I remember the day I received the call. It had been a week or so since the interview. As an aspiring journeyman, I was anxiously awaiting my first official opportunity to move into the ranks of supervisor. Unrealistic expectations? Perhaps. A lofty goal? Maybe. Naive on my part? Arguable. Why so tough an assessment, you ask? Because most of those vying for the position had been superbly prepared by the school of experience; they knew the secret handshakes, had mastered the technical tips of the trade, and understood how to really get things done.
And I was unsure how I’d fare amongst such stiff competition.
Haven’t you been there too? You are anxious and excited to take your leadership to the next level but you know you are facing some tough competition. In this case, I was squaring off with friends, legends and icons rich in tradition and steeped in potential. Adding to my angst was the reality they all had been there longer and had paid their dues. It was, in terms of sheer time and experience, seemingly their turn to take the reins.
And then there was me.
I was junior in every way, with only a fraction of the experience under my belt. I was still “wet behind the ears”, a rookie, and still had dues to pay and lessons to learn from the infamous school of hard knocks. There was no cutting in this line. In the bureaucratic world in which I work, people simply wait until those ahead of us move on, retire, or change jobs. That was, until the new head coach arrived.
Ah yes, the new head coach. It would almost be a cliché if it weren’t so true. I was soon to discover he was an up and coming leader in his own right. He was all about building and shaping the organization based on the best fit of people and mission. He believed leadership was about walking the walk and talking the talk. He valued collaboration, relationships, maximizing engagement, bringing out the best in people, taking responsibility for successes and failures, and holding himself and others accountable more than anything else.
He also wasn’t at all afraid to tackle the hard issues, to kick mediocrity square in the teeth and not only challenge, but uproot, the status quo. He commanded respect, not just because of his title and rank, but because of what he stood for. He was exactly what the organization needed at exactly the right time.
Embedded in his leadership brand was a remarkably high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ). His uncanny ability to connect to others and inspire them to raise the bar on their performance a testimony to the power of achieving positive outcomes by effectively managing his (and others) emotions.
It has been well established that EQ is the secret sauce of success for the majority of leaders. 85% to be exact. And for good reason. You see, EQ is comprised of four key elements. All of which work together to make the most of every opportunity to achieve mutually beneficial interactions.
The foundational skill, self-awareness, allows us to recognize our emotions and tendencies as they occur. Building on self-awareness, self-management equips us to deliberately manage our emotions for positive outcomes. Given we live in an inherently relational world, social awareness enables us to recognize emotions in others so we can better understand (and empathize) with what is going on with them. The final skill is relationship management. Building on the other three skills, relationship management allows us to connect to those around us in a manner that communicates we are willing to make important to us what is important to them.
Famed scientists and EQ expert Daniel Goleman shares in his book Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More than IQ, EQ is, “being able, for example, to rein in emotional impulse; to read another’s innermost feelings; to handle relationships smoothly—as Aristotle put it, (EQ) is the rare skill ‘to be angry with the right person, at the right degree, at the right time, for the right purposes, and in the right way.’” He goes on to add how IQ contributes at best, “about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces.” Those other forces may be comprised of chance, serendipity, providence, personality, or a host of other variables, but rest assured, any way you measure it EQ is a major factor in determining a person’s success. So what about that call to the proverbial big leagues, you ask? The new coach selected me to fill the critical leadership role in the organization. When I asked him why he chose me over several other people who possessed superior technical skills, he simply said, “it’s not necessarily what you do, but it is how you do it.” I quickly realized he hired me not because I knew the most but rather, because of my ability to recognize and manage my own emotions; my ability to effectively empathize with co-workers; and my ability to consistently build positive relationships.
My IQ may have earned me a ticket to the game, but my EQ afforded me the opportunity to be in the starting line-up. Are you interested in having the same opportunities when such an opportunity presents itself? Here are a few tips to help you up your EQ game:
Invest Regularly in Self –Awareness: Be aware of the people, events, and activities that “push your buttons.” Take time to write them down so you can fully appreciate what’s happening. Recognize the physical and behavioral changes that occur when your emotions start to get the best of you.
Never forget the most important person you manage is you. Stay tuned to how you’re feeling. Smile and laugh often, especially at yourself! Research proves happy people smile and also proves that people who smile are happier than those who do not smile. Remember, a merry heart is like good medicine!
Be fully present with others. Too often we allow our thoughts and minds to drift when we are supposed to be engaged and listening to someone else. Make a concerted effort to live in the now by giving 100 percent of your attention to the person you are listening to, remembering it is one of the greatest honors you can bestow upon them.
Treat Relationship Management as a gift, not a chore. Embrace the inevitable. Building on the other three EQ skills, tackle a tough conversation or difficult task that you have been putting off. Pay close attention to your emotions and how you interact with the other person to move the relationship forward to a more positive outcome.
While there is no escaping the fact we are emotional creatures, our brains have the ability to create new neural connections, affording us the opportunity to respond in more positive, productive ways. That’s the beauty of EQ—where we are today does not mean that is where we have to be tomorrow, next month, or a year from now. With hard work, dedication, and commitment you can consistently improve your EQ skills as you await your own call-up to the big leagues.