Leading with Emotional Intelligence

THE CULTURE OF any organisation is essentially a combination of two key components - management and leadership. The style and principles adopted in these distinct areas shape how employees think and act. That affects how they prioritise and execute day-to-day responsibilities and how they behave in their dealings with internal and external contacts. 

Management is more task-focused. It is concerned with running efficient operations, implementing agreed strategies, solving problems and consistently producing results. 

Leadership is more people focused. It centres on the ability to give employees a vision of the future, which can inspire and unite their efforts. That depends on being able to communicate in a way that does not simply inform, but allows people to see a bigger picture and makes them feel part of the team. 

Leadership is also about developing individual capabilities, motivating and energising others. When that happens, they are willing to embrace change, contribute more and strive to be the best.
Corporate executives learn how to manage, but they must also develop the separate range of skills that allow them to lead effectively - and that is where many fall short. They make the mistake of thinking that it is enough to have a solid track record, diverse experience and proven intellectual ability.

What they forget is that sustained success in any context also requires emotional intelligence. 

Although not yet acknowledged as widely as it should be, that is what sets the best managers apart and allows them to become true leaders. People who are more in tune with their emotions understand their own moods. They realise what affects their thought patterns and know what makes them act in certain ways. Crucially, they are also practised in reading other people's emotions and controlling their own, meaning they can avoid unnecessary conflict and get the best out of every situation.

Individuals with a high degree of emotional intelligence generally have well-honed skills in the following areas:  

  • Self-awareness to perceive and understand one's feelings and see how they influence thoughts and have an impact on others. 
  • An ability to express emotions effectively and have enough sensitivity to communicate them at the right time and place. 
  • Awareness of other people's emotions and the ability to see what typically makes each individual feel annoyed, frustrated, satisfied, positive, or optimistic. 
  • A rational approach to using information obtained from observing emotions to achieve greater buy-in before decisions and more successful outcomes. 
  • Self-management to keep one's emotions in check and maintain a generally upbeat and optimistic disposition. 
  • Management of others' emotions in the sense of creating a positive work environment and promoting good team spirit. 
  • Self-control to overcome anger or other negative emotions by thinking through the causes and identifying a positive way forward in response to the challenge. 

Various tools are available to measure a person's emotional intelligence. However, unlike IQ tests, the scores do not reflect an actual level, but show instead how frequently you demonstrate the appropriate kind of behaviour. 

And while you cannot really change your IQ, it is possible to enhance your emotional intelligence by using several simple yet effective techniques. All it takes is to follow a clear three-step process. The first of these is to understand the key facets of emotional intelligence that have been outlined. Consider how each applies to what you do at work and to your personal life. Then figure out which of these skills you demonstrate in an intelligent and consistent manner. If necessary, get some feedback from people you trust to have a better all-round perspective. 

The second step is to develop your skills in each area. Begin with emotional self-awareness, which is the foundation for everything else, and focus on developing this aspect. Once you feel more confident about understanding your emotions and mood, move on to thinking about how you express them. 

After taking as long as necessary to work through the stages, remember to reinforce the key points and to keep learning. After all, practice makes perfect and will help you to achieve even better results for yourself and your team. 

To ensure ongoing development of your emotional intelligence, consider trying the following: 

  • Create small reminders to prevent yourself from acting rashly or without due consideration of other people's emotions. This could be as simple as wearing a new bracelet or putting a different picture on the wall of your office to remind you to stop and consider things in the correct way. 
  • Develop a "buddy" system that gets others involved. Find someone who also wants to develop better emotional intelligence skills and help each other identify areas for improvement. Give each other suggestions about how difficult situations in the workplace could have been handled differently, and talk about things that went better or worse than expected. 
  • Make a point of teaching a colleague, subordinate or friend to be more emotionally intelligent. By acting as a mentor, you will learn a lot more about yourself and the process involved. 
  • Make emotionally intelligent behaviour a part of your everyday life. For example, at a very basic level, take the trouble to ask colleagues how they feel. Don't just start the working day by jumping straight in with a comment or instruction. In meetings, give people a chance to say what they feel, as well as what they think. If, as a leader, you do this, others will soon follow your example. 
  • Where necessary, set goals and remember that becoming more emotionally intelligent is as important a part of your development as mastering any other skill. 

Whatever your role, achieving results is not just a matter of implementing systems and following procedures. It is also about how effectively you communicate and co-operate with the people around you. To do that, you must be able to detect and interpret the various emotions involved, which have so much impact on the actions taken and the thoughts expressed. 


The bigger picture
There is a saying that employees do not leave the company, they leave their manager. Whenever that happens, the root cause of the problem is that the manager has lacked the emotional intelligence to read obvious signs of growing discontent. These may be in the form of increased absenteeism, missed deadlines or performance management issues, all of which indicate low staff morale and the likelihood of higher employee turnover. However, when executives are emotionally intelligent, they are better equipped to lead and manage others. In addition, their approach will allow employees to learn more about themselves and, as a result, mean they are ready to put more into their jobs and contribute more to the overall organisation.  

The GROW model
The four-step GROW (goal, reality, options, way forward) model is an invaluable coaching tool. The first step is for coach and pupil to agree on a specific topic and goal for the coaching session. It is simply what they want to achieve within the context of the discussion, not any long-term development objective. Step two involves discussing the topic with specific examples so that both parties share and learn. In step three, the coach should give a list of suggestions for further action, while also encouraging the pupil to come up with ideas. In the final way forward stage, the coach should gain a commitment to action. Each point should be agreed on and there should be a clear time frame, taking account of the goal and any potential obstacles. 

Taking control
As you work to develop your emotional intelligence, consider at the same time which things you need to control. That can be in the sense of starting something, stopping it, changing direction, or allowing it to continue on the same track. Whatever the case, remember that control of any aspect of a business is not something you can expect to exert on your own. It requires some form of buy-in, support and co-operation from others. This is particularly important when instigating change. So, if you want to take control in such situations and mould events in a certain way, it pays to anticipate the range of emotions people will be feeling. Some may be angry or worried, others enthusiastic or disinterested. Think carefully about the likely emotions and do not dismiss any as irrelevant if you want to win support and carry people with you.