Practical Advice on Being an Emotionally Intelligent Manager
Once upon a time, being a successful manager often meant being remote, showing little or no empathy and instead being solely focused on the business not the people. Not having any emotions at work was considered a desirable quality. Managers were expected to be stoical, logical, making decisions without the encumbrance of emotions. But times have changed. Articles about the importance of Emotional intelligence abound. But although awareness of Emotional intelligence has increased, what does it actually mean in practice? How does one become a more emotionally intelligent manager? Over the next few weeks, I’m going to look at a tool for assessing Emotional Intelligence, but also look at practical advice of how to cultivate greater Emotional Intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
To be clear, Emotional Intelligent management doesn’t mean just being nice to people. Although it is nice to be nice, a pleasant demeanour alone doesn’t constitute emotional intelligence. Similarly, emotional intelligence isn’t just about showing some emotion. The concept of Emotional intelligence is raised back as far as 1964. However, it wasn’t until 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, that the concept was popularised.
There are various definitions about what Emotional Intelligence actually is, the one below is from an article in Psychology today.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.
Putting the definition into practice, emotional intelligence could be lived through three activities:
- Noticing, recognising and understanding our own emotions
- Noticing, recognising and understanding the emotions of other people
- Understanding how emotions influence and inform our thoughts and behaviour and being able to leverage that understanding effectively
Let’s look briefly at these 3 activities.
Understanding our Own Emotions
An understanding of our own emotions is the fundamental starting point for all those who would be emotionally intelligent managers. Self-awareness and self-regulation are principles which form the foundations upon which emotional intelligence can be built.
The first step is to recognise the role our emotions must play in our working life. Take a moment to think about the best and worst moments you’ve experienced this week. Chances are, your emotions probably played a big part in why they were best or worst.
The rush of satisfaction and pride that comes from successfully completing a project, constitutes an emotional response. The fear and anxiety that drives procrastination and avoidance of a difficult piece of work, this too has emotion at its heart.
Our emotional life isn’t separate from our working life. The two are connected. What motivates and demotivates us is often emotion rather than rational influences: we have passion for an idea, or we loathe a particular task. Emotions add colour to work, for better and worse.
But so what? Its not exactly a great revelation to learn that emotions influence us at work. Often people describe themselves at the “mercy” of their emotions: “I got carried away” or “it was fear of failing that stopped me”. Developing a deeper understanding of emotional intelligence meant that the balance of power shifted?
What if by becoming more aware of our emotions, rather than being “hijacked” by them, we could instead learn how to better work with our emotions for the best outcome? Becoming more aware of our own emotions could make us better managers of ourselves. Knowing how to get the best from ourselves is surely a great foundation for learning how to get the best from others.
Understanding the Emotions of other people
As we’ve mentioned above, what is true for us is also true for others. Emotions affect and influence working life.
The first step, to notice our own feelings, is normally straightforward: we can literally “feel” it. But how do we “feel” the emotions of others?
Few, if any of us could claim to be “mind-readers”. Yet understanding other people is an essential social and business skill. It can be hard enough deciphering what we think someone is thinking. Even harder to work out how they might be feeling.
It all starts with noticing. Being aware of what people say, how they say it, their body language, facial expressions, all can provide important emotional cues. Piecing the cues together, can provide some insight into how someone is feeling. But its certainly not fool-proof. Better yet to combine any cue that we notice with the single most powerful technique for uncovering information: we can ask questions! Simply asking someone at least gives an opportunity to learn more. They might not be ready to be candid about their feelings, for lots of very good reasons. Nonetheless, there is often very little harm in just asking.
To add to “noticing” and “asking” there is one final tool we can employ: imagination. When talking about emotional intelligence, people often mention the word empathy. Empathy is different from sympathy in that it involves thinking how it would feel to be that person. To do so, requires some imagination. Imagining is an important techniques, because it allows us to hypothesise about how the other person might feel.
Until telepathic technology is invented, we must rely on different methods for diving emotions. One method is to combine these techniques of noticing, asking and imagining. Although we might not get it right every time, its better to try, than to ignore.
But if we try, we might just achieve better social relationships at work. Noticing another persons’ emotions adds another layer of context to all behaviour. Above all else, recognising and acknowledging the emotions of others builds empathy and trust. Who knows, it might just make us a more effective manager?
How emotions influence us and others and how to leverage effectively
Emotions lie at the heart of two features essential to management: decision-making and communication. How many of us could say that emotions never influence our decision making? In practice, some decisions are based on facts and facts alone. But it would be naïve to maintain that we are always impartial, only ever relying solely on logic and that emotions never play a part. Our emotions influence our decision making. When we feel confident and secure, we might be more likely to take risks. When we feel threatened or vulnerable, we may be more likely to play it safe. Whatever the decision to make, there is always an emotional element.
It’s the same with communication. Sometimes people mean what they say, whilst at other times, they don’t. Our language is full of phrases to describe communication that doesn’t tell the full story. People “pay lip service”, “say all the right things”, or “talk the talk”. But it doesn’t mean that anyone is convinced by words alone. Being considered a good orator is when the emotional content matches what we say. When communication carries emotional content, it can be far more compelling. If we want to communicate a vision, inspire or motivate others, we must appeal to their emotions.
We could think of emotional intelligence as akin to other management skills, like time management for example.
The consistent manager is one who can manage their own time first, before directing attention to managing the time of others. Before one can manage others, one must be able to manage oneself. The same is true of emotions.
So how do we become more Emotionally Intelligent?
Unlike personality, which many consider to be resistant to radical change, emotional intelligence can be developed and cultivated. For emotional intelligence, it is clear where we need to start: with ourselves. But to do so means know what the starting point is. So how can I know how emotionally intelligent am I?
A good model to use is the EQi 2.0 assessment, developed by MHS Canada. The assessment is based on a 5 scale, 15 subscale model which assessing different aspects, contributing to overall emotional intelligence.
The scales are:
- Self-Perception – Self Regard, Self-Actualisation and Emotional Self-Awareness
- Self-Expression – Emotional Expression, Assertiveness and Independence
- Interpersonal – Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy and Social Responsibility
- Decision Making – Problem Solving, Reality Testing and Impulse Control
- Stress Management – Flexibility, Stress Tolerance and Optimism
Over the coming weeks, we are going to consider the practical implications for managers for each of the scales and subscales.
In summary, its not that understanding our own emotions will make us better people, make us more or less stable, or give us special control over our emotions. But developing our emotional intelligence can make us become a more skillful and effective manager.
The manager who is emotionally intelligent is at least aware of their own preferences and can therefore take steps to insulate themselves from their own bias. Whilst we are never completely immune to our own emotions, but at least we don’t have to become a hostage to them.
EQi is one of a suite of psychometric assessment tools available through Dove Nest group. Over the last 36 years the Dove Nest team have helped clients develop leadership and management capabilities. If this is something you would be interested in exploring, call us on 015395 67878, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.dovenest.co.uk.