One of the greatest strengths you need in developing your leadership is to develop strong emotional intelligence. We often hear people throw this term around but what does it entail? Emotional intelligence is a skill that not many folks have but that we can all work on growing and developing. You know your emotional intelligence is working for you if:
You can identify your own and other folk’s feelings
You have your own awareness of your limits and your strengths
You have self-confidence and self-acceptance
Mistakes are learning opportunities, not death sentences
Identify and accept your role in mistakes
The ability to empathize with other folks and truly connect with them
You can manage your emotions in difficult situations
And the thing is, if you think back to your former bosses who weren’t the most supportive or who you felt you couldn’t grow with, how would you rate their emotional intelligence?
And I’m going to distinguish between “leaders” and “bosses” here because they are certainly different types of folks. Leaders have to be emotional intelligence to help their teams and organization thrive. Bosses are focused more on the “bottom line," completing projects, and managing people. Leaders understand that the folks who work on their team are humans with emotions, strengths, and challenges. Leaders lean on their emotional intelligence to help propel the work forward.
The first step to improving your emotional intelligence is to figure out the areas where you are experiencing difficulties with your emotional intelligence. You can take a quiz or assessment, you can ask close/trusted colleagues or friends, or your can get coaching to help you identify areas that need some growth with your emotional intelligence.
Next, identify your personal strengths and your limits. Coaches can guide you through introspective activities that help you identify your strengths and current limits. When we know about these, we know when to ask for help and use our resources (i.e, the strengths of other staff members, research, programs, etc.). This also combat overcommitting ourselves with tasks as well as making sure that we don’t do the same for others.
Let’s think about mistakes and ownership. Some folks feel a sense of embarrassment or fear related to making mistakes and they don’t want anyone to acknowledge them. Some deny ever making mistakes and do everything they can to look perfect. Still, others try to place the ownership of their mistakes on everyone around them. Have you ever had a boss that insisted their decision would have worked if the team had executed it better? Or even the boss who points out the mistakes of others to overshadow where they have made a mistake? Don’t be that person.
When we can admit that we make mistakes, we do a few things. 1) We humanize ourselves for us and the people who interact us, 2) we create opportunities to fix the mistake and identify new ways that we can address the issue in the future, 3) we add to a safe space where your staff feels as though they can come to you and ask for help, and finally 4) we build our emotional intelligence.
Empathy is such a hot topic. If you haven’t seen the Brene Brown video on Empathy vs Sympathy, I highly recommend you check it out. Empathy is our ability to connect with others based on an experience or an emotion. Although we may not have been through the exact same emotions as others, we can certainly connect with them based on the experiences of our feelings. How does this help? When we are able to connect with feelings, we are able to connect with the actual person.
Let’s say I have an employee who is avoiding doing a project. I have assigned it and he still has not completed it. Instead of focusing on what he isn’t doing, what I can focus on is why he’s not doing it. Perhaps the project has him feeling intimidated. Maybe he feels upset or scared about not doing a good job. He might even feel angry that he received this project when he was really looking forward to another one. Regardless, if I can recognize feelings of others and empathize with them, I have a chance to do address the issue in a more effective way than just demanding people do what I say when I say it.
Finally, folks with emotional intelligence can manage their emotions in difficult/crisis situations. When I started working in an inpatient psychiatric facility, I was awful at managing my emotions. However, as time went on, I was able to identify my emotions, what made me scared, where my strengths were, and when I needed to ask for help. Now that I’m able to do this, I manage my emotions in difficult situations very well. However, I wouldn’t have gotten here if I didn’t receive informal coaching from more seasoned coworkers. These folks would ask me what I could do differently next time. They would explore my feelings and thoughts with me.
And you know what? Their emotional intelligence rubbed off on me. Get you some emotional intelligence and become the leader your team(s) deserves.