Many leaders tend to be competitive, hard-driving people. They have high intellectual IQs, but sometimes their emotional IQs lag behind. I coached one manager, let’s call him George, who had been one of the most successful salespeople at a financial services company. He’d been promoted to manager and was poised to move up to the next level. But as I worked with him, I quickly saw that he lacked the ability to connect well with others.
One of the dimensions of emotional intelligence is whether you are aware of your own feelings. George always put on a happy face. If you asked him how he was doing, he’d always say, “Perfect!” He wasn’t attuned to the subtleties of his own emotional life because he’d taught himself to simply put on a positive front.
George also wasn’t able to read the emotions of others well. He had no sense of the impact his words might have. He’d do things like overdo teasing to the point where it became offensive.
He also was weak on his ability to manage his emotions. He could fly off the handle in an instant and would make no attempt to rein himself in. In fact, he thought yelling at people was the way to motivate them. Instead, he just made everyone afraid of him.
He also fell down on his ability to manage the emotions of the group, which is one of the most difficult things to do. A lot of the work of leaders involves managing a team or a meeting. It’s almost like being an orchestra conductor – sensing how the group is feeling, knowing when to call on someone, recognizing who hasn’t been participating. Drawing people out is a delicate art. George could manage these situations at times, but then he’d have a major blow-up and publicly humiliate someone.
Here are some practices you can try to improve your own EQ:
- Keep a mood log. Several times a day, write down how you are feeling. Look back at the end of the week and assess how tuned in you were to your own emotions.
- Avoid shaming others. It can be highly destructive.
- Learn how to listen to the empathetic part of yourself.
- At work or at home, make a point of empathizing with others. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Think about what it would feel like to be that person.
- If you’re having a dispute, look at it from the other person’s viewpoint. Try writing out a narrative of the disagreement from the other standpoint.
- Avoid psychologist John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. Gottman found that these four attitudes, especially in combination, are predictors of which marriages will fail. They’re equally bad in the work setting.
- Know and accept your limits and accept the limits of others. Say to yourself often: “No one is perfect.”