Emotionally intelligent leaders and managers get the best results!
Like learning to drive, leading and managing people is an experiential journey.
My entrance onto the leadership stage was when I was promoted into the role, having stood in for the team leader from time to time I don’t know about you, but although I had practiced at managing people I hadn’t experienced it properly until I had to do it for real.
Junior leaders and managers are appointed because they have shown potential, displayed leadership skills or are extremely good in the specific field they are in. More senior leaders and managers can have had a most distinguished career as a professional, i.e. doctor or lawyer or accountant, and the next step for their career is to manage people with the same specialism. An entrepreneurial business owner may be extremely successful and have acquired commercial business acumen and savvy long before they actually have to employ people.
So people enter leadership and management at all stages. Often their success as a leader or not, will be determined by their people skills, and if these skills haven’t had a chance to develop then the most successful entrepreneur or professional may well find the going very tough indeed.
One of the most impactful people skills is emotional intelligence. Wikipedia describes emotional intelligence as” the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups”.
If you’ve ever been in an office where you have seen people have tantrums of a two-year-old, or the rumour mill is the most reliable communication channels, or there is a prevalent blame culture, then you know that the skills of the emotionally intelligent are somehow lacking.
Even worse, if the conflict is commonplace, and your people aren’t firing on all cylinders or even are openly disengaged then you have may have a problem which stems from limited or unrecognised poor emotional intelligence.
Depending on our psychological profile, and we are all thankfully different; then you may have brilliant emotional intelligence, or conversely you may need to develop this skill more. The great thing about emotional intelligence is that if you are struggling, you can learn!
My first challenge as a young manager was learning how to control my own emotions. In the early years, I was quite often daunted about having to deal with some larger than life characters I had to manage. Managing my fear was one of my first and probably my longest lessons. I still feel afraid sometimes, but now I know how to deal with it, and it doesn’t faze me.
My second challenge was to learn how to manage the emotions of my team. This stage was a long one and a steep learning curve. The journey was interesting, thought-provoking and a necessary one.
The final stage in my learning came when I had to think about engaging large teams. Some of who I didn’t see for months at a time. Although I did try to do the best I could to have physical contact as much as I could humanly manage. Trying to encourage people to feel good, fulfil their potential and understand how much I appreciated them was more difficult. Although there are many skills attached to managing remotely, my own emotional intelligence was a key player in making remote management a success.
I have worked for and supported many managers and managed teams locally, regionally and nationally. During this time, I have practiced and observed attitudes and behaviours which have been the most successful in getting the best out of a team. These attitudes and behaviours are most commonly adopted by people who have honed their emotional intelligence skills and have the best people skills as a result. I have practiced these in the latter years, and wished I had access to and learned them in the early years.
The Nine Attitudes are:
- Accepting people completely for who they are
- Always looking for the good in people, there is always some
- Dealing with negatives in an impersonal but practical way and getting over it!
- Not judging – we all make mistakes.
- Giving people the benefit of the doubt
- Listening to what people need and wherever possible – obliging
- Responding neutrally to anger or other attacking behaviour and helping the person to reframe it in a positive way.
- Pivoting negative situations to achieve a positive outcome.
- Caring about people, even when they were difficult.
You might be thinking that it all sounds unrealistic, given some of the people you might be managing. But I can guarantee that if you think about it enough, they are all attitudes or stances you would like people to take with you.
Unfortunately, we aren’t born with an instruction manual and so navigating and improving our own emotional intelligence often comes through our own life experiences and self-reflection. However, the good news is that there are some clear and easy steps to improving our own emotional intelligence and, therefore, that of your team and organisation.