5 Ways Leaders Can Raise Their Emotional Intelligence (EI)

leaders-improve-emotional-intelligence

If I asked you what qualities a great leader possesses, chances are you’d probably mention traits like intelligence, vision, and determination. But what about emotional intelligence (EI?) Research shows that softer qualities often identified as being part of one’s emotional intelligence, like being sensitive to others’ feelings and listening well are just as, if not more so, important. 

Theodore Roosevelt put it well when he said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Being able to care and tune in to other’s emotions as well as your own is defined as “Emotional Intelligence.” Having high emotional intelligence is key to being successful in life, including in the workplace, as it helps you relate to others. Consider the research of psychologist David Goleman at nearly 200 large, global companies in which he found that truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence. Other studies show a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, retention, and performance.

How leaders can cultivate emotional intelligence 

1. Practice mindfulness. Meditate, do yoga, practice deep breathing. Do whatever you can to help open your heart, settle your mind, and relax. Research shows that the more you’re open to those that you lead, the more engaged they’ll be on projects and the more committed they’ll be to you. I actually do a yoga pose before some of my workshops that involves placing a yoga block in the center of my back and allowing my shoulders to fall back on either side. This helps me physically and mentally open my heart to those I’m working with for better engagement.

2. Be self-aware. Practicing mindfulness is the first step to being self-aware, that is, aware of your own emotions, what causes them, and how you react to them. Being self-aware allows you to know how you manage stress and pressure which is crucial when leading others. Without being tuned into your emotions, you may project stress or anger onto your team, confusing and disillusioning them. Leaders with self-awareness can develop skills that will help them manage their own emotions and respond effectively to situations that come up.

3. Be aware of others. The more self-awareness leaders have, the more they’ll be mindful of others’ emotions.  Emotionally intelligent leaders anticipate how people will react to certain situations and are proactive in responding. Before doing something, they think about how their actions might impact others. Then they help them deal with the effects.

4. Practice empathy. You can do this in a tactical way. Practice systemic listening. By this, I mean, when you’re talking with someone, summarize what you think you have heard. Ask probing open-ended questions, so they feel free to say whatever is on their mind. Also, let them know that you understand how they feel. When you listen in this way, you don’t just hear the information, you are engaging with it, experiencing it and it will help you relate better to those around you.

5. Be vulnerable. In that vein, be ready to share similar experiences. Explain what you went through before you got into this position and what you have learned. Vulnerabilities can promote connections and strengthen relationships. Think about some of the most durable bonds you have; I bet a lot of them are with people who know and share your vulnerabilities.

There are many ways to assess your emotional intelligence and get your baseline. Try this online quiz as a first step. By taking an assessment, you can find out your weaknesses and learn strategies to improve those areas. Doing this and practicing the tips above will no doubt help you be a better leader—and person.

A version of this post was first published on Lead Change Group.

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Five Friday Highlights: Hubris, Humility, and Stress

Work Stress

As I have traveled to Germany recently, conducted workshops for LinkedIn, and continued developing my exclusive coaching program for female executives, I have been thinking about gender diversity, work stress, living conditions, and the difference between success and failure. These five posts each touch on those topics from various angles.

Why VC’s Aren’t Funding Women-Led Startups from Knowledge@Wharton raises realistic and honest questions about how women can have a more equitable share of VC funding. It’s sad to note that in 2016 I can attest to the fact that the male hubris/female humility effect is still asserting itself throughout the tech world. A quote from Ethan Mollick: “If entrepreneurship is based in part on hubris, [the] male hubris, female humility effect tells us something about why women are less likely to do start-ups.”

Topics like “humility” and “confidence” lead me to ponder what talent acquisition specialists really focus on when looking for a perfect fit for their organization. 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is One Of The Fastest-Growing Job Skills from Fast Company contends that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ! The article outlines seven reasons emotional intelligence is considered so valuable. One of my favorites is the fact that emotionally intelligent people are more open to feedback.

14 Inspiring Habits of Successful Digital Entrepreneurs from Cox Business’s Blue was quite the thorough inventory of what it takes to be a successful digital entrepreneur. These “inspiring habits” apply to success outside the digital realm as well. My favorite (of course) is think globalDigital entrepreneurs have a mindset that isn’t restricted by geopolitical borders. They understand that the noise is greater but the niches are larger. Because they are global.

I also try to keep my finger on the pulse of what workers of all generations are doing to survive. Where are they living? How are they spending their disposable income? How do they integrate work and life? This one reflects a trend that speaks both to values and the current economy: For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds from the The Pew Research Center. The category “share living with spouse or partner” continues to fall, according to the study, which states, “This turn of events is fueled primarily by the dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35.”

Finally, no matter what generational demographic you fall into, stress at work has to happen to you at least occasionally! There was a great suggestion and a fresh angle in Want to Decrease Your Stress at Work? Encourage Your Coworkers from Forbes. Citing research that demonstrates how encouraging coworkers can reduce stress, the article continues, “In addition to the brain benefits and reduced stress that result from supporting your colleagues, doing so will help create a culture where your coworkers can lean on one another and encourage each other in stressful tasks.”

And who doesn’t want less stress and more encouragement? I encourage you to let me know what reading has made a difference for you recently. Email me with your recommendations!

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Five Friday Highlights: The Power of Shared Experiences

Gender Equity

There’s something really powerful about … shared experiences. People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend disbelief. A community creates belief.- Charles Duhigg

Today’s highlight selections all tie back, in one way or another to shared experiences. From Sheryl Sandberg’s revelations after becoming a part of the single parent community, to women who still are subject to unwanted touching at their employers, it is shared experiences which catalyze action. It is my hope these actions create a richer, more equitable world for everyone.

Acting on shared experiences can result in a richer, more equitable world for everyone! {TWEET THIS}

Sheryl Sandberg released a Mother’s Day message on Facebook about how her interpretation of “Leaning In” has changed over the past year, after her husband passed away and she became a single mother. In addition to sharing the evolution of her personal viewpoint, she says, “We need to rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like.” I agree!

Sheryl Sandberg’s change of viewpoint was brought about by a change in her life circumstances. After her spouse’s death, her pool of “shared experience” had broadened. Shared experience, writes Georgene Huang, founder of Fairygodboss in Forbes, matters. Read more in Your Gender Matters at Work and That’s a Good Thing.

Some industries move more quickly toward gender parity than others, and Sydney Ember shares in The New York Times how advertising is not blazing a trail. In For Women in Advertising, It’s Still a “Mad Men” World, Ember writes “…in interviews with more than a dozen women, mostly executives, who work in advertising, many said they found it hard to believe how much their particular business still remained a white man’s world.”

Who is going to make a measured, mature contribution to the hard work of rethinking public and corporate workforce policies referred to by Sheryl Sandberg? I have to think the people willing and capable of doing that will exhibit the characteristics discussed in 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is One of the Fastest-Growing Job Skills from Fast Company. Like the article states regarding the emotionally intelligent, “…with the rates of change and pressures in the workplace rising, they’ll become even more sought after than ever.”

I believe those emotionally intelligent people can make a difference in the changes that will help bring about more fairness and, in all honesty, more profits! In Why Inclusive Hiring Practices Help Bottom-Line Earnings for Savvy Companies from Sharp Heels, guest contributor Heather Ready provided examples such as, “…investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63% better than … investments in all-male teams, according to a report released last year.”

Success in business is not, of course, all about monetary profit However, I don’t see why we can’t do both: be richly diverse and rich in the conventional sense. Who wants to help me try? Email me here with your ideas!

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