How one of Google’s original engineers became a self-help guru, and why thousands are on waiting lists for his course.
In 2006, Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan decided he no longer wanted to feel like a cog in the great machine, and set out to create a program that would train people to be more mindful in their lives. This wasn’t some Kumbaya moment; Tan’s ambitious course would train people to become more aware of their emotions, more compassionate toward others, more able to build sustainable relationships, and, ultimately, able to contribute to world peace. Or at least peace and harmony in the workplace.
Tan, who joined Google in 1999 as the company’s employee No. 107, assembled a team that included a few consultants, a Stanford scientist, and Marc Lesser, a zen teacher with an MBA and entrepreneurial experience. The first “Search Inside Yourself” two-day course was taught to Googlers in 2007. It wasn’t long after that the influential curriculum led to Tan’s appointment as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow. His position requires him to “enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace.”
An estimated 1,500 Googlers are expected to go through the training this year, while thousands wait for future open seats. In 2012, Tan and his team decided to make the course available to organizations and communities outside of Google. So the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) was launched as a nonprofit, while Tan’s book,
Search Inside Yourself, became endorsed by the Dalai Lama and former President Jimmy Carter.
“I generally describe Search Inside Yourself as a leadership program that uses the tools of mindfulness and emotional intelligence, and that it’s based in science,” says Lesser. “The basic structure of the program uses the five components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills–or, as we call them, leadership skills.”
Since the initial curriculum was developed specifically for Google’s engineers, it needed to be taught in a completely straightforward, secular language, explains Lesser, because scientists and engineers are typically skeptics. The course focuses on what’s happening in the brain when you’re having certain thoughts and feelings, and encourages reflection rather than reaction. You’re able to master emotions and think calmly and clearly, become a better listener, and pause before acting.
Emotional-intelligence skills support collaboration, more open communication, more transparency, and less posturing.
“Emotional intelligence” has been a buzz-phrase in the corporate world ever since Daniel Goleman made the term popular in the mid-1990s. While some remain skeptics to EQ as an indispensable ingredient, Lesser explains that the workplace is becoming more and more about how people are working together, and EQ skills are needed for successful collaborations.
It’s true that no one likes change, but if two days and a few weeks of a “practice period” is how Google turns all its doubters into do-gooders and loyal employees, self-awareness and mindfulness training might be something other companies should seriously think about.
THE SOLE PARTNER ORGANIZATION OF SIYLI TO DELIVER PROGRAM
SEARCH INSIDE YOURSELF
ON 23&24/10/2019 IN HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM
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