Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management & Trust

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Some leaders expect that by virtue of having a title, their colleagues and team members will naturally trust and follow them.  You know the saying about “assuming” anything.  This belief could potentially enable the leader to behave in ways that others might perceive as arrogant, uncaring, closed or dismissive.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Relationships are two-way, and if the leader does not make an effort to extend trust to others and behave in a way that builds a trust bank account with their team, the leader cannot expect others to blindly grant trust nor follow.  Relationships between two or more people will never be perfect, but the core of an effective relationship is trust.  Trust is defined as the belief in another’s reliability, truth, ability and strength.  When team members trust their leader, they know they can rely on, depend on, count on, and bank on them to tell them the truth and to allow them to do the same in return.  Trust takes a while to build, a trial and error of behavior observations so to speak.  So, there is really no short cut to this core competency of effective relationship management.

How can you do it? 

  1. Make your feedback direct and constructive.  Think of the BEST feedback you have ever received.  You probably didn’t want to hear it, but it was shared with you in a way that really helped you change your behavior.  Certainly, being direct and clear is very important so there’s little chance of a misunderstanding.  However, use your social awareness of the receiver to think of how they would best receive the feedback so you can adjust your delivery for the best chance of enhancing the relationship.  I am not suggesting to sugar coat the feedback, as that does not build trust because it is not honest.  Do, however, consider the best delivery method for “where” the other person is and how best you can get your feedback across.
  2. Take feedback graciously.  On the flip side, we need to receive feedback graciously.  When trying to build a relationship, we must make ourselves open to others’ perspectives.  While we may not always agree with suggestions we receive from feedback, when we make an effort to acknowledge and apply what we learned from feedback, our behavior communicates that we trust and respect our team’s opinions.
  3. Invest in building trust.  Most of the behaviors we discussed in this blog series, when consistently repeated over time, play a part in building trust.  Be open when you communicate, telling the truth (good, bad and ugly).  Be consistent with your words and behaviors.  When we say one thing and do another, our colleagues will believe our actions over words, and trust in us is lost.  And lastly, follow through with what we say we are going to do.  Remember, trust means that others can rely and depend on us.  Follow-through is therefore one of the key building blocks of trust.

What are some additional strategies you have used to deliver direct and constructive feedback?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management & Tough Conversations (Part II)

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

One main reason we are hesitant to have tough conversations is that we may not trust our OWN emotions.  Once the conversation has been set up, it is difficult to not get defensive ourselves when the other person is sharing their perspective.  As we discussed last week, don’t get trapped by this.  It is easy to get stuck in the moment, focusing on the words, tone and emotion of the other person.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The end goal is the reason to push yourself through this tough spot in a difficult conversation.  When we approach a tough conversation with the intent to resolve the situation AND improve the relationship, we have in our mind that there is hope.  Hope that if we set the conversation up properly and stick with the “high ground”, there is hope that at the end we can have a resolution that will put the situation and relationship back on track.  In fact, a tough conversation can sometimes be the defining moment that makes a relationship stronger.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share your perspective.  You have openly listened to the other’s perspective, now it is time to share yours.  Describe your discomfort, and your reasons and thought process of why and how you have gotten here.  Be clear and direct in your communication…no “code” or joking to mask your discomfort.  If an apology is needed, offer it genuinely.
  2. Keep moving the conversation forward.  Once both persons have shared their perspectives, there still may be disagreement.  Someone is going to have to keep the conversation moving forward, and guess what leader…that person is you!  At this point in the conversation, try to get back to establishing common ground.  Some phrases to consider are “Thank you for coming to me directly about this.  I think I understand your view and I believe you understand mine. I am committed to working through this situation in a way that we can both achieve what we hope for.”  Explain your ideas and ask for the other person’s.
  3. Follow-up after and often.  Rarely is a situation and relationship perfectly resolved and repaired after a tough conversation.  One thing you can do to try to make sure each person understands the common agreements made during the tough conversation is to send a note that captures the discussion from your perspective and ask to make sure the other person agrees to the content of the conversation and the next steps.  Then, most importantly, follow-through with what you committed to do and check in with the person often on the resolution.  This is not an appropriate time for a “no news is good news” philosophy.  You are half of what it takes to keep a relationship working, so be proactive and reach out.

What strategies have been most successful for you when following up after a tough conversation?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management & Tough Conversations (Part I)

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Growing and sustaining positive relationships, in all aspects of our lives, is really tough.  Unfortunately, until recently, management training pigeon-holed this leadership competency as “soft skills” and not as important to focus on as budgets, productivity, and ROI.   Some leaders shy away from the “icky” people stuff because it is gray, unpredictable and just plain hard, and therefore they don’t have the relationship capital or the skills to have effective accountability conversations when necessary.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The real bottom line is that people, interfacing with other people (customers, co-workers, supervisors, vendors/suppliers, etc.) are who actually produce the results in organizations (unless fully automated).  In my opinion, the more effective the relationships are between these groups of people, the higher the chance an organization has at producing better sustained results.  One of the most important relationship management skills to deliver great results is to have tough conversations when needed – productivity is falling, conflict is interfering with co-worker relationships, not meeting expectations, etc.  When leaders fail to have tough conversations, in the right way, they are allowing a work environment to continue that is counterproductive to producing the best results.

How can you do it? 

  1. Start by establishing common ground.  Start your discussion with common ground.  Make sure that you explain the reason for your conversation and why you are speaking with them now.  Sometimes leaders avoid tough conversations because of the guilt they feel for not having talked with the person sooner.  It’s never too late.  But certainly, you should own that to the other person by leading with an apology for not speaking with them sooner (if that is the case).
  2. Understand the other person’s perspective.  A relationship is two-sided.  People want to be heard so make sure to manage your own feelings and start by taking the sting out of the other person’s defensiveness.  Genuinely share that it is important to you to understand the other’s perspective and that you would like to hear their point of view.  Remember your goal should be to strengthen the relationship with this conversation, not weaken it, if you ultimately want to produce better results.  You also can’t make a good decision if you do not have all of the facts.
  3. Resist the urge for a “dig”.  The person may say things that are false.  They may exaggerate the facts.  But in the middle of this tough leadership conversation is not the time for you to lash out with a come-back or a rebuttal.  Take the heat.  Know that the other’s digs are coming from their defensiveness or hurt feelings and put it in perspective.  You can always come back to this person and talk through the comments, but now’s not the time.  You also can’t possibly be actively listening if you are trying to come up with a come-back.

How have you “set the stage” for a tough conversation that was successful?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management & Intent vs Impact

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

When leaders forget that the business of leading is not “all about us”, then we fail at building the relationships necessary to achieve real results that matter.  Leaders may believe that because of personal competence, they should be the one deciding and everyone should just go along.  Leaders can get so focused on personal success that they micromanage their team and overlook other’s contributions or opinions.  Leaders can also get so focused on personally “winning” that they forget to look for ways to achieve a resolution best for the team.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Leadership is a TEAM SPORT.  A leader is not effective if others are not able or willing to follow the lead.  I truly believe that most of us go to work and want, sincerely, to do the best job we can.  We start off our days with this positive intent.  But somewhere during the day, our focus on “self” gets in the way and the impact of how we make leadership decisions affects the perception of this intent from those we serve.   Effective relationship management requires leaders to spend more time focusing on the IMPACT of our behaviors, as that is what others see, hear and experience.  Certainly, INTENT is important to reconcile within our own minds as a check and balance, but the only true way others can see our intent, is through the behaviors we exhibit.

How can you do it? 

  1. Explain your decisions.  Instead of making a change or decision and expecting others to just have to deal with it, take the time to explain the “why” behind the decision, including your reasoning behind the why, the alternatives you considered, and who will be affected.  If there is time with a decision, present the problem and options and get input from your team on the best option (or options you have not even considered).  In the absence of a clear “why” case and explanation, your team may conclude that your decision was made with a much different intent than you had in mind.
  2. Align intention with impact.  To align the impact of your words/actions with your intent, use your social awareness and self-management strategies to observe the situation and the people involved, think before you speak, and say the appropriate, sensitive response.  If you perceive the response from others is not what you intended, reflect on what happened, what you said/did, what you might have been missing going into that situation and what you could do the next time you are in that situation.  Leadership is a journey…learn from all of its bumps and curves.
  3. Offer a “do over” when needed.  Please know that when we have enough credibility with those we serve to have a “relationship bank account”, we might need a “do over” on occasion when we have a withdrawal.  When you realize that what you intended did NOT have the impact you hoped for, it’s never too late to try to fix it.  To do this sincerely, let go of who is wrong or who started it, apologize and refocus positively on what it will take to resolve the issue.

Have you ever made a leadership decision that had a different impact than what you intended?  How did you handle that situation?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

The two primary reasons leaders may be hesitant to focus on relationship management are time and stress.  Task management (and putting out “fires” associated with those tasks) takes up a significant portion of a leader’s time.  If we don’t watch out, we could allow ourselves to get lost in a spreadsheet or project and not take the time to notice the people around us.  Leading can be extremely stressful, and negotiating conflict and the “people” aspect of work is very difficult.  Relationship management is challenging on a GOOD day, let alone when in an environment of high stress.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Relationship Management is where the magic is.  This happens when leaders bring together the ability to understand and manage their own emotions plus the ability to accurately pick up on the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully.  Relationship management is the connection a leader makes with their colleagues over time, even with those a leader is not fond of on a personal level, to make the most out of every interaction.  Solid relationships are the result of how you as a leader understand people, how you treat them and the common experiences you share.  Solid relationships not only enable an environment through which awesome teamwork can happen, but where individuals in the relationship feel they can contribute and are valued.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be open and interested.  I know…you are thinking “not this touchy-feely stuff”, right?  No group hugs here.  What being “open” suggests is sharing information about yourself – who you are, what makes you tick, what goals you have, etc.  Leading for relationship management means that you must allow others “in” and be maybe a bit more vulnerable than you might wish.  The more those you lead really “know” you, the more they will understand you and hopefully, allow for less misinterpretation of your words and actions.  Then…you have to be curious about getting to know “who” your team members are, their motivations and goals, for all the same reasons.
  2. Acknowledge other person’s feelings.  Lean into your own discomfort a bit here, and acknowledge other people’s feelings where “they are” not where you wish they would be.  Everyone has the right to experience feelings, even if it is not what you wish or how you feel.  You do not have to agree with your colleague, but recognize and respect that their feelings are real to them.  This type of validation will go a long way toward demonstrating that you are genuinely interested in your colleague and toward creating a stronger connection in the relationship.
  3. Show that you care.  An encouraging text.  A small handwritten note.  A Snickers Bar (when you really need it…sorry wellness folks!)  When you know your team and you are connecting with them as a person, take the time to use this knowledge and recognize their special efforts or unique situations with just the right encouragement.  This demonstrates that you care and will really make a difference in the strength of your relationship.

What are some of your barriers to relationship management that you see as impacting your effectiveness?Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Social Awareness and Presence

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

It’s always an excuse…and I have used it myself.  Leadership is just plain BUSY.  We have people to see, places to be and meetings to attend.  Sometimes it is just plain hard to take the time to “be there” for those we serve.  And if we have a “saying no” problem, and we don’t have good control of our calendar, it may not even be possible.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Leadership exists to produce results.  And in leadership you cannot produce those results all by yourself.  You produce those results through the efforts of others.  Being present for those we support is necessary to create the environment in which our team members feel comfortable asking questions, giving input and expressing opinions.  Without this environment, leaders are at risk for a workforce that is disengaged or checked out.  Workforce “presenteeism” is one of the biggest barriers for an organization’s ability to produce results.

How can you do it? 

  1. Clear away the clutter.  To be present for others, we must clear away the clutter in our mind.  This clutter could include “voices in our head” that we listen to while others are trying to communicate to us.  We first should clear our minds of those random thoughts about our grocery lists when others are speaking.  Stop trying to formulate a response in your mind while the person is talking.    Remember that our job in leadership is to listen fully to content, not trying to woo others with our witty answers.  And don’t interrupt the person.  Let them completely finish before replying.
  2. Live in the moment.  We all fall prey to ruminating on what we should have done or said in the past and thinking about what we should say the next time, that we are not mentally present for those we are engaged with.  Practice consciously trying to “be there”, right there in the now.  If you catch yourself drifting to the past or present, snap yourself out of it and focus.
  3. Make sure your data is right.  Even the most socially aware leaders can be off track when it comes to where someone really is in their emotional state.  If you get a sense that something is off or you think you misinterpreted someone’s feelings, just ask.  An example would be to ask “Did something happen to get you down?  You look sad, but I don’t want to assume if there is something else going on.”  That would be better than assuming a potentially wrong emotional reaction.

What are some strategies you use to demonstrate “presence”?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Social Awareness and Personalization

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Instead of looking inward, social awareness requires a leader to look outward to learn about and appreciate others.  For some leaders, this skill does not come naturally or easily and therefore avoided.  For others, demonstrating personal appreciation is viewed as a frivolous exercise or “fluff”, when there are so many important tasks to be accomplished.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The reality of it all is that every person wants to feel special.  When leaders can open their awareness, and identify other’s unique feelings and perspectives, they will more likely be able to connect on a level that has the potential to inspire true engagement.  Leaders with a high level of social awareness “get” the members on their team.  They know when to push.  They know when to give space.  Leaders that are not socially aware of those around them often “miss the boat” with their team…and the results will show it over time.

How can you do it? 

  1. Greet people by name.  A human’s name is the special set of sounds they have been identifying with from birth.  Greeting someone by their name is the most basic and influential social awareness strategy a leader can use.  Using someone’s name breaks down barriers, levels “hierarchy” and demonstrates a genuine warmth and connection in a very personal way.  If you are not good with remembering names, please practice some memory techniques before trying this.
  2. Make timing everything.  When dealing with people and their feelings, timing really is everything.  Nothing more will demonstrate that you are not connected than to misalign your actions with the emotional state of your team (i.e. blowing a party horn in celebration when your team member is crying).  In leadership you need to remind yourself that it is not all about you…it’s about others.  Practice your timing of requests.  Pause and observe others around you, allowing your mind time to focus others instead of your “mission”.  Chances are it can wait.
  3. View from another perspective.  When we “walk in someone else’s shoes”, we get a deeper understanding of persons around us, giving us an opportunity to communicate better and identify potential problems before they get out of control.  One simple technique is to ask yourself “If I were <name>, what would I be feeling right now?”  Put away your own beliefs, emotions and feelings…and truly try to put yourself in your colleague’s frame of mind.  Respond to your colleague in the way you have determined based on this process.  You can’t read minds, so this may take a bit of trial and error, but the pay off when you get it right?  Priceless.

Can you describe another technique you use to personalize your interaction or response?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: What is Social Awareness?

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Social awareness is our ability to accurately pick up on the emotions of other people and understand what is really going on with them.  Leaders have to suspend doing what they like to do in order to practice social awareness.  We have to stop talking.  We must stop the running monologue in our head during an interaction.  We should stop anticipating someone’s answer before they speak.  An we have to quit trying to come up with our answer while they are speaking.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Instead of looking inward to learn about and understand our self, social awareness is looking outward to learn about and appreciate others.    Social awareness is grounded on our ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others.  While we would like to only worry about our own emotions, we don’t get that luxury in leadership.  When we tune into the emotions of others, we can pick up on vital clues to what’s really going on with a colleague.  With practice, social awareness will help us better able to “read the room” and gauge a response that is “connected” with the persons involved.

How can you do it? 

  1. Make sure the lens you look through is clear.  What I mean by this is to make sure you are present and able to give others your full attention.  You have to be ready for your role as observer and able to use your five basic senses, and your sixth sense…YOUR emotions.  Your emotions are important lenses for your brain to interpret the cues from others.  Be mindful to not over project your emotions on others, but rather use your emotions as “spider senses” that alert you to pay attention.
  2. Watch body language.  A person’s body communicates non-stop.  While research varies on reportedly how much of a message is interpreted from non-verbal communication, we can be certain that if there is disparity between the “words” someone says and their body language, we believe the latter, right?  When observing someone’s body language, do a “head-to-toe” assessment.  Start with a person’s eyes – are they maintaining eye contact (open, sincere, caring) or are their eyes shifting or blinking (maybe deception) or cast downward (sad, depressed).  Is the person’s smile authentic or forced?  Is the person’s posture slouched, or upright?  What position are the hands/gestures?  All of these cues can help inform your social awareness of an interaction.
  3. Listen.  Certainly, listening is about hearing the words used.  But great listening is also about hearing the tone of those words, the speed at which they are used and even the spaces between the words.  Make a conscious effort to stop everything and listen fully to others.  Don’t answer email when someone is speaking to you.  When your son asks you a question, put your lap top down.  Focus your attention, observe (see above) and fully listen, and you will more accurately piece together the intended message.

Can you think of an example where practicing one of the above social awareness skills might have change the outcome of a leadership situation?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Management and Inward Focus

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

A leader’s typical day is ripe with distraction.  There are budgets to meet, problems to solve, results to achieve.  External focus can consume all a leader’s time, as these external factors are typically what a leader is evaluated against.  So rather than spending time on managing self, a typical leader will prioritize time and attention on the external actions that he or she believes team members are expecting them to perform.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Yes.  A leader IS expected to meet budgets, solve problems and achieve results…but those actions can only be achieved through the collective performance of the teams of people the leader serves.  Leadership effectiveness is in part related to how effectively the leader’s “use of self” is in expressing a vision, and inspiring others to be their “best self”.  That is not possible if the leader isn’t working on being their own best, positive expression of self.

How can you do it? 

  1. Focus on your self-talk.  We have thousands of thoughts in a day and every time we have a thought, our brain triggers feelings that result in both physical and emotional reactions.  While we certainly cannot control another person’s thoughts, we DO have a bit of control of our own.  Why not, then, insert some positive thoughts throughout our day?  When something does not go as planned, and we get the spider sense we are about to have a negative thought, try a re-framed positive thought instead.  Rather than “here I go, messing up again” say to yourself “I get the opportunity to try this again to make it better.”  A positive thought will produce a more positive reaction on our facial expression and body language…which is being watched regularly by those we serve.
  2. Focus your visualization.  Our brains have a difficult time discerning between what we actually see and what we imagine we see.  Think of the “memories” we have from childhood that are actually from stories others have repeatedly told us.  When you are preparing for a difficult situation, visualize the way you want that conversation to happen.  See yourself crossing the finish line and rising your hands in victory.  This positive mental practice will help your mind to more easily take the steps necessary to reach this visualization.
  3. Focus on your synchrony.  If someone says one thing but does another…which do you believe?  We believe the actions before the words.  For those we serve to believe in us, our words and our actions or body language must match.  As you work to improve your management of self, spend time reflecting on what you say and then on what you do to check for a disconnect.  Ask a trusted colleague to give you feedback on this when observed.  The root, however, is to dive deep into the believe behind the emotion that triggered the reaction to get to the real story.

Which of the above strategies has worked best for you and why?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Management and Accountability

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

You may have heard of the phrase “putting yourself out there”. If you are earnestly trying to work on self-management, you will need help holding yourself accountable.   Some leaders are concerned that if they share with their team that they are not always “in control” that those they serve will think less of or not follow them.  Some leaders may view sharing leadership vulnerabilities as a sign of weakness.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Well…I hate to break it to you, but those you serve ALREADY know all about your vulnerabilities as they see them every day in action! Ha!  When leaders acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask those around us for help and support it accomplishes two specific things: (1) we role model that it is OK to not be perfect and asking for help is important for the team’s effectiveness, and (2) we set the expectation for open feedback about our behavior that we need if we are going to improve our self-management skills.

How can you do it? 

  1. Share your goals with those you serve.  Much of self-management, as with any change of behavior (i.e. eating, exercise), is about motivation.  When you are a leader, there is nothing more powerful of a motivator than being accountable to those you serve for improving your behavior…and nothing more healing for those you work with to know that you are open about your struggles and asking for their help to improve.  We can use the expectations that others have for us as powerful motivators to change.
  2. Talk to a role model or the “un-invested”.  Most of our weaknesses in emotional intelligence are a result of skills that do not come naturally to us for one reason or another.  So…when you don’t know how to do something on the computer, you go to the techy-ist person in your department for help, right?  When we need help processing how we should (or how we did) react to a situation, we need to go to those role models who we see react appropriately in similar situations.  Another strategy would be to just talk through possible options with someone who is not invested in the situation within which you are immersed.  Their objective eyes might help put the situation in perspective
  3. Focus on options rather than limitations.  Changing behavior is hard.  And it is very tempting to give up when we face hard challenges or emotional set-backs.  Give yourself a break and stop wasting energy on the aspects of situations and others involved that you have no control over, and focus on yourself.  You always have options and you are in control of the options you choose to follow.

Can you describe a situation in which you shared your goals about self-management and how that worked for you?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.