Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: A 3-step approach

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Written By Kevin

The insights I gained over the years help me lead and motivate teams to achieve business and operational goals. Allow me to share my learnings with you.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity to be aware of, and manage one’s own emotions, and the emotions of others.

The importance of emotional intelligence in leadership cannot be understated and should be given serious consideration.

What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

As a business leader, emotional intelligence can help you build more effective relationships, make better decisions, and handle challenging situations more effectively.

Emotional intelligence is a concept that Daniel Goldman wrote about, in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ which was first published in 1995.

However, EI is more applicable at the workplace now, than ever before, with most of the workforce consisting of millennials. 

Some of the key components of emotional intelligence for business leaders are:

  • Self-awareness: Knowing your own emotional state and triggers, and how they impact others;
  • Empathy: Understanding the emotional state of others, and being able to see things from their perspective;
  • Communication: Being able to effectively communicate with others, especially in difficult or emotional situations
  • Relationship management: Being able to engage in deeper relationships with your co-workers, and able to handle conflict in a constructive and effective way

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in Leadership?

Developing your emotional intelligence can help you create a more positive and productive workplace, and build stronger relationships with your employees.

As a CEO or business leader, if you don’t manage your emotions and feelings, you are losing the opportunity to understand better what it is that you want to achieve.

Your feelings towards the work that you do and the ambitions of your organization may be the energizing factor that will help you achieve your business targets, or on the contrary, they may be slowing you down from achieving them. 

Same goes for the team of people you manage. How can a leader manage the energy of their team if they don’t have a clear understanding of how their team feels about the goals and targets set by their leader.

How do the employees feel about the organization’s mission and vision? How do they feel about new products or services in the pipeline? Or about the business challenges, the culture, their new colleagues, and so on.

In the past the CEO was the person deciding the direction of the company, and all the teams were following him or her, but in today’s business environment, things have changed drastically. 

Leadership is nowadays, primarily about building connections and relationships with your team members so that you can work together more effectively to realize the organization’s vision.

In this new kind of work climate, it’s critical for you to be able to manage your emotional intelligence and that of your team.

How to improve emotional intelligence in the workplace: A 3-Step Process

Do you lack emotional intelligence and want to develop it? How can one embrace the theory of emotional intelligence in the workplace?

I recommend using a three-step approach, to put EI in practice. 

Let’s go over the three steps in order.

Step 1: Connect with your Own emotions

The first step is to create a routine that connects you with your own emotions.

There are plenty of ways to do this. 

Share your emotions with the people you trust. 

This is not easy. When you open your heart you feel vulnerable. Emotions can make you feel uncomfortable, as if you’re not in control and this is the reason we tend to block our emotions.

However, suppressing our emotions can be extremely harmful to our own mental health. As a result, we must accept our feelings rather than strive to suppress them.

Talking about these emotions is one approach to acknowledge them.
This makes it possible for our brain to process and connect with the feelings we are experiencing rather than numbing them out.

Once you have connected with your emotions, you then need to accept them. 

There are no good or bad emotions. We need to accept all the emotions that we feel, before we can start managing them and using emotional intelligence in our daily routine.

How do you manage feelings?

In order to harmonize these feelings on an intellectual and emotional level, we must establish a dialogue between our head and our heart.

In his book, Goleman says ‘In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.’

Once this is achieved, we become more aware of our emotions and how they drive our thinking and our decision making. 

Step 2: Connect with your Team’s Emotional Intelligence

The second step, on the road to lead with emotional intelligence, is to connect with the emotions and feelings of your team.

This is also known as emotional intelligence relationship management. 

Some CEOs have a natural ability to do this. They are more empathetic, but for others, this can prove to be a very difficult task.

The good news is that everyone can learn how to recognise the emotional state of others around them. It’s a matter of being more conscious of how you act around your team.

Here are a few suggestions.

Learn to listen better 

As a leader we should always strive to be more present in conversations with our employees. 

Learn how to create space to share non professional matters. 

When we talk with our team members. about our personal life we understand each other better and we deepen our connection.

Deeper relationships with our team members will enable us to better comprehend one another’s points of view, which will improve our ability to resolve conflicts or advance our common objectives.

Understand Body Language

One tool at our disposal, in an effort to connect with the emotions of our team members is to understand their body language.

Why is body language important?

Well think of it this way. Why does everyone like to use emojis so much in messages? We tend to use them often because they really connect us with the emotion we are trying to convey.

Yet, when we have a real person in front of us we are not so adapt at reading their body language to perceive their emotional state. 

It is much simpler to connect with someone’s emotions when you are aware of and sensitive to their body language or facial expressions, as well as more attentive and present in the conversation.

As a result of having such a deep understanding of your team, it will be simpler to empower them at work and to help them discover fresh views.

This leads us to the final step in developing your emotional intelligence.

Step 3: Create an environment for improvement and growth.

How can you create an environment of growth within your team? 

Well here are four suggestions to get you started.

1. Instead of assigning blame, treat any errors as teaching moments.

2. Establish a procedure for receiving group feedback where assessments are made in an open forum among team members rather than just one way, from top to bottom. I can assure you this can be a very powerful source of growth for all involved, including yourself. Set up a process of doing this once or twice a year. 

3. Embrace diversity. The diversity on the team makes it easier to activate our emotions and encourages us to develop. You can broaden the reach of your business and create a productive workplace by putting together diverse teams with a range of backgrounds.

4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I hate those meetings where everyone is silent, waiting for the boss to talk. How do you expect your team to be proactive and innovative within this kind of atmosphere? Add some humor to your meetings. Keep things informal and cordial. Also, make sure to take the time to celebrate accomplishments or significant occasions.

You’re on your way to becoming an emotionally intelligent leader.

The three steps I outlined in this article will only be the beginning of your journey, but they act as a good starting point.

Adopting these strategies right away won’t be simple, so take your time. Allow these methods to become a part of your regular routine, as organically as possible.

Once you get the hang of it, you will be surprised to see how powerful of an impact leading through emotional intelligence can have on your life, your work and your employees.

You will notice better synergies with your team and increased efficiencies, as your team’s feelings will be aligned with the goals and objectives of your organization.

As an emotionally intelligent leader you will be able to manage change and the feelings that we get from change. 

You will be in a position to manage conflict more creatively. Moving your team from a competitive atmosphere to a more collaborative atmosphere. 

Once you connect with your emotion and the emotions of your team members, you will be creating an environment of trust, respect and learning opportunities. 

You’ll not only have a more effective team, but also a happier team of coworkers. Developing emotional intelligence within your staff will have an impact on their personal lives as well.

When we understand each other better we can have a happier work life and consequently a better personal life. 

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