MSMP 137: Dana Kaplan on Self-Awareness Impact on Leadership and Management

Today's guest for the Mads Singers Management Podcast is none other than Dana Kaplan, all the way from New York City. Dana is an emotional intelligence and education consultant, coach, and the pioneer of DEIAB in ACTION from the womb to 12th grade (*Diversity Equity Inclusion Access and Belonging- IN ACTION). She is an educator who believes that learning is more than the four walls. Following her dream and passion for teaching at-risk children, Dana realized that more should be done in teaching emotional intelligence and bringing diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging into action. Because of this process, Dana discovered that it doesn't matter what the curriculum is or the assignments are if we don't have a strong sense of self. Believing who we are as individuals like our own personal hero led her to develop Empathetic Education with Dana.

Despite being at the top of their game, many leaders, business owners, and managers often struggle with emotional intelligence and understanding themselves and the emotional state of the people around them. As Dana pointed out, we are aware of our emotions most of the time. However, we don't know where we create meaning with our emotions most of the time. This is where Dana brings up our childhood experiences, where we associate them with negative experiences, but rather than blame and shame our negative experiences, Dana says we should use those negative emotions as reference points on why we are feeling that way. Having a rich self-awareness allows you to become this rich leader, an even richer participant, and an active listener that will enable us to be engaged in a community.


The more you are aware of yourself, the more you understand about yourself, the more you can take action and utilize it for your day-to-day activities. Through playing, one can discover more about ourselves, and when we are willing to play, we are not so focused on the outcome or process but rather on what we can do to play the game; this is something most of us forget once we become adults.


While we may all come in and bring different things to the arena, each of us has something to share with others and a role to play, and in a world of diversity, we should always have spaces where people are not afraid to speak up or share their stories.

The most challenging conversations we will have will often be with ourselves, and what may be hard for you won't be hard for another person. The raising of voices, the passive-aggressiveness, hiding from feedback, and pointing the finger at other people can be prevented when we allow ourselves to open up what other people have to share with us and take the opportunity to sit and absorb it.

Key Learning Points:


1.) Dana aims to create cultures filled with compassion, curiosity, and courage because, ultimately, we all want our voices to be heard, listen to learn, and build a space where we feel a strong sense of belonging. - 02:16


2.) Dana says that while we are aware of our emotions, we often don't know where we create meaning with our feelings- 03:31


3.) Remembering negative emotions from bad experiences doesn't mean we need to relieve them but rather use them as a reference point for what upsets us. - 04:40


4.) Dana says that emotional intelligence can be summed up as knowing who you are as a human and then knowing who you are in an ample space. - 05:41


5.) Mads says that he has always been keen on understanding one's himself because, for him, that is the most effective way to get the most out of yourself and live your best life.. - 06:13


6.) Dana says that when we create a space that invites curiosity, we create opportunities for ourselves, whether in management, leadership, or even just life in general. - 11:28


7.) When asked about what play looks like for adults or people in the corporate world, Dana says it's all about perception; what we do with your object (toy) will be different from what another person will do to their object (toy)- 13:36


8.) While there may be people who don't want to play with you, things can change when they see their leaders roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty and play. - 16:23


9.) Dana says the most challenging conversations we will have will often be with ourselves. - 21:13


10.) Dana says that we should be more open by focusing on the good things that happened around us rather than focusing on that one bad thing and dwelling on negativity to create a culture that propels the people around us and allows them to use their voice again. - 27:52


Resources Mentioned:

Adam Grant

Brené Brown


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