‘Emotional Intelligence’ Category


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.

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.