Emotional intelligence. As a leader you’re likely inundated with the term. Articles, seminars, trainings, reports…it’s a hot topic – and for good reason. With so much buzz about what one needs to be in order to be a successful leader and human being, it’s easy to start wondering, “Where do I measure up? Am I emotionally intelligent? How do I increase my emotional intelligence?”
It’s easy for authors to write about the importance of awareness, empathy, etc., but how does one actually improve in those areas? It can feel nebulous at best, and overwhelming/discouraging at worst. Well, I’ve got an easily digestible list for you to consider that will help give some clear, actionable ideas of how to achieve a higher level of emotional intelligence, and hopefully prevent you from getting discouraged in the process.
Each of the following areas are ways to not only increase your emotional intelligence but become more successful in general. When you believe that you can improve and have a desire to do so, you can make it happen – I’ve witnessed countless transformations.
Have a Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset is this: instead of expecting perfection, we focus on growth, thereby allowing ourselves to look at each experience in life as an opportunity to learn and get better. How does this apply to emotional intelligence? When we recognize that we, ourselves, are a work-in-progress that same mindset can be applied to everyone around us. Perfection is not only dangerous and unhealthy, it’s unrealistic to expect of ourselves and those we manage. When you choose to focus on the progress that others are making – no matter how small – you see success. It’s a principle that allows us to be more patient and understanding, simply by altering the expectation. This simple adjustment of how you approach those you lead can make all the difference. In fact, an article by Inc. stated, “Many companies are recognizing that the old ways aren’t working and are quickly moving from measurement-mania to goals of growth — growth and development of employees, that is. This means more and more companies will focus much more effort on developing support networks to help employees learn and grow.”
Be Open to New Ideas
Risk taking is a trait often seen among the most successful people. Having the ability to take a risk is often about being willing to discover and try something new. But, how does this apply to emotional intelligence? When we choose to listen to the ideas of those around us, and we’re willing to take the risk of investing in someone else’s ideas, people feel heard, appreciated, and validated. Choosing to listen and explore ideas that you may not have considered can also present opportunities you never considered and as a result may find success in the most unlikely of places.
Accept That Mistakes Will Happen
We all make them…they are unavoidable, no matter what you do. When you find yourself dealing with a situation where someone you manage has made an error, consider how you would hope your manager would handle it. It’s easy in these situations to forget that we’re all fallible, especially if someone makes a mistake in an area that you are extremely skilled in or comfortable with. The key is to learn from mistakes and then move on – both for ourselves and for others. As indicated above growth, not perfection should be the measurement of success; failure or mistakes can indicate trying, living, and experimenting – all necessary components of growth. It’s also important to remind ourselves what working with others really means, and how that impacts our work. The Harvard Business Review had this to say, “The type of mistakes you might be affected by vary greatly. A colleague may miss deadlines, not produce the work required, make errors in calculations or even provide you with misinformation. These may all be innocent mistakes fueled by lack of knowledge, experience, or awareness, but without more information you can’t be sure and won’t be able to act.” The article goes on to suggest ways to successfully navigate these situations such as, diagnose the issue, speak directly with the individual and offer support or help. Remember, success doesn’t just happen – at least not a majority of the time. It takes trial and error. Be patient with those you lead; make sure they have the resources needed to right the wrong and grow from the experience.
Be Interested in Others
Do you know what many of the smartest, most successful people in the world have in common? They never stop learning. They are constantly absorbing from sources and individuals all around them. Likewise, individuals who take a vested interest in the individuals around them are not only empathetic, they win their trust and loyalty. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People touches on six points to achieve what the title proclaims. They are as follows: become genuinely interested in other people; smile; remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language; be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves; talk in terms of the other person’s interest; and make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. Carnegie’s book is one of the greatest manuals available for learning how to genuinely connect with others and as a result have influence with those individuals. It is a must-read for leaders who want to leverage emotional intelligence to be more effective as a person and a manager. In the end, when we seek to understand the knowledge and perspective others have, we can apply those things to our arsenal of understanding and be better for it.
Be Gracious to Everyone Around You
The road to success is not paved or built by one person only. Be grateful to and for those who contribute to your success. I’ve learned this first-hand in mountaineering and in my career. The movie Beyond the Edge, recreates the miraculous ascent of two men, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, to the top of Mount Everest. Fighting through snow, winding along a ridgeline with drops of over 3,330 feet on either side, they scrambled up steep, rocky steps and navigated a sloping snowfield on their way to the world’s highest peak. Wedging himself into a crack in the mountain face with the summit in sight, Hillary inched himself up to what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. He threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, the climbers stood on the top of the world and did what eleven prior expeditions failed to do. They achieved what had been considered the unachievable. If you watch this or any other film on the topic, you’ll notice the journey begins at a place called base camp. It’s a staging area to assemble supplies, bond with your team, and mentally prepare for the challenges ahead. Ready to confront your fears and embark on the unknown, this feels remarkably similar to a career ascent. Mountains are not climbed alone, and neither are careers. They depend on the generosity and appreciation you’re willing to extend to your colleagues. Celebrate them and your success along the way – doing so will only welcome more success to you and those around you.
Don’t Let Doubt Take Over
We often allow doubts, fears, negativity, and other unproductive emotions distract us from connecting with others and accomplishing what we want. Drown those doubts and fears out with positive affirmations and stay focused on clear communication. As managers and leaders, we won’t be able to win everyone over all the time – that’s a fact. It’s universally known that it is impossible to please everyone. However, it’s important that you strive to make and keep connections with each of your team members so that as you make decisions there is trust in your decision-making, even if it’s not popular. This is a driving factor when trying to not only please those you manage, but your own superiors. In an article by Harvard Business Review entitled, Stop Trying to Please Everyone, it begins with, “Many of us are familiar with the concept of Getting to Yes, an iconic negotiation strategy developed by Harvard professor Roger Fisher and others. For many managers, however, the more difficult day-to-day challenge is “getting to no” which is what we call the process for agreeing on what not to do…In an age when we are encouraged to be “team players” and responsive to colleagues, it may seem counter-intuitive or even selfish to encourage managers to say no more often, but that is exactly what many need to do.” The key is to stay focused on communication that fosters trust in an authentic and emotional way; as you do, you’ll forge enduring bonds.
Be Enthusiastic, Passionate, and Positive
Enthusiasm is contagious and motivates those around you. It’s a key contributing characteristic for being an emotionally intelligent person who can push through difficulties and setbacks with positivity. Ten years of research and 500 face-to-face interviews with successful people from astronauts and actors to CEOs and zoologists, helped Richard St. John to conclude there are 8 traits of successful people. One of the major drivers for success? Passion. The truth is, nothing great ever gets done without enthusiasm or passion, interest, persistence, etc. Without these characteristics you won’t experience success – they are driving emotions and motivators to pursue the seemingly impossible and to push through difficult setbacks. Passion attracts others to your vision. It’s sparks enthusiasm and interest within them and soon you’ll find that you are working together to achieve similar goals and missions. Emotionally strong and intelligent people are able to focus on passion, enthusiasm and positivity. Those are attributes and emotions that get things done versus doubt, skepticism and negativity – which can be just as contagious, but not in a good way.
Be Balanced in MIND/BODY/SPIRIT
Essentially, if you are happy and content with you – by maintaining a balanced lifestyle – you will naturally be emotionally strong and intelligent. I often quote Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, who famously wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Tolstoy’s pronouncement is a useful starting point for anyone committed to making a difference. If you expect to move others closer to your cause, move yourself to a place you’ve never been. Before you can have greater awareness of those around you, you must have awareness of yourself and nurture that love and needed change within you. There is truth in the old adage of, “moderation in all things.” We must be balanced in our mind, body, and spirit to experience true happiness and success. There are several examples one can reference of individuals who so focused or obsessed in one aspect of their life that all other areas fall apart. Stay healthy and lead a balanced life.
Becoming more emotionally intelligent is critical to our success as a leader – there are plenty of studies that proven that. If you commit yourself to applying the above mentioned eight factors, I guarantee that your emotional intelligence will dramatically increase and you’ll experience greater happiness, satisfaction, and success overall. Want to see how these can be applied to your unique work environment or industry? Let’s schedule a workshop or presentation today.
Read to blog “Walking the Fine Line of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership“