“Emotional intelligence.” The phrase conjures the image of a therapist and a couch, but in reality being more emotionally intelligent you can help relieve stress, help you communicate effectively, help you empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Being emotionally intelligent is one of the keys to mastering your career.
Don’t believe the hype? Well, a study shows emotional intelligence (80% of respondents felt) far outweighs intellectual capacity and technical knowledge in what makes an effective leader. IQ and technical knowledge are about 10% each.
But what does it mean to be emotionally intelligent and how can it help you in the workplace? Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the key to maximizing your emotional intelligence is to first master your own self-awareness.
Fox defines emotional intelligence as a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.
“You need the skillset to understand what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you’re experiencing at any one time and how to manage so that you maintain control,” said Fox. “You also need to be able to read the emotions of others. How are they reacting to events, what are their thoughts, how are they thinking, what are their feelings and how can you develop a relationship with them?”
How do you understand your emotional intelligence? “First, you have to hone your self-awareness. Do you have the tendency to know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling and what emotion you’re experiencing at any one time? Once you know your own feelings you can make the logical connection to actions.”
But being emotionally aware does not mean that you are at the mercy of your emotions, Fox explained. “When somebody cuts you off in traffic, you feel that bout of road rage. Good self-awareness is to say ‘somebody cut me off in traffic, it really frustrated me.’ You can feel your blood pressure rise, maybe your pulse quicken. The self-awareness is the noticing. The next step then is the management. What am I going to do with this thought, with this feeling? You may roll down your window and yell at the person who cut you off in traffic. On the other hand, if you’re managing yourself well, you might say okay, that really upset me, but I’m just going to listen to the music on my car radio, I’m going feel better and relaxed as a result of this, and you start to calm yourself.”
A traffic backup is certain to rile up your feathers, but in work situations an emotional outburst can be a little more nuanced. “Let’s say you have a weekly meeting. During the meeting there’s somebody who typically derails it and gets you frustrated. The first step it to figure out how to control your reaction,” Fox explained. “One way might be to keep of cup a tea next to you and you take a sip to calm down. Or you might say ‘I appreciate your contributions, but you’re taking us off course; let’s bring this back to the agenda.’ Sometimes being a little bit more direct is exactly what needs to happen, both for you and for your colleague who’s frustrating you.”
Every year the Partnership for Public Service and the Office of Personnel Management publish the finding of the best places to work survey of government employees, and Fox says emotional intelligence is a driving force in the rankings.
“Every year the handful of agencies that are actually maintaining or improving their rankings as the rest of government declines in the face of all the adversity that folks are facing, is largely a result of the fact that they have senior leaders all the way down to first line supervisors, who are paying attention to their people, who are taking the time to meet with them regularly, to provide the feedback and coaching they need to communicate with them proactively so that they know what’s going on.”
How are you managing your emotional intelligence? Any secrets to success?