“The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.” — Joseph Joubert
Have you ever “lost it” with your team?
If I could go back and change one thing in my career, I would choose to erase the times I resorted to yelling or harsh words in the face of problems. I’d avoid being abrupt and impatient with my team. In hindsight, I can see that my anger often made problems worse. It made people afraid to make suggestions, created an us-vs.-them atmosphere among team members, and sometimes led people to leave their jobs. Even well into my career, when I was the executive tasked with managing the opening of Petco Park, I can see there were situations that could have been resolved years earlier if I had just held on to my temper.
More than two-thirds of employers value EQ over IQ.
The ability to manage emotions to support better decisions is known as emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ). Compared to intelligence quotient (IQ), people can more easily improve their EQ through learning and practice. And EQ is well-recognized as a key leadership skill. In a survey conducted by Career Builder in 2017, “71 percent of employers surveyed said they value EQ over IQ, reporting that employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm under pressure, resolve conflict effectively, and respond to co-workers with empathy (Harvard Business School Online, April 2019).”
Great leaders project a calm, solution-focused approach, even during crises. They exhibit emotional intelligence, detaching from the emotion of the moment. They give their teams space to address problems, and don’t leave their teams fearing fallout from their manager’s anger or chaotic approach.
Luckily, a high EQ doesn’t have to be something we were born with. It can be learned and taught. It reflects my motto, “When we know better, we do better.”
Four quadrants explain emotional intelligence.
EQ measures emotional intelligence across four quadrants:
- Self-Awareness – Do you pay attention to your emotions in charged situations? Can you accurately name what you are feeling and notice when your emotions are changing?
- Self-Management – Can you choose not to act on your emotions? Are you able to step back, be flexible, and choose what to do rather than running on instinct?
- Social Awareness – Are your perceptions of other people’s emotions accurate? Are you able to look outside yourself and see how others are reacting?
- Relationship Management – Can you use your understanding of your own emotions and the emotions of others to manage interactions and keep them positive rather than negative?
Increasing our ability in these four areas allows us to respond in ways that lead to solutions. With a high EQ, we maintain an even keel, create safety for creative suggestions, and show our team that we won’t fall apart at the first sign of trouble.
Five ways to increase your emotional intelligence.
Here are five ways you can increase your emotional intelligence quotient and improve your effectiveness as a leader.
- Read the room. Effective leaders track both their own emotional states and the emotions of other people. Purposely tuning into the emotions of your team and others around you will help you better influence the course of events.
- Reflect. Self-awareness is “step one” in maintaining an even keel. Our personal emotions directly impact our teams and our interactions with team members. Learning to detach your own emotions from a situation will support better choices and relationships, building trust over time.
- Find a sponsor. Ask an even-keeled leader you trust to help you grow your EQ. Schedule regular meetings or reach out when needed, seeking honest, open discussions about your current emotional challenges. Feedback from a trusted mentor or peer may be your most effective tool for maintaining balance during a critical situation.
- Meditate. Let’s be honest; not everyone is born calm, cool, and collected. Nearly 200 years after Joubert wrote that opening quote, I still sometimes need a walk to cool my temper. Consistently showing up in a balanced and positive manner requires both focus and practice. In addition to walking, practical tools include elemental meditation, four-square breathing, and practices like yoga, that combine physical activity with meditation.
- Coach or teach others. When we help others improve their EQ, we improve our own. Teaching requires us to stretch. The research and preparation necessary for teaching helps us increase our knowledge of the subject, and we can then absorb that knowledge into our daily practices. Coaching a colleague one-on-one also requires that we control our own emotions, act with sensitivity, and create an atmosphere of trust with that peer. Regularly practicing these skills means they’re polished and ready when we face a crisis or critical decision.
Improve your EQ over time and become a better leader.
When it comes to EQ, I am a work in progress. I didn’t take a single class and then suddenly exhibit profound emotional intelligence. My EQ improved over time, through daily practice. You, too, can raise your score. Start by paying attention. Each time you begin edging toward losing control or an action you might regret, note the situation and your triggers. Then step away. Take a break. Go for a walk or practice breathwork. Consider calling your coach.
The very tools that help people manage anxiety can help you improve your EQ. Use them consistently, and your team will see you as the “calm,” rather than the “storm,” when they’re faced with a challenge.