that that leader did that tells you that they are sitting in the middle chair?”

It’s usually because they lift other people. They’re great in terms of time management. They know how to set boundaries, how to inspire their team and are open for feedback. It’s one thing for me to teach it academically and break it down, but the second that I get people to think about stories and real people, it’s like, “I understand what you’re talking about. I get it now.” To your point, I think there’s a massive deficit in corporations that we are seeing globally, that they’ve heard it, but they haven’t injected it into leadership and learning development.

It’s this peripheral topic. I’m passionate about it because I’m like, if you want to develop great leaders, this is where we have to put our focus. It’s 100% learnable. This is not genetic. These are things we can learn. We have to know what it is. “What are the areas that I’m strong at and what are the areas that I need to work on?” “No problem. Here are the tools that you need to do to develop that skill.” It’s like any competency, whether it’s with public speeds the same thing. I think there’s been a real gap between research and the application of the research. That’s what I have seen working with hundreds of different organizations.

It is interesting to get your viewpoint because you have worked with many different companies and I feel like what we’re talking about with EQ is through the fabric of leadership. It’s our way of showing up. It’s how we do these things. It’s getting better and emerging, but with companies, I think we try to figure out how to operationalize.

It’s very easy to talk about numbers and look at, “Did you get someone promoted?” When you uplift people or you’re very good at self-care, no one’s like, “You took care of yourself. I’m going to give you extra high marks for that.” It’s the opposite. There’s a bit of a badge of honor sometimes in the workplace, like, “I’m exhausted and I’ve worked double the time.”

There’s this badge of honor to be exhausted instead of saying, “I am feeling strong and thriving. I had a great vacation and now I had a great meeting.” I think there’s much that we are learning. To me, it all comes back to consciousness as we talk about raising our own consciousness in the world and our leadership. That ripple effect is vast, but we are learning and growing.

I’m being very mindful of our time. I have a couple more questions of this conversation because we’re going to be talking a lot more, certainly, as you’re engaging with us in a few weeks and our team and how we’re going to learn. I’m excited to personally go on this journey with you and look at ways that we can all grow stronger in our EQ and how we lead our teams. There are many resources that you have that are free, but how can people work with you, find you and tap into the expertise that you offer?

The best is to go to our website,, and you can grab some of those free resources. We have a wonderful newsletter community that every week, we send out free resources. I’m all around tools. I love tools and resources. I find people get excited about, but they don’t know where to start. The first starting point is to watch the TED Talk, grab the discussion questions, do the scorecard, join our community, and you’ll start getting a value add. The one that went out was around stress, like seven tips of how to manage stress. The last time was about dealing with tricky people. We try to serve our community with what people are facing and experiencing. That is the best and fastest way. After that, we have all kinds of other additional resources.

We have coaching programs. We do almost all of our courses live and virtually. We work with people all around the world. Our leadership coaching company focuses on teaching the tools to build your emotional intelligence. That is our niche and specialty. We haven’t found anybody else who does what we do. We have a real special area because it’s not only teaching leadership and emotional intelligence, but it’s for businesses and their families.

One of the beautiful things is when you learn these tools, it will benefit you professionally and it’s going to benefit you in your marriage and your home. A lot of people that work with us love the fact. They’re like, “This benefits being business and also wellness.” This is the other thing that’s interesting about this topic. When we learn these leadership EQ skills, it improves our wellness.

When we learn these leadership EQ skills, it actually improves our wellness. Click To Tweet

There’s all this wellness talk. That’s why EQ is the secret sauce. Focus on developing that skill. It’s going to help you professionally, in your marriage, wellness and parenting. That’s what all the science tells us. It’s transferrable, which is one of the reasons why I always tell my clients like, “You get these skills and it’s going to benefit you in four different areas of your life. Put in the work and it’s going to benefit you all these other parts of your life.” When we’re all starved for time much and what are things we can do, it’s a great place to start.

It’s fantastic it goes back to staying in th’t middle chair no matter what part of your life because let’s face it, there are differences in the different areas of our life that we’re focused on, but we are whole beings living a life, especially now. It’s blended. You’re changing channels. During the day, you’re at work and then something comes up with your kids or it can be a number of things. How do we stay intrinsically grounded in our sense of power in that middle chair as often as possible with compassion for the times that we slide to the left or right, that we know that we can come back to who we are? That is incredible.

That’s an important final comment with it. When you think about compassion, the person in the middle chair is not perfect. They are not the person that’s always. It’s like we will all sometimes slide to the left or right and having compassion with ourselves going, “I’m going to show a little bit of grace and compassion to myself because I’ve slipped to the left and right. I’m going to show grace, kindness, compassion and help myself get back to the middle.” Think about how we teach our children. We want to show compassion to our children, ourselves, our team and our clients. The root of compassion is authentically sitting in the middle chair and having compassion for self and other people.

Grace, kindness, I would add, curiosity. Going back to that, “Why did I slide to the left or the right? What was it maybe that triggered me? What pattern reemerged?” Staying curious about what happened and not shameful or judgmental so that we continue to grow from those times too, which is what we’re trying to do.

One last question and then I’m going to let you go. As a closing, to put the icing on the cake here. In general, beyond everything we’ve talked about, is there a piece of wisdom in your journey that you’ve gained maybe from a friend, teacher, coach, or even through you’re a-ha moments that you would want to leave our listeners with on the conversation?

I had a sixteen-year-old ask me the same question many years ago. She goes, “You got a lot of things in your brain. What would be one piece of advice that you would give all of us to live our life a successful life?” I’m like, “What a great question. I don’t want to just give you any thoughts. Give me a week and I’m going to come back with you and share with you something.” I came back this the next week. She got a little pen and paper. She’s like, “What is it?”

I said, “It’s called the Serenity Prayer. We’ve probably all seen it at the doctor’s office with the cat that’s hanging onto the branch is about to let go.” It’s a wonderful proverb where it says, “Help me understand the things I can control. Help me understand the things I cannot control. Give me the courage to face the things I can control. Help me accept the things I cannot control, and give me the wisdom to know the difference.” It was powerful. I had it put as a wall tattoo in my office in Toronto. It’s a 10 x 10 huge wall tattoo.

I thought, “Regardless of whatever people’s belief system is, it doesn’t make any difference. If we can absorb the wisdom in that proverb, to separate what we can control versus what we can’t control and have the courage to face the things we can and accept the things we cannot and to figure the wisdom to know the difference, it’s powerful.” That would be my finale.

You can totally apply this to your children, teams and yourself, but I often will think when I have things happen in my life, either professionally or personally, like the problem, you separate the sheep from the goats, what can I control this and what can’t I control? You put all your energy and focus on what you can control. That is a real powerful way to move forward.

What a beautiful way to end, even when you think about the fact that it is the Serenity Prayer, we all want achievement and we all want to do well. That’s a natural evolution, but do we all want a little peace? That middle chair is peace. It’s not perfection, but you know that you’re operating from a place of wholeness. There has definitely been a pattern in our conversation about the agency of control and to be able to focus on that, which is what the Serenity Prayer talks about. We can cultivate all the knowledge in the world, but that prayer also mentions wisdom. Wisdom comes through making this journey right together to figure it out to get stronger and better. Thank you much for sharing.

Thank you. What a great interview.

I have had much fun speaking with you because you are a kindred spirit to me. I love the work that you do. I’m super excited about the conversations we’re going to have in the company, and it’s beautiful to see the service that you give to the world and the difference that you make to others by your passion. Thank you for your time and for being all that you are.

Thank you much.


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About Dr. Karyn Gordon

CMO Dr. Karyn Gordon | EQA Wall Street Journal Bestselling author, TED Talk speaker and nominated for the 2021 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award, Dr. Karyn Gordon is the CEO and co-founder of DK Leadership. She has spoken live to more than ½ million people in 17 countries – including Fortune 500 executives, family businesses, entrepreneurs, professional associations, schoolboards and families. She was invited to collaborate with professors from The Wharton School to develop an EQ curriculum for family businesses and The Consul General of Canada in New York hosted a private reception honoring her work for organizations and families.
Dr. Karyn has a Doctorate in Marriage & Family with additional certifications in leadership, Emotional Intelligence and career direction. She has served as the media spokesperson for Maple Leaf Foods, Microsoft, eHarmony and UNICEF. A professional counselor for 25 years, executive coach she is also a media personality who has consulted for Good Morning America, Forbes, Inc, The New York Times and Cityline.


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