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.

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