As we all reflect on the changes, stresses and effects on mental health, corporate culture and employee engagement, we realize that the future of the workplace will require a focus and commitment to the mental health of our team members while creating a culture supported by emotionally intelligent leaders.
In Part 1 of this series, we touched upon the foundation for becoming an emotionally intelligent leader.
In this article, we will examine:
1. Setting intentions
3. Balanced emotions
We walk through this journey with the understanding that self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, and we will then build upon that foundation.
The Foundation for Becoming an Emotionally Intelligent Leader
What is it you would like to gain? Here are some intentions expressed by leaders with whom I have worked.
- “I want to be taken more seriously as a respected leader within my organization.”
- “I want to be a more influential speaker.”
- “I want to utilize my influence to speak up for injustice.”
- “I want a seat at the table and to be heard.”
- “I want to take feedback better and be less sensitive to honest feedback.”
- “I want to stop making excuses and become a more humble leader.”
- “I want to be a more effective leader.”
- “I want to be a more present parent/partner/family member/friend.”
The list is endless. This is a personal journey; your personal reflections and intentions are what matters here.
1. What is your intention?
2. What would you like to gain or change?
3. How will this benefit you?
Once you have identified the “WHY,” the journey and the “HOW” will become more clear.
Here is an actual example I witnessed for myself. A few years ago, I had a “brilliant” client (at the director level) who had very high attrition with strong, top-tiered talent. He would tell me every couple of months that his team was a bunch of idiots. He had a tremendous work ethic, often staying late and taking on more to help his team, but he was so busy that he was very scattered. He was exhausted and had a short fuse!
His direct reports would come to me and say that the director gave minimal instruction, minimal feedback, and would lose his temper when the overall numbers were not met. He would blow up, curse and verbally “freak out” at his managers and team leaders. The direct reports were stressed, as they did not know from month to month when he would blow up.
The director never shared the stress he was under or what the team was expected to deliver. He did not embrace their successes, or at least did not show joy to the team. He was unaware that he was not a communicator; he assumed that everyone blows up once in a while.
Even after all of this, the director saw himself as a true leader because of all the work he did. Have you ever worked with someone who was clueless about their tendencies?
In this example, the director had minimal self-awareness and minimal focus, as he was pulled in many directions, was very reactive and definitely did not have balanced emotions. Some significant results were the high attrition rate, poor employee engagement survey scores, and very low morale among his leaders.
What if this director had taken time to reflect on:
- Communication style (amount, tone, words used);
- Focusing on what is important and not just reacting (over-reacting) to the daily urgent situations; and
- His contribution to attrition instead of blaming it on the team or recruiter?
The Power of Focus
What does focus have to do with becoming an emotionally intelligent leader?
More than you think!
- What happens to our emotions when we’re pulled in too many directions?
- What is the impact of too much multitasking on our brains and our tasks?
In an article titled “The Focused Leader,” published in Harvard Business Review, author Daniel Goleman stated: “Grouping these modes of attention into three broad buckets—focusing on yourself, focusing on others, and focusing on the wider world—sheds new light on the practice of many essential leadership skills. Focusing inward and focusing constructively on others helps leaders cultivate the primary elements of emotional intelligence.”
Focus Is a Foundational Skill for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders
I recall a site visit to a contact center whose VP was a fast-paced super-multitasker. During my time in the office, I think he checked his phone five times, took every call, and I observed that he became increasingly irritated, reactionary and more short-fused with his team as time went on. I asked if there was a crisis going on, and the answer was: “This is what it is like every day.” The VP did not take time to strategize or analyze any root causes, but instead was always in the “putting out fires” mode. I asked if he ever took time to reflect on why and he replied, “There is no time for all of that stuff.” Reflection and inner focus are critical to start the journey to understanding one’s self.
When we speak of “focus,” it can refer to focusing on a task, a conversation or a person, but it also refers to focusing on yourself!
I heard a talk a while ago that was a great reminder about the power of focus. In the talk, the key take-away was that awareness of one’s self occurs when we slow down enough to focus on our breathing. If we extend this idea to our workplace, many people are going so fast throughout the day, they are not taking those quiet moments to connect and be aware of their own self. They tend to be reactionary versus just being present to assess a situation calmly.
When we speak of “focus,” it can refer to focusing on a task, a conversation or a person, but it also refers to focusing on yourself! This means focusing on your own strengths, opportunities for growth, reactionary tendencies, communication style, biases and emotions.
Emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness.
Leaders who are aware of their tendencies, biases and blind spots tend to be more open to growing into the best version of themselves. They tend to be more in touch with their inner voice. Leaders who listen and acknowledge their inner voices make better decisions as they are able to connect and align with their authentic selves.
The Benefits of Balanced Emotions: What’s in It for You?
1. Better decision-making. Imagine making major decisions at work while in the heat of a debate or anger. What if you made a purchasing or hiring/firing decision when experiencing extreme emotions? The worst part would be if you were unaware that you were having those extreme emotions.
2. Better and more authentic relationships. Once you are able to identify and process your emotions, you can gauge how to manage them better. This process enables you to share and connect more authentically with your team, family, friends, clients, etc.
3. Less physiological stress. You have probably heard phrases like: “Don’t bottle up your emotions,” or “That person is a ticking time bomb.” One very wise leader told me to “feel what you feel.” Once you identify it, you can move forward and take the appropriate action and/or decisions, as required.
Inner Focus Is Essential for Developing Balanced Emotions and Empathy
How to Start the Process
There are several levels of awareness required to develop and maintain balanced emotions.
1. Become consciously aware that you are experiencing an emotion.
2. Identify the particular emotion. It may be helpful to close your eyes, turn your focus inward, and allow yourself to experience that emotion in your body.
3. Put the emotion into words. “I’m feeling anxious.” “I’m feeling angry.” “I’m feeling sad.”
- Breathe again with a focus on each inhale and exhale.
- Be present and deal with each situation as it arises.
- Be aware of your thoughts, tone, words, actions and behaviors.
- Be aware that you choose your own reactions; you are in control to balance your emotional response.
Mindfulness and Reflection Help to Grow Emotional Intelligence
In the final article of this three-part series, we will examine the different kinds of empathy, and the impact on influence as we bring all of the concepts together.
I wish you much success on this journey as you give yourself and those around grace and compassion.