Emotional Intelligence: What is Self-Awareness?

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Self-awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and to understand your tendencies across different situations.  In order to raise our self-awareness, we must be willing to tolerate the discomfort that comes from focusing on feelings that may be negative.  Not all leaders want to even “go there”, as it is much easier to not think about our emotions.  Our brains do a tremendous job in leading us down a discomfort avoidance path and given the “out”, most leaders take it.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In order to improve our emotional intelligence, we must first try to understand our own emotions.  Self-awareness is indeed the first step to change, and if we aren’t willing to be honest and accurately assess our emotions, we can’t expect to become better at managing them.  Having emotions are neither good nor bad…emotions simply serve a purpose as reactions to the world around us.  Quickly discerning why something gets a strong emotional reaction out of us is a critical first step.

How can you do it? 

  1. Stop treating your emotions as “good” or “bad”.  Getting comfortable with our emotions is challenging enough, without the added internal pressure of identifying our feelings as “good” and the guilt of feelings we identify as “bad”.  When we judge our feelings we might be putting a barrier in the path of truly understanding them.  By not labeling our emotions and accepting them as our brain’s response to a stimulus, it is less threatening to think about our feelings.
  2. Keep a journal of your emotions.  The biggest challenge in understanding our emotions is objectivity.  By keeping a journal, we are about to practice a little “Dragnet” investigative reporting of what emotions we have experienced, our assessment of what event(s) triggered them and how we responded.  This simple exercise will help us to de-mystify our feelings and begin the “root cause analysis” of the why behind them.
  3. Reflect on the ripple effect of your emotions.  After identifying our emotional responses (described above), we then need to reflect on the effect our emotional reactions had on others involved in the situation.  In leadership, we are always on stage and our reactions never occur in a vacuum and certainly impact those we are trying to lead.  This honest reflection may be embarrassing or disappointing, but certainly could be the discomfort necessary to propel us to improve.

Share one recent leadership challenge.  What were the emotions that you recall experiencing during this situation?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: The Skills of EQ

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Emotions are messy. Period.  Emotions are challenging to control and understand.  Emotions flood our brain when reacting to stimuli without us consciously being aware and then we respond to those emotions with our behavior.  And because the filter by which stimuli are passed through to produce these emotions and behaviors is our belief system, we are hesitant to challenge or look deep enough within ourselves to make a change to those beliefs to which we hold so dear.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

There has been a long-standing debate about whether leaders can be “made” or are leaders just “born” with the ability to lead.  What I have learned to believe is that the answer (like most leadership answers) is BOTH.  As humans, we are born with a capacity for intellect (IQ) and we form general personality tendencies by the time we are young children…both of which change little as we mature.  The one element we can develop is our emotional intelligence.  I’m not saying that by improving EQ, people will become “perfect” leaders.  No.  I’m suggesting that when leaders work to enhance their EQ skills, these leaders can increase effectiveness on their continuum.

How can you do it? 

  1. Self-Awareness – understand your own emotions.  Self-Awareness is our ability to accurately perceive our own emotions in the moment and in certain situations.  Awareness truly is “the first step” to making any lasting change.
  2. Self-Management – practice what you do in response to your emotions.  Self-Management is what happens when you act, or do NOT act, in response to your own emotions.  This is a critical skill in regulating our behavior in leadership…and life.
  3. Social Awareness – read the room.  Social Awareness is the ability to accurately pick up on the emotions in other people and what might really be going on with them so that you can take in critical information to each situation.
  4. Relationship Management – putting it all together.  Relationship Management is where the rubber hits the road.  This is a leader’s ability to use their knowledge and management of “self”, combined their awareness of others to build effective relationships.

Based on the descriptions above, which of these skills is your strongest and share an example?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Emotional Intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and your relationships.  Emotional Intelligence (referred interchangeably with EQ, or Emotional Quotient), although defined in 1964, has not gotten the same press in traditional leadership literature because of the branding label of “soft skills”.  Instead, traditional leadership training emphasized “hard skills” such as financial acumen, project management, and executing results.  Leaders who focus strictly on hard skill development miss the nuance EQ can bring to the way in which leaders behave and therefore impacting their effectiveness in leading others.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

While factors such as intelligence (IQ) and personality play a role in leadership effectiveness, studies have shown that EQ accounts for greater than 60% of the abilities needed for exceptional leadership performance.  EQ is the foundation for many critical leadership skills such as communication, flexibility, relationship management, stress tolerance, presentation skills, etc.  EQ is so critical at work that it accounts for 58 percent of successful performance in all types of jobs, not just leadership.  Not only can strengthening your Emotional Intelligence impact your effectiveness, you also have the potential to impact your personal mental wellness.

How can you do it? 

  1. Identify the need to improve.  Ask yourself “Am I as effective in my leadership as I would like to be?” “Am I producing the results for which I am accountable?” “How am I perceived by my colleagues and those I support?”  If we are honest with ourselves, there are always opportunities to improve our behaviors to produce better results and positive perceptions.
  2. Assess you EQ opportunities.  The tension between how you are and where you want to be is the driver for change.  I would suggest taking an assessment (like the one in Emotional Intelligence 2.0) to give you a starting point for “You Are Here”.  Throughout this blog series we will be exploring strategies for improving our EQ.
  3. Engage your colleagues on your goal to improve your Emotional Intelligence.  Leadership is a team sport, and so is leadership development.  Share your goals to improve with trusted colleagues and ask for their feedback as you work on improving these challenging skills.

Are you ready to change?  Please share an area of Emotional Intelligence that you want to improve for your leadership effectiveness?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Difficult People: Fire Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Except in egregious situations, this is always the last resort. Of course, leaders are hesitant to do this. They should be. It means the organization’s recruitment and retention processes have failed. The confrontation is unpleasant. Difficult people usually believe they were justified in behaving the way they did, and they will go to their graves convinced that their firing was unjust. As for the courageous leader who fired them, they will hate her guts forever. And these resentful people always seem to be getting their groceries at the same time as the leader who finally stood up to them. When Clare Booth Luce and Oscar Wilde (attributed) said “No good deed goes unpunished,” this is what they meant.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Sometimes it just has to be done. Bitter, miserable people are poison and their affecting droppings pollute the entire workplace. If you avoid dealing decisively with this obvious contagion, you will forfeit your own credibility. Those who are struggling to remain positive will give up on you and choose a more determined leader in another company. You may mistakenly think you cannot afford to lose this difficult employee. Actually, you cannot afford not to.

How can you do it?

  1. Make sure you have made your expectations clear. People have a right to know which behaviors are unacceptable and they deserve a chance to straighten up. It’s the fair thing to do.
  2. Warn them that failure to change will result in their termination. Don’t beat around the bush about this. Put it in writing.
  3. Give the deviant a reasonable chance to turn herself around. Don’t make the mistake of promising to reevaluate the situation after 90 days. Anyone can act better for 90 days. Make it clear that the disruptive behavior must disappear forever.
  4. Send them home immediately. Don’t allow them to work out a notice and cause more havoc. Be done with it now. Pay them for their two-week notice. This will be one of the best investments in your colleagues you will ever make.

How have you successfully removed a difficult person from the workplace?

Difficult People: Punish Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

It’s uncomfortable. Leaders are just like everyone else. Above all, they long for comfort. No one puts her bare feet on the floor in the morning looking forward to the opportunity to confront a difficult person later that day. A significant amount of preparation is required. Evidence must be collected. Most leaders will need to make notes, consult the right people and make a practice run with a trusted colleague. All of this takes time and energy that might be more pleasurably invested in attending meaningless meetings or reading spam.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The best leaders will trade comfort for results every time. When you’ve used all the subtle tools to no avail, this is the hammer you must reach for. It is time for some serious corrective action. The positive people you serve expect you to do your duty. Your failure to punish an ongoing pattern of misconduct will transform difficult behavior from “The Problem” to your problem.

How can you do it?

  1. Begin creating and collecting documentation. Many leaders make the mistake of having subtle, informal conversations far too long. Document every confrontation you have with difficult people even if you keep that evidence only in your personal files. It may come in handy later.
  2. Document complaints. This is not as easy as it sounds. Many colleagues will come in to whine but refuse to go on the record. Don’t fall for that. Take notes while they talk. As soon as they leave, send them an email documenting what that said. Copy a fellow leader. Make the complainers admit they were lying or take responsibility for what they said.
  3. Prepare a letter specifying exactly what behavior must change. Use this letter as the agenda for your confrontation. Don’t argue or allow yourself to be distracted by discussing their reasons why they behave the way they do.
  4. Clarify what will happen if they persist in behaving this way. Don’t beat around the bush. “If these inappropriate behaviors recur, I will take the appropriate administrative action up to and including dismissing you from this position.”

How do you punish the difficult people in your workplace appropriately?

Difficult People: Isolate Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

It hurts their feelings. And many leaders are hesitant to hurt anyone’s feelings—even those whose feelings should be hurt. Those who are isolated because of their bad behavior will scream that they are being treated unfairly. This will force the courageous leader to admit that is true and to explain why. This management strategy may shift some of the troublemaker’s work to others and those so affected may resent that. Those who have already raised children will recognize that no punishment goes unpunished.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Managers must attach unpleasant consequences to a pattern of bad behavior. It is true that positive reinforcement usually works better, but it is not enough with difficult people. They will mistakenly conclude that you appreciate their troublemaking too. And they will be more inclined to engage in more of it. More importantly these bad apples spoil whatever bunch they are in. The workgroups infested with their rot will appreciate your seclusion of these offensive troublemakers and their disgusting smells.

How can you do it?

  1. Don’t forget this option. This is not the first option that will come to your mind. If you don’t keep a list of options for dealing with difficult people nearby, you may not think of this possibility.
  2. Remove them from the teams they have infected. This will not stop them from causing trouble, but it will prevent them from destroying the group’s momentum.
  3. Stop seeking their consent or consultation. Inform them instead. It’s true that difficult people have a good idea now and then, but their good ideas are few and far between.
  4. Explain why you are doing this. Weak or inexperienced managers just quietly do this without explaining their actions. It’s better than doing nothing, but it is much less effective than the quiet, in-your-face approach.

How have you successfully isolated the difficult people in your organization?

Difficult People: Ridicule Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Humor has an edge. It can cut. Because of this, leaders are ordinarily careful about saying or doing anything that might be perceived as intentionally critical in public. Even those who freely criticize their colleagues at work resent it when they become the butt of the joke themselves. Leaders are rightly hesitant to use the ridicule tool.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

But gentle sarcasm has its place. When the leader observes that a difficult colleague is “always so positive, supportive and easy to live with,” those who have to tolerate these grating personalities know that they are not alone. This admission legitimizes their perceptions and gives them public credit for their longsuffering.

How can you do it?

  1. Use humor to defuse their anger. “Are you actually angry about this insignificant issue or are you just putting us on?”
  2. Poke fun at their chronic complaining. “I see that you have found another of life’s imperfections to share with us.”
  3. Ridicule their negativity and cynicism. “I’m surprised by your perception; you are usually so positive and upbeat.”

How have you successfully used humor to manage the difficult people in your life?

Difficult People: Discourage Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Leaders are programmed to respond to squeaky wheels. That’s what they’ve watched their managers do. Workplace squealing annoys everyone. People expect leaders to make it stop. Leaders with servant hearts—and the best leaders always have these hearts—long to serve even the difficult customers. They view trouble as an opportunity. And nice people find it hard not to be nice, even when being nice is not the best approach.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The problem with responding promptly and sincerely to difficult people is that it encourages more of the same difficult behavior. Even when they don’t get their way, obnoxious people get the attention they crave. When you figure this out, you will realize you must find a variety of effective ways to negatively reinforce bad behavior. This notion will make you uncomfortable. Following through on your plans will make you even more so. Do it anyway.

How can you do it?

  1. Refuse to listen to ranting. When someone calls you screaming, interrupt them. Tell them you will listen to them when they can conduct themselves in accordance with your organization’s Code of Conduct. Then end the call. Don’t worry. They will call back.
  2. Conduct an investigation. Don’t take their word for it. Get the facts. You will usually find the complainers have distorted the truth or sowed disinformation hoping to reap the discord that will serve their purposes.
  3. Make your findings public. This will document their unsavory character, expose their methods and attach unexpected and unpleasant consequences. This will discourage them.
  4. Discriminate against them. Focus your time and attention on the people who show up on time, produce results without complaining and never break a sweat over the small stuff.

How have you successfully discouraged difficult people in your organization?

Difficult People: Learn from Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

It is hard to take these folks seriously. They make mountains out of molehills. They are crabby. They always suspect the worst of others and harp on every flaw. They only believe the bad news and gleefully pass it on. They suck the joy out of every room they enter. What could any leader learn from such people?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Consider this. You can learn a great deal. You can learn exactly what you are up against. With their help you can identify every weakness in your case. This valuable insight will permit you to build a more compelling case. From the difficult people you will learn what others are thinking but unwilling to say. Address these concerns up front, and you will eliminate much of the opposition. Most powerful of all, you can learn what a tragedy it is to be so miserable when life is so short and thank God for your relative good fortune. You could have turned out like them.

How can you do it?

  1. Focus on what they say. Ignore how they say it. Critics make points that must be answered. They just make these points in ways that disincline serious people to bother.
  2. Admit it when they are right. Most leadership decisions are not clear cut. There is always the risk of mistake or failure. When these people point out everything that might go wrong, thank them for contributing the risk assessment piece. And mean it.
  3. Repeat the points they’ve raised. Acknowledge that these issues need to be considered. Rebut them effectively.
  4. Follow your rebuttal with a summary of the pros and cons of the issue at hand. Admit that your case is not air tight while pointing out that you believe, on balance, your case is compelling.
  5. Always conclude by thanking your critics for speaking their minds. You can deal with people who speak up even when they are unpleasant. Silent critics are much tougher.

What have you learned from the difficult people in your life?

Difficult People: Persuade Them

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

These people are not easy to persuade. They are generally open to only one view of reality—theirs. Neophyte leaders always start out trying to convince difficult people of the unreasonableness of their negative convictions, but after many failed attempts they understandably conclude they are wasting their time and energy. Miserable people embrace their convictions with religious intensity. Converting them is not a percentage play.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

But there is always a chance you can turn these people around. Admittedly it’s a small one. The odds are about the same as winning the lottery. But the payoff when you succeed is so great that giving persuasion a try should remain one of your options. The grudging testimonials of the formerly embittered are among the sweetest leadership moments you will ever experience.

How can you do it?

  1. Give persuasion a chance. You will never win any of the arguments you fail to make.
  2. Accept that their point of view is legitimate. You will not persuade others to consider another explanation if you persist in viewing them and their positions as ridiculous. This is not easy. You will usually be convinced they are. Get over yourself.
  3. Make a convincing case. You will find this is a lot harder than it sounds. “Because I said so,” only works for parents. And it doesn’t work very well for them.
  4. Admit that you might turn out to be wrong. This is not a tough admission to make. You frequently will be wrong.
  5. Ask them to give your approach a try. After all, you are looking for results. If what you are proposing does not work out, you will be among the first to junk the idea. Promise to give them the credit if your suggested approach works.
  6. Don’t expect too much. They will not likely turn into positive people. That’s not the point. Leaders must recruit a new group of volunteer soldiers before every battle. Having these people with you now and then is a lot better than never having them with you at all.

How have you successfully persuaded difficult people to take a more positive view?