Emotional Intelligence. Have You Lost It?
I lost it yesterday. I was at a meeting and all was going reasonably well. I was aware that I was tired and not focusing 100% on the matter at hand when it happened, I lost it. What happened? someone at the meeting made a comment and I decided to come out of my corner fighting. As soon as I did I regretted it.
How many times has that happened to you?
- Have you ever been in a conversation that started ‘heating up’, where the tension and/or complexity increased?
- Where you wanted to say ‘No’ but found yourself saying ‘yes’
- When things didn’t go as well as you would have liked? …
And a few minutes later you’re thinking, “Why didn’t I do this?” or “Why didn’t I say that?”
This is Emotional Intelligence in action… or in my case, re-action as I didn’t effectively manage my response to the situation. My emotions ‘escaped’ and I only applied the emotional intelligence knowledge afterwards.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Daniel Goleman’s Primal Leadership is an excellent read. If you haven’t already obtained a copy I would highly recommend that you do. Daniel talks about Emotional Intelligence as the key ingredient that causes great leaders and performers to stand out. As you move through your career it becomes less about how smart you are or the results that you achieve personally…it is about your ability to build effective relationships and to motivate and inspire others – to achieve results through them.
Daniel Goleman’s model for EQ has 5 components
Personal Competence – this comes from you and understanding the following:
1. Self Awareness – understanding yourself. What is your default behavior, fight or flight? What causes or triggers you to react one way or another and it may be different at home than work. It may be situational, specific to individuals with whom you are working. Once you understand what drives you, you can move to:
2. Self Management – how can you anticipate and plan for your reactions and triggers. If you know you are about to enter a situation or a meeting that in the past has caused you to behave in a way that is different to what you intended, how can you anticipate and influence your reactions and stay in the moment. And trust me, its one thing to know and anticipate an ‘amygdala hijack’ – when your brain takes control of your ‘sane mind’ and you speak without thinking and another thing to be able to manage it in the heat of the moment. Think about it, how many times have you thought about the ‘right response’ or “I wish I had only…” later on in the day, when it is too late?
3. Motivation – understanding what drives you to individual and team success. How you react to and explain successes and set backs.
Social Competence – understanding and managing other’s reactions
4. Connection – once you are aware of your reactions then you can apply these to others. Understanding from their perspective how they may be perceiving the situation, their reactions and seeking to start from their point of view, to learn and to move forward in an effective manner.
5. Social Skills – the ability to influence others, to communicate effectively such that the shared learning and understanding of different perspectives grow (rather than just focusing on one point of view). To lead and inspire others, to manage conflict effectively and to build relationships that collaborate and work effectively together to achieve common goals.
The more I read about Emotional Intelligence the more fascinated I become about its impact in both the workplace and at home. I am also conscious that awareness is not sufficient, as my earlier example shows, knowing what I should have, or could have, done different is not as effective as actually doing different…
Now if you are raising your eyebrow and thinking “that would never happen to me” or “this is a business, there is no place for emotions in business” or “I’m a tough leader… I don’t get emotional.” Then take a moment and humor me for a moment. I want to show you how quickly emotions drive behavior. How quickly emotions drive YOUR behavior.
My team and I start our EQ workshops with a discussion and activity that demonstrates how emotions and feelings are at the root of all our actions and drive behavior, performance and leadership. Here is a quick example of how emotions impact and drive behavior…
Imagine you are walking down the street… around the corner comes your Nemesis, your arch enemy, what are you thinking and feeling in that moment?
Here are some of the things we hear from workshop participants:
- How can I avoid them?
- I feel myself get defensive
When we then as what happens next, participants will say they:
- Cross the street
- Pretend to be on a phone call
- Avoid eye contact
- Walk quicker (so as to spend as little time as possible with them)
Now imagine its your best friend who turns that corner… What are you thinking and feeling in that moment?
- Pleased to see them
- Maybe you have a quick flashback to your last evening out together
What happens to your behavior this time?
- Walk quicker (to be able to spend more time with them)
- Make eye contact
Even in the classroom we can see participants visibly tense up in the first scenario, and then relax and smile in the second, even though their best friend is not in the room, they are only mentally picturing the encounter.
This is a simple but powerful example of Emotional Intelligence in action. Emotions are part of our DNA, our operating system, and try as you might, you cannot leave your emotions at the door. They are with us every minute of the day. Emotional intelligence is about recognizing this fact, understanding the emotions we are experiencing, why and how best to leverage that emotion to achieve a successful outcome.
Emotionally Intelligent leaders are aware of the emotions they experience in or about work. Consciously and unconsciously these emotions impact the how you communicate and the messages you send to those who work for and with you.
- When was the last time you laughed at work? Why did you laugh? Did others sense your positive mood?
- When was the last time you were frustrated? How did this impact the atmosphere of your team?
My advice? don’t dismiss EQ as a fad, or as something you don’t need. “I have got to where I am today without it, why would I need to know this?” Think of it more in terms of where do you need to be in the future, to what extent does that rely on building effective relationships and managing your responses in given situations? Emotional Intelligence is the game changer that differentiates great leaders from the pack.