Our emotional intelligence is our ability to monitor our own and other people’s emotions, to identify and appropriately name different emotions, and to use emotional information to guide our thinking and behavior.
During evolution, the human brain limbic system emerged from the most primitive brain area, the brainstem. Then over millions of years the neocortex, where our “rational brains” are stored, evolved in our ancestors. The limbic system is still responsible for emotional, sexual and aggressive behaviors. Part of information that we receive through our senses go directly to the limbic system, specifically amygdala, thus first we experience things emotionally. The neuropaths, or “communication” between our “emotional” and “rational” brains is the source of emotional intelligence. Although emotional intelligence may be more of natural tendency for some of us than the others, studies show that we all can develop and reinforce emotional intelligence.
While our Intelligence Quotient (IQ) appears stable and consistent, our EQ is flexible and can change over time. Higher EQ is associated with more effective conflict resolution, better life quality, overall life satisfaction, and effective leadership. Daniel Goleman* believes that EQ is better predictor than IQ of our financial and career achievements. We can increase our EQ by putting effort to develop stronger skills in these EQ areas:
Self-Awareness – ability to accurately perceive our emotions in the moment and understand our tendencies across situations
Self-Management – ability to use our awareness of our emotions to stay flexible and direct our behavior positively.
Social Awareness – ability to accurately pick up emotions in other people and understand what’s really going on with them.
Relationship Management – ability to use awareness of our own emotions and emotions of others to manage interactions and prevent conflicts successfully.
Effective leadership is especially dependent on sound relationship management. The more we are aware of our own emotions and the more emphatic we are of the emotions of others, the more effective we will be in positively influencing others. So, what does it practically take to enhance our relationship management skills while leading others?
Build trust. Trust is something that must be earned and it takes time to earn it. At the heart of building trust is the process of mutual communication – communicating to employees and having an open door policy for employees to communicate back. Following through is another important act of building trust. Companies that have a high level of trust by their employees focus on honest and authentic communication with employees on all levels.
Meet the person’s emotions or situation. Develop your social awareness by this simple exercise. While holding a conversation with someone, listen not only to the facts, but also identify the emotions behind these facts. Ask yourself: “What is my best guess how he/she feels at this moment?”
Try to deliver information or assignments when an employee is most focused and away from other distractions. When someone is stressing out over finishing a task before the deadline, it would not be a good time to assign a new project.
Show when you care. According to the old common wisdom, “Actions speak louder than words”. While we can always apologize for not doing something, we gain much more appreciation from others by simply doing it in the first place. Even a simple things like writing a thank you note for an employee for a task well completed, will show that you care.
Many people love a surprise, especially when that surprise is something that helps them or makes their life a little bit easier. It could be as simple as offering an afternoon off to someone who is experiencing a personal life challenge or someone who seems burn-out.
Explain your decisions or actions. When you explain why you are making the change to a policy or the process, you minimize a likelihood of employees feeling anxious about the change. Employees may also be less resistant to the change when they know the reasons behind it. Importantly, information is power, and when you share the information you empower your employees and you let them know that they are a part of the bigger picture. When employees are lacking information about the reasons behind the change, they will try to guess explanations which may be not accurate, may carry negative connotation, and may result in lower staff morale.
Avoid giving mixed signals. The first step is to identify your emotions, and the second one is to decide how to express them. Also, it is important that you align your verbal and nonverbal communication. If you are saying to an employee that she is doing good job, but meanwhile your face shows a concern or you are checking your phone, the disconnect between verbal and nonverbal signals will give mixed signals to an employee.
Align your intention with your impact. Do quick analysis of the situation before and think critically before you say or act on anything. What are the results that you seek from this situation or this conversation? Are your words or actions going to bring the result that you seek? What is the best approach and choice of words? How can you go about to get what you need and avoid creating negative emotions? A simply contrasting statement can help you to hold a difficult conversation while minimizing negative emotions. “I do not want you to think I am not satisfied with the quality of your work. I really do think you are doing a good job. The punctuality issue is important to me, and I’d just like you to work on that. If you will be more attentive to that, there are no other issues.”
Apologize for your actions or words. Apologizing is a significant act. It does not take away the power from the person who apologizes. On the contrary – it empowers both parties and strengthens working relationships. Apologizing also sends the secondary, yet important message that “the mistakes in our organization are OK” and that everyone is encouraged to take responsibility when they happen.
Acknowledge deeds and actions of others. Acknowledgement and recognition are often more powerful motivators that monetary incentives. With our increased social awareness of struggles and results of others’ actions, we will be more authentic in providing a praise and acknowledgment.
Emotional intelligence can be developed. While it is not always an easy act and it requires focus and vulnerability, applied emotional intelligence will certainly show in leadership outcomes.
*Daniel Goleman (2005). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ