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.

Emotional Intelligence: What is Self-Management?

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Self-management is what happens when we act or choose not to act.  Leaders are hesitant to focus on this skill because of the expectation that as leaders, we are supposed to act.  Something happens.  We act…because we believe we are expected to act.  The other reason we may not focus self-management is that selfishly we want to take care of our needs, regardless of those around us. For example, when I feel angry, I want to yell because I believe that will make me feel better…regardless of how my yelling may impact others I serve.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If we desire to improve our emotional intelligence and our effectiveness, we must put our momentary needs on hold in order to achieve much more important goals.  Self-management skills are like the pause button on your remote control.  These skills allow us to stay flexible, weigh our options and then direct our behavior in a positive manner.  Self-management takes the reflection and knowledge of self that we have learned from our self-awareness techniques, to predict our tendencies in certain situations, and proactively chose an appropriate behavioral response.

How can you do it? 

  1. Breathe.  Sounds cheesy, right?  When we change our breathing to deep, slow breaths from our normal shallow breaths and focus on that breathing, we are not only distracting our brains from the emotional reaction we were brewing up to, but also giving our brains the oxygen fuel it needs to operate more efficiently.
  2. Count to ten.  Little did we know that our Kindergarten teachers were helping us with self-control by suggesting this technique.  Counting to ten (or counting something) is a technique, along with breathing, that gives the pause to our brains while we focus on the counting.
  3. Sleep on it.  Nothing can give you a fresh perspective like rest.  Something that was a big deal the day before may not seem as frustrating after our brains have had a good night’s sleep.  Telling ourselves to “sleep on it” before reacting gives a literal pause before action.

What is one self-management strategy that gives you “pause” before you react?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness & Identifying the “Why’s”

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Life is busy for a leader.  And when we have numerous tasks, projects and deadlines to complete in our professional and personal life, we rarely prioritize self-reflection in the mix.  Self-reflection isn’t always simple, easy and quick.  And because being productive is often what is rewarded, we tend to gravitate towards those items on our to-do list that easily fulfill that need and distract us from self-reflection.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Emotions just happen…not when we will them into existence.  To develop our self-awareness, we need to spend time thinking about the source of our feelings.  Emotions serve an important purpose…their existence is our mind’s way of saying “pay attention, dummy!” Ha!  Something has happened that we subconsciously reacted to and as leaders, that instant reaction can possibly create problems for our leadership effectiveness.  When the busyness of life gets in the way of taking the time to reflect on the cue our minds are giving us, we miss the critical lessen embedded in the emotional clutter.

How can you do it? 

  1. Stop and ask yourself “Why” you do the things you do.  When you have an emotional reaction, ask yourself why that emotion rumbled to the surface and what motivated you to do something out of character.  Don’t let yourself off of the hook.  Keep asking “why, why, why, why, why” until you trace your emotion back to a root cause – or what I refer to as “root filter”…our values and/or beliefs.
  2. Visit your values. Our values and beliefs are the filters through which events in our lives are sifted.  The litmus tests, so to speak.  If we find ourselves reacting emotionally to events or triggers that do not seem to reflect what we believe in, then we need to pause and revisit our values and beliefs.  We need to ask ourselves “what are the values I wish to live my life by?”  Write them down and make what a colleague of mine refers to as a Values Blueprint for our lives.  This will be the map that we refer to during self-reflection to determine if our values are creating a dysfunctional emotion.  It may mean that we need to re-examine our values.
  3. Get to know yourself under stress.  On a day that things are going exactly as planned, most of us have this emotions thing covered!  But what about when we are tired, or we are out of balance with the amount of work on our plates.  How do we respond emotionally under stressful situations?  Our self-awareness during times of stress should serve as our third ear to listen to our body’s cry for help.  Realize in these moments that we need to recharge our emotional batteries and use this self-awareness to limit exposure to known triggers.  These signals are our signs for a little self-care.

What is the number one stressor in your work/personal life?  What are your typical emotional or behavioral reactions to those stressors and your strategies for minimizing their impact?

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

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness & Emotional Signals

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

When we experience an emotion, electric signals shoot through our brains and set off fireworks of sensations.  However, I think sometimes leaders believe that they should not “feel” because they must always be in control, appear strong and keep distanced.  Some leaders lean hard on the belief that they cannot acknowledge emotions for fear of being labeled as “weak” or “soft”.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Have you ever heard a comedy routine by Bill Engvall and his famous tag line “here’s your sign”?  Well, emotions are a sign that we need to pay attention. We need emotions.  Emotions are critical to everything a leader must do: build trust, strengthen relationships, set a vision, get people moving, make tough decisions, and learn from failure. Without genuine emotion, these things always fall flat. We need emotion to inform us of the environment around us, and to motivate and inspire others.  Identifying when we are feeling by recognizing their signals is a great first step in acknowledging our emotions.

How can you do it? 

  1. Lean into your discomfort.  To increase self-awareness, leaders should be willing to see themselves for who they really are.  The human tendency to avoid thinking about things we don’t want to face in ourselves is ever present.  Leaders who strive to get better are willing to move toward their emotion, into the discomfort so they can face it down and move through it.
  2. Feel your emotions physically.  Stomach tightening.  Heart rate increasing.  Sweating.  Facial or neck blotching.  Eye twitching.  Eye tearing.  Nervous laughing.  When you experience intense emotions, what are your typical physical signs?  It is important to become consciously aware of these signs for a couple of reasons: (1) with awareness you can better isolate the emotion that triggered the response and (2) everyone you work with already notice and respond to these physical signs! Ha!  These signs trigger responses from your team so awareness will help you begin the process of self-management (our next EQ skill).
  3. Know who and what “pushes” your buttons.  When you are willing to look critically at yourself, and identify the physical responses to your emotions you can then begin to reflect on the people and situations that were the “triggering events”.  Only our brains can generate our emotions, but tracing back the emotion to possible “root causes” might help us begin the process of challenging the thoughts and beliefs that may have led to that emotion.

In your leadership role, what are some of your emotional “triggers”?  What are your typical physical responses to those triggers?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

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?