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.

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