Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to be aware of and manage your own emotions and those of others.
In other words, to consider how we relate to others. I often find in the work I do with bright, knowledgeable professionals that this is unacknowledged as an important ability at worst and in many cases, at best, rated behind other skills.
However, as you progress in your career and take on leadership roles it becomes more important. This is because you will spend more of your day dealing with the challenges presented by interacting with people, internally and externally.
Having vision and being strategic are two key leadership skills but if you can’t relate well to others then this impacts many other important leadership skills such as communication, being motivational and building the all-important trust needed with both colleagues and external contacts/clients.
Difficult situations are much easier to deal with when there is a better relationship in existence and you are more likely to progress your career when you have positive relationships (this doesn’t mean being a “yes” person all the time and avoiding conflict).
Consider these common situations and how being more emotionally intelligent could help the situation have a better outcome:
- Dealing with someone in your team who has just suffered a family tragedy. Their personal wellbeing is more likely to be managed if you are able to handle it well and they are more likely to return to work in a better state and after a shorter time period.
- A mistake or error happening in your team. Bigger issues result if things are not declared and if they are kept under wraps. If people know they have a leader who can deal with issues in an emotionally intelligent way, they are more likely to speak up so they can be dealt with sooner.
- A client who is unhappy with the work that has been done. In a positive relationship, this is more likely to get resolved well and the client retained. In the opposite scenario, the client may find a reason to move on sooner rather than later.
- You keep getting ‘passed by’ for promotion but don’t know why. It is less likely to happen in the first place if you are more emotionally intelligent and if it does, you are more likely to get to understand why.
So how do you work on your emotional intelligence?
Here are my top 7 tips, even if you are aware of them or even do them already, most of us can improve:
- Understand what your triggers are. Perhaps there are certain topics or mindsets that are more likely to make you angry/upset.
- Take your time to react to others. Very often your first reaction to something they say is not the one to best support the relationship.
- Have in mind people are different. They have not only different ways of doing things but varying beliefs, values and motivations.
- Put yourself in others’ positions more frequently. What is top of their mind that may not be top of yours? What assumptions could they have so they see things differently? What is their personal situation and what effect could this be having? If you just react from your position that is unlikely to have a good outcome.
- Listen. What are people really saying? What are they not saying that is important? Listening alone will help people feel you are interested and bothered. For example: if someone is angry, just making them feel heard can often decrease their state of anger dramatically.
- Empathise. You don’t have to agree with someone to empathise about how they feel in a situation.
- In the everyday, take time for people. It could be by, simply greeting them, enquiring how they are and sharing some ‘human’ conversation (not just about the latest deadline). It might feel like ‘a waste of time’ but will be worth it.
So what do you need to work on? Whether you are already a leader, aspire to be one or even are happy never to be one directly, emotional intelligence is a key skill that everyone can benefit from working on.
I tackle a range of (often neglected) skills related to ‘people’ skills in my short email series and free eBooklet to help you improve your career success.
I hope the above guide will be helpful, if you wish to discuss your current career situation, please do get in touch.
About the author
She does this by helping them master and strategically use the business skills of Personal Impact and Relationship Management. These skills are required for professional success.
Before establishing Inside Out Image, Joanna worked in marketing and consultancy in large corporates. She understands the business world and its challenges. She now helps organisations and individuals understand how to succeed in it.
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