Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Appreciating emotional intelligence, part of Motivating and Engaging Employees.
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- As our understanding of leadership continues to evolve, we've added a few new characteristics to the list of traits possessed by effective leaders. One of the most interesting ones over the last decade is emotional intelligence. This refers to your ability to sense in yourself, and others, emotions as they rise up, so you can proactively use them, as opposed to merely being subject to them. It's all about being conscious of emotions and able to manage emotions. Let's think about a few examples, then we'll talk about the major elements of emotional intelligence.
Have you ever been at work, sitting in a meeting, and watched someone say something that was off-color or demeaning to someone else? Odds are for a few moments they resisted the urge to say what they said, but then they lost a little bit of control and spoke inappropriately. If that person does that consistently over time, that's a good indication of low emotional intelligence. Or think about a day you left work, after a long day, stressed out, if not flat-out angry. Let's say on the drive home, someone cuts you off in traffic.
In that moment, emotion is high and you feel like embracing a little road rage. But instead, hopefully, you take a deep breath and choose not to explode. That's strong emotional intelligence. You showed awareness of, and ability to deal effectively with, your emotions. The times you'll benefit from emotional intelligence are not rare at all. Just like the example, they're common and happen every day. So let's take this even further. Consider these four important components of emotional intelligence.
First, and most importantly, is self-awareness. Here I'm referring to the ability to know your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals. Learning and development begins with self-awareness. You build self-awareness through self-observation and reflection, and by finding and using quality sources of feedback. Very successful people are extremely busy, but they make sure to find time to solicit good feedback and engage self-reflection.
Next is the abiltiy to perceive emotions accurately in yourself and others. When looking inward at yourself, try to articulate what you're experiencing. Is it anger, confusion, maybe envy? Is it directed at a person, or maybe a particular task or project. The more you think in terms of these specific questions, the more clarity you'll gain. When looking at others, this skill requires you to detect and decipher emotions in people's faces and voices.
Emotionally intelligent people look carefully at these non-verbal cues, every bit as much as they listen to the words people are using. Aside from simply recognizing the emotions others are experiencing, you're also wise to spend time actively trying to empathize with them. Mentally try to walk in their shoes. The more you can understand what they're feeling, the more you'll understand them in general, and make better decisions where they're concerned. Let's also consider self-regulation. This refers to the ability to control and redirect any negative or disruptive emotions you might experience.
For example, if you can sense that anger is rising inside of you, you can choose to leave a particular situation in order to avoid unnecessary conflict. You sensed an unproductive emotion and you made the choice to do something that will keep it in check. Next is learning how to use emotions positively. You can actually learn to use emotions to facilitate your work more effectively. For instance, when you recognize that your mood is not well matched for what you're working on, you can choose to stop doing that task and try another.
I write a lot, for example. And I need to be in a positive mental space to write well. If, for some reason, I'm in a really bad mood and writing feels nearly impossible, I don't choose to sit there and fight it out at the keyboard. Instead, I just choose to go tackle a different, less creative task that better fits my mood. Overall, keep in mind that these are all skills that you can learn. I want you to begin by spending time thinking about these skills, observing them in yourself and others, and by finding the right time to begin needed conversations about emotional intelligence with your team.
When you do, you'll learn that identifying and using emotions can be one of the strongest leadership tools you possess.
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