How Leaders can Increase their Emotional Intelligence

Employee training

In the Future of Jobs report from The World Economic Forum, emotional intelligence is ranked six in the top ten key skills that will be needed for work in 2020. Emotional intelligence has been shown to be related to job success, leadership effectiveness, sales, customer satisfaction, and general well-being, among other performance dimensions. Many practitioners now understand that a person’s emotional intelligence can be as much if not more important than cognitive ability to one’s success in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence can be broken down into five different concepts:

– Self-awareness. The tendency to recognize and understand your own moods and emotions, know what drives you, and how your moods, emotions, and drives impact other people.  Self-aware individuals may be more confident, have a more accurate self-assessment, and do not take themselves too seriously. They are good self-monitors of their own emotional state and can identify and name the emotions they are feeling, including those that arise during emotionally charged situations.

– Self-regulation. The tendency to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, to think before acting, and suspend judgment. Individuals high on self-regulation tend to show trustworthiness and integrity. They are also comfortable with ambiguity and open to change.

– Motivation. The tendency to have a passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status. They may have a vision of what is important in life, a joy in being utilized, having a mastery orientation, and can move easily into a flow state of mind when doing their work. They likely have a strong achievement drive and show optimism even during the most difficult of times. This is also referred to as having grit.

– Empathy. The tendency to understand the emotional needs of other people, and being flexible in the treatment of others to match their emotional states. Indicators of high empathy include the ability to attract and keep talent, an appreciation for diversity, and service to clients and customers. There is an ability to understand the feelings of others, and use that to improve interpersonal relationships

– Social skills. The tendency to build effective relationships with others, one-on-one, on a team, or as a leader. Indicators of social skill include the ability to find common ground and build rapport with new people. The outcomes of having social skills as a leader include effectiveness in leading change, political savvy, and expertise building and leading teams.

Is emotional intelligence immutable, similar to IQ?

While IQ is relatively fixed during one’s lifetime, emotional intelligence is more malleable. Make no mistake, it does require some work, and it’s not easy. Usually it requires some self-insight, focused attention on self-improvement, and feedback throughout the process. Many leaders have found emotional intelligence training modules to be effective because they last over a series of weeks or months, and they become a part of daily work life rather than something to be crammed over the weekend. You can improve your emotional intelligence. Not only will benefit your work life, but also that of your team. Emotional intelligence can be learned, and in fact, it is best seen as a lifelong process.

In the bookPrimal Leadership, Daniel Goleman describes ways that a leader can build their emotional intelligence. Leadership consulting can help leaders learn a more flexible leadership style that is designed to draw in and motivate employees by helping leaders focus on enhancing a key set of managerial skills that include creating a vision, using an effective coaching style, practicing affiliative behavior, and learning how to approach problems using a democratic (as opposed to autocratic) style. What’s likely more important than simply improving emotional intelligence is what relationship it has with leadership effectiveness. A combination of emotional competence and a high-quality coaching relationship improves the effectiveness of leaders, with emotional competence positively impacting performance and career satisfaction, and coaching leading to increased levels of work engagement, career satisfaction and expression of a personal vision.

How to increase your emotional intelligence

Below are eight strategies that can help you boost your emotional intelligence.

1. Reflect on your own emotions. Here are some scenarios to think about. How do you typically respond when:

You receive an email that suggests you didn’t follow through on a commitment?
You are unfairly blamed by a significant other for something outside your control?
Someone cuts in line in front of you at the airport?

The table next to you gets their order taken before you, even though you were sat first?

By knowing your own emotions and feelings about difficult situations, you can be more objective and not let your own feelings cloud your judgement and make you lose control.

2. Think about how you react to other people who you find difficult to work with. Do you assume that they have an agenda and make assumptions about their motives, or do you try to hear them out before reacting? Spend some time just listening and seeing things from their perspective. You may find your mind is changed about them, which could be beneficial for your relationship.

3. Do you seek admiration for the things you’ve accomplished? If someone shares with you a personal or professional achievement, do you take time to show your appreciation of the things they are proud of, or do you feel compelled to respond by sharing all the wonderful things you’ve done? Being humble is a very attractive quality in a person that can help let down the guard of others, inviting more genuine conversations. It also helps you grow as a person if are focusing more on others and less on receiving praise for the things you’ve done.

4. Many writers stress the importance of understanding your own weaknesses through one of the various EQ assessments on the market. Make sure it provides a robust feedback report that can help you gain insight into your strengths and weaknesses. You can also pair that with a trained coach who can help you process through your results and created a personalized development plan. A coach will also help you by setting goals and checking in on your progress with you periodically at a cadence that works best for you.

5. Ask others for to share with you what they think about you. It’s very enlightening to learn that the things you tell yourself repeatedly, often unconsciously (“I am not empathetic enough,” or “Others find me unimaginative”), may not in fact be perceptions that others share. It’s not that they are more correct than you are – as we are often more in tune with how we feel than how we appear – but they can offer some helpful insight into your behavior that you can’t see yourself. If it helps, you can ask those around you – friends, a significant other, parents, children, colleagues – to fill out a 360-degre instrument on you. It’s one thing to get feedback from one person, but another to hear it from multiple people in different spheres of your life.

6. Take inventory of those around you and how you approach the relationships. According to by Hsuan-hua Chang, an executive coach writing for Forbes, there are four different types of strategies we tend to take in relationships based on the situation. First strategy revolves around high trust in ourselves and others, which is the hallmark of effective collaboration. The second strategy is deciding to trust only ourselves, either in response to being let down by others, or as a general strategy we take in all relationships. The third is following the lead of others by letting them drive the way forward, and the fourth is withdrawing from the situation completely. Paying attention to which strategy you are currently using can help you understand whether it is the right strategy given what you hope to accomplish. If it isn’t, time to make a correction. This is particularly helpful if you yourself overusing the same strategy across different situations.

7. Every once in a while when working on a larger project, ask those who worked with you for candid feedback on how you’re doing. Be open to receiving the feedback – see it as an opportunity for self-improvement rather than judgment on your character. You can always change, but it has to start with a realistic assessment of where you are at. Often you can only get that through asking others (i.e., self-reflection is important, but can only go so far). Be accountable for taking in the feedback and deciding what to do with it. You can not only develop more positive and supportive relationships by asking for feedback early and often, these are like nuggets of gold you can use to grow personally and professionally.

8. Embrace a growth mindset and immerse yourself in learning something new. As soon as you stop learning and growing, you become stagnant, making you vulnerable to health and mental well-being issues. As humans, we are meant to continue growing through adulthood and into old age. Education doesn’t have to be in a school or university – it could be an online course, taking community education classes, or reading books in a new subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about.

Leaders who can manage their emotions, work well with diverse groups of people, and have a greater tolerance for ambiguity and invite change, are those that will be able to meet the rising pressures in the workplace. Having the ability to infer what motivates others and build strong ties with others in the organization is what makes people with higher emotional intelligence better leaders. An effective leader can recognize and meet the needs of their people in order to help them achieve greater performance, satisfaction and career growth.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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