Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence March 19, 2013

In this video, executive coach and speaker Mary Key discusses emotional intelligence and how it impacts the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence is a tricky topic as it is often hard to point out.  Sometimes the best way to help people understand difficult topics is to help them visualize it through storytelling.  Let’s dive right in.

For the 5th time that month, Jack, the COO, asked to meet with Samantha, the Director of Business Development to address progress and concerns. “Sam” is dreading the meeting because she feels little appreciation about the progress she has made with building accounts. Worse yet, there is always “one more thing” that Jack corrects her on or wants her to do. Sam has attempted to give Jack feedback on how she feels to no avail.

Sam is seen as a high potential in her organization and has met or exceeded goals set each year. Jack’s lack of sensitivity or empathy is starting to get to Sam. For the first time in her three years with the organization, she is entertaining other opportunities when recruiters call. Jack has no clue that Sam might leave for another position. He feels justified in his approach because it “produces accountability.” Jack sees himself as a successful manager of people and an outstanding leader in overseeing the overall effectiveness of the company.

Have you ever experienced or observed some rendition of this scenario? Jack lacks emotional intelligence in some key areas. Understanding more about one’s emotional intelligence (EI) is a critical component of great leadership. The biggest reason leaders fail is not lack of intelligence, but lack of emotional intelligence. We hear a lot about EI and yet it’s difficult to get your arms around what it is.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions effectively in ourselves and with others. It describes the behaviors that sustain people in challenging roles, or as their careers become more demanding, and it captures the qualities that help people deal effectively with growth and change.

In our work with coaching executives and teams, the first step to understanding one’s EI and its impact is self-awareness. How am I coming across? Am I communicating in a way that allows feedback? Do I have conversations where people I manage can feel acknowledged for their ideas and accomplishments? If I were coaching Jack, I would set up a situation where he could receive specific 360 degree feedback on factors that are part of EI such as: emotional self-awareness; assertiveness; self-regard; independence; empathy; interpersonal relationships; stress tolerance; impulse control; reality testing; flexibility; optimism; and resiliency.

It often takes the reality of seeing how others view you, to better understand the impact you are having and make needed changes.

Here are five things you can do to enhance your EI:

1. Stay present in conversations and ask more questions than give advice or direction
2. Practice empathy by asking yourself, “If I were this person, how might I be feeling and why?”
3. Be aware of your communication style and realize that some of us are more task focused while others more people focused. Pacing the conversation to the style of who you are communicating with can help the other person feel more in tune with you.
4. When you feel yourself getting upset or like you are getting overly demanding, take a breath, pause and re-think what you’re about to say or do.
5. Read up on EI and get feedback on yours so that you can work on developing it. Unlike IQ, EI is developable.

Check out our Women’s Forum for help overcoming these difficult challenges in the workplace.