Last Saturday I enjoyed presenting a talk on emotional intelligence to 150 employees at TLC Eyecare & Laser Centers, which has offices throughout Michigan and Ohio. Listening to these employees, I heard loudly and clearly how complicated their jobs are, and why emotional intelligence is crucial for their success in their managerial roles.

They explained that their job requires them to manage relationships at multiple levels. On a weekly basis, they have to manage relationships with:

  • The staff they are supervising
  • Their peer group
  • Their supervisors
  • Vendors
  • Insurance companies
  • Patients of all ages and with all varieties of medical problems
  • Nurses
  • Doctors

Interacting with each group presents unique challenges and opportunities.  Within each group, they encounter delightful people and difficult people. A difficult relationship with any one person at any level can create stress and could lead to potential bigger problems.  I explained to the managers that for a leader to be effective at any of these levels, it helped to have a mastery of the competencies of emotional intelligence. These occur at four levels:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Understanding others
  3. Managing one’s self
  4. Managing relationships with others

The core of strong emotional intelligence is a good sense of understanding one’s self. Without a strong sense of self-awareness, it is virtually impossible to be strong at the other levels of emotional intelligence.

I ended the talk with these tips on how to develop a better sense of self-awareness.

  1. Spend time alone in a quiet place, focusing on who you are and how you react to others.
  2. Use a journal to record key learnings about yourself in relationship to others.
  3. Learn to meditate or pray as a method of getting a better understanding of self.
  4. Read about self-awareness. Many sages have written about this topic for thousands of years.
  5. Get feedback from others about how they see you.  Human beings are notoriously inaccurate about how we see ourselves.

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