These days there is no doubt that leading a team and having superb emotional intelligence (EI) go hand in hand. But what exactly is it and why should we embrace high levels of EI as leaders?
Defining Emotional Intelligence
It was helpful when we chose this topic to know that I had Daniel Goleman’s book on Emotional Intelligence to draw on at home.
However, what was needed first was a definition. Having looked through the Google search results for emotional intelligence it was the definition of the Institute for Health and Human Potential that stood out. It described Emotional Intelligence as the ability to:
- Recognise, understand and manage our own emotions.
- Recognise, understand and influence the emotions of others.
When I looked at the back of Daniel Goleman’s book, three terms jumped off the page as being key to bring that definition of emotional intelligence to life:
Our ability to be aware of our own emotions, biases and thoughts is absolutely key in demonstrating emotional intelligence. This awareness of our own state allows us to determine what of these emotions, biases, and or thoughts are helpful in a given moment.
A great mindfulness teacher I know often would say that a key question to ask ourselves is, ‘what is going on for you that is causing you to react a certain (especially when negative) way to someone else’s behaviour?’. The more we know about ourselves the more we are able to best manage ourselves in different situations.
Have you ever watched a David Attenborough nature programme and observed a gazelle bolt at the possibility of a predator being close by? The reaction is so instantaneous. We are capable of such reactions at such speed in human interactions. It requires an absolute discipline to not succumb to that oh so primitive, internal and protective call to react – especially where that reaction may be an adverse one. This aspect of emotional intelligence is so key to maintaining good conversations and good relationships within a team.
The phrase ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is a phrase often used. In the modern world it’s a difficult skill to master. Why? Because in the modern world it’s harder to listen than ever. Distractions are everywhere. Plus, we can often listen with our own story, with how what is being said impacts us, in mind.
Empathy comes from truly listening. From trying to really hear and understand what the person is saying and what it means for them. It also comes from demonstrating that you genuinely understand what they are saying and the feelings, emotions and thoughts that go with it.
These three traits are key to demonstrating emotional intelligence.
Why should we, as leaders, want high levels of emotional intelligence?
I’m reminded by something Louise Phelan, formerly of tech payments company Paypal, said at a talk a few years back. She said despite the growing importance of technology in the world, people buy people.
The greatest currency in the world is still the relationships that exist between people. In terms of getting the best from your team your ability to do so is dependant on you having great interactions and relationships across the team. Emotional intelligence is a brilliant enabler of this.
It will help you fortify the relationships you have with your team; and it will enhance the communication between you and your team.
It will make daily life within the team better, easier and more productive.
It is most definitely worth investing in.
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