With three children in college and one more to go in the fall I am acutely aware of what is valued in the academic realm as measurably important – SAT scores, grade point average, and leadership in activities. Universities use these metrics to compare students to each other and to predict their ability to succeed. Employers utilize qualifiers such as status of the university and grade point average when hiring college graduates because they are easy to compare when the desk of a human resource professional is covered with hundreds of resumes.
These measurements quantify well the objective areas that are the focus of secondary and post-secondary education. But as am employer and a chief executive I find them to be less than adequate at qualifying traits and behaviors that are critical to success. This is not to at all undermine the value of education – a basic threshold requirement to achievement. I am simply saying that schools measure how well you perform against the school’s academic curriculum. I want to know how creative you are. How resourceful you are. How tenacious you are. How well you read and react to social cues and can negotiate. How well you can select the right people for a team. How aware you are of yourself. How you manage yourself in a crisis. How you manage relationships. How well you can inspire people to work tirelessly for a purpose. How you can help craft and sustain a culture of mutual trust and respect. I want to know your emotional intelligence. And your transcripts don’t tell the story.
Your emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to control and use your emotions in a constructive and productive manner. It is essential to leadership and for successful relationships. It’s your ability to intuitively communicate so effectively that you inspire others while not being derailed by upsetting or extreme circumstances – to respond most appropriately as opposed to react in haste. In order to hold effective emotional intelligence you must first be self-aware. In a culture focused on quantifiable deliverables – sales numbers, decreased production time, increased cost benefits, etc., self-reflection isn’t a priority. I say make it a priority before it costs you money, your job or valuable relationships.
Why is it important to have emotional intelligence? Simply put – it builds confidence. Self-assurance grows with heightened self-awareness to a life driven by purpose and an ability to execute one’s goals for a greater good. Confidence is essential for healthy relationships and communication unhampered by disruptive, self-destructive emotions. So if your behavior in certain situations is predictably ineffective and unfulfilling, improve your emotional intelligence the same way you build other skills, by learning and practicing.
How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence
1. Identify your own emotion at the time you are exhibiting it or shortly thereafter and name it. (Anger, frustration, joy, grief, abandonment, fear, love, confusion, etc.)
2. Identify what caused the emotion. (Memory from the past, friction with a disrespected colleague, threat of looking bad.)
3. Accept the emotion and what it has meant to your emotional development. (Is there a pattern? Are you perceived as eruptive, self-centered etc.?)
4. Express the named emotion and the cause to whoever is witnessing it or to someone else appropriate. (This may include an apology, an explanation, a compliment, etc.)
If you feel that others have a pre-conceived negative opinion of you, you may ask them how you are being perceived. If you don’t want to do that, build your own self-awareness by quickly naming your emotions as they develop, identify what causes them, accepting them and expressing them to someone. Only then will you be able to catch yourself and project in a calmer more collective manner as opposed to exhibiting predictable negative behavior. Decreasing the negative behavior will help to reform opinions from colleagues.
If you are able to identify and control your own emotions with practice, then you are ready to put those skills to use for your team whenever there is a conflict or need for change. For individuals to work together they must build bridges across perspectives with compassion. Compassion is not agreement. It is a consideration for another person’s feelings and is essential on teams before two objecting parties lapse into defensiveness and a toxic work environment ensues.
How to Use Emotional Intelligence for Your Team
1. Ask yourself what you must let go of for the team to work effectively.
2. Be curious and compassionate to the others’ perspectives. Ask questions. Articulate what you understand their point of view to be. Use “I” statements and not “you” statements.
3. Use the steps above to understand the emotions and behaviors of others.
4. Make a suggestion as to how the conflict may be handled with compassion to all parties.
Successfully relating to people requires being able to read and understand their feelings and what motivates them. Understanding yourself and others is essential to build the emotional resonance necessary to achieve ambitious goals in business and personal relationships. Start now!
Famous College Dropouts: include Reggie Jackson, Steve Jobs, Ben Affleck, Woody Allen, Hans Christian Anderson, Dan Ackroyd, Kate Beckinsale, James Cameron, and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook and the world’s youngest self-made millionaire).
Famous People Who Have Failed (but had great emotional intelligence.)
1. He was fired from a newspaper for his lack of imagination and original ideas – Walt Disney.
2. She was dismissed from acting school with a note that said she was too shy – Lucille Ball.
3. He was a failed soldier, farmer and real estate agent who at 38-years-old went to work for his father as a handyman – Ulysses S. Grant.
4. He was cut from his high school basketball team, went home, locked himself in his room and cried – Michael Jordan.
5. He failed in business twice, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections – Abraham Lincoln.
6. His teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything and that he should go into a field that emphasized his pleasant personality – Thomas Edison.
7. They were turned down by a recording company and told guitar music was on the way out – the Beatles.
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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of Gannon Group – a full service executive coaching, training and consulting firm that provides productivity strategies for people and organizations by improving team performance, executive leadership skills, board performance, planning and project execution. Mary Lee’s personal turnaround came as a stay-at-home mother, with four children under seven-years-old, who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where within a short time she worked out of that to the level of CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores and at with online book sellers. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” at www.StartingOverNow.com