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.

7 Responses to “Emotional Intelligence: What is Self-Management?”

My son and I were discussing this very topic last weekend. He called it the “bystander” effect and he was sharing that when an emergency/situation happens sometimes no one steps in because we feel that we don’t want to get involved, we don’t want to endanger ourselves, or we simply think it isn’t our business. Sometimes as leaders we don’t act because we don’t want to disturb the peace, we don’t want to make waves, we don’t have the time or energy to face at the moment and lots of other excuses. Fortunately in leadership situations, in contrast to emergency situations, we do often have time to reflect. We have to recognize when those are though and be careful not to wait too long. Sometimes there are “moments” that you can’t let pass by. In those times calm and thoughtful actions are important. Do only what is necessary at the moment until you have time to sleep on it or get counsel from another close mentor.

Thank you, Wendi! I agree that sometimes there are moments that we can’t let pass by and we must address in some way. I like the strategy you suggested with regard to responding with what you minimally must do to get through the situation and give yourself some time to reflect and consult with others on how you may (or may not) respond further. Thanks for sharing the Bystander Effect. Here is a link for those who would like to read more about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect

did anyone die? as Kendall would ask us?

I love this question! It really is a question that helps put our emotional reactions into perspective. Thanks for sharing, Cindy!

Kendall L. Stewart May 27th, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Thank you all for learning and teaching others about how to become more emotionally intelligent. As is being increasingly recognized, leaders and colleagues who are “emotional intelligence challenged” are the greatest barriers to organizational success.

Kendall L. Stewart May 27th, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Vicki, your blog series on emotional intelligence is one of the best ever! Thank you.

Thank you, Kendall!!

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