You’ve likely heard of Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Maybe it sounds to you like something that is constant and set at an early age. Yet, behaving appropriately emotionally is not only something that can be learned over a lifetime, but it is something that must be learned if we are to live happy and productive lives. Furthermore, it is essential to successful leadership.
Perhaps “Emotional Competence” rather than “Emotional Intelligence” is a better term for the skill set required to function effectively as a leader. “Competence” signifies something that can be learned.
Four Steps to Emotional Intelligence
Let’s use an example of a leader having difficulty at work with one of her direct reports. To be effective:
- She must first understand herself in relationship to the problem.
- Then, she must understand the other person with whom she is having the difficulty.
- She must then understand how she wants to manage herself in relationship to the other person.
- Only after going through the first three steps, is it time for her to move to the fourth step, managing the relationship with the other person.
For example, let’s imagine that Diane is leading a research effort in her lab and encounters difficulty with a coworker, Fred, who is always working at a slower pace than the project requires. The usual approaches which Diane uses in her lab are not working with Fred. As Diane is highly competent emotionally, she has a discipline to work through the challenge in the appropriate manner.
First, she recognizes that she’s the type of person who can make changes quickly and adapts to unexpected circumstances. She also recognizes that she can be impatient with people. She was raised that way it is always been that way.
Second, she seeks to understand Fred. His personality is much more cautious and deliberate. She knows he’s been raised in a strict environment where making a mistake was costly.
Third, she knows she has to manage herself well in the situation because she has a tendency to come across as dismissive to those who are not meeting her expectations.
Fourth, she knows that Fred is insecure and needs reassurance so that he does not feel that he is doing a terrible job.
So what does she do? She decides that the best plan is to schedule a time where she and Fred can go out for coffee and discuss the situation away from the hubbub of the lab. In the conversation she tries to explain to Fred the background for the need for urgency. She explains that their funding agency requires they meet deadlines and that they have to move at a faster pace to do so.
Her approach works. Fred appreciates the time Diane has taken with him. He understands her better and recognizes that he has to change his behavior for the sake of the team. Together, they agree to meet weekly to review his progress. Knowing that he needs affirmation, Diane thanks him for his important contributions.
Act with Emotional Intelligence
- Always seek to understand yourself before reacting to another person.
- Whenever possible, take time to understand the other person in the context of their point of view: how are they seeing the problem?
- Formulate a plan for dealing with the problem
- Engage in a productive dialogue with the person with whom you’re having difficulty. Listen to their point of view as well as communicating yours.
Learn more – watch my video on Emotional Intelligence