You may be an intelligent and highly skilled executive but, without emotional intelligence, your leadership career is doomed to failure. According to Daniel Goleman, whose research popularised the term, emotional intelligence accounts for nearly 90% of what sets high performers apart from others with similar experience, knowledge and technical skills.
Emotional intelligence is the ‘oil’ that smooths the inner workings of relationships, helping you successfully coach teams, manage stress, deliver feedback and collaborate with others.
The good news is – emotional intelligence is not innate. It can be learned. Here’s how to improve your emotional intelligence to get ahead in your career.
Self-awareness is your ability to know your own strengths and weaknesses, recognise your emotions and understand the impact they have on your and your team’s performance.
Take a moment of ruthless self-reflection. Ask yourself honestly:
- Are you quick to judge or anger – or are people comfortable bringing you bad news?
- Do you shoot from the hip – or do you think before you speak or act?
- Do you have double standards – or do you model the behaviour you expect from your team?
- Are you naturally defensive – or do you seek alternative views and welcome criticism?
- Do you know you’re always right – or are you willing to change your opinion or standpoint when presented with new facts or a better idea?
Think about your need for praise and recognition. It’s OK to enjoy being rewarded for your accomplishments but, for emotionally intelligent people, the inner confidence of knowing you’ve done a good job is reward enough.
The more in tune you are with your emotions, the easier it is to choose your responses when things go wrong. Before you speak, try to pause, breathe, collect yourself, and think about what your team will value from the way you’re reacting.
Reflect and review
Emotional intelligence relies on the ability to learn from your mistakes. That starts with admitting you make them! It’s OK for leaders to admit they don’t know or that they could have handled situations better. The key is to learn from disasters, take responsibility for your actions and do it differently next time.
Rise to the challenge
Nothing ever grows from a comfort zone. It’s the same with developing your emotional intelligence – sometimes you will have to deliberately test your limits. Be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable environments and situations where you must learn and don’t always get it right first time.
Keep an open mind. When someone says or does something you disagree with, rather than shutting them down – satisfy your curiosity. “That’s an interesting viewpoint. Tell me more. Why do you think that?”
Let people shine
Take responsibility when things go wrong but give others credit when projects succeed. Try to put team members in roles where they can shine and set people up for success.
Emotional intelligence matters – so it’s worth the effort
Emotional intelligence counts for twice as much as IQ and technical skills in determining your success.
Making the effort to improve in this critical leadership area will pay dividends in both your personal and professional relationships.