This article was based on episode 140 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get 10% off Werq’s Team Chemistry Workshops when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. These workshops are the perfect way to reach new levels of success using data-backed personality assessments alongside proven coaching mythology for an incredible team strengthening experience.
To be honest, I wish I had higher emotional intelligence. I’m not a particularly emotional person and I don’t always pick up on emotional cues, especially from people I don't know very well. Sometimes I walk out of meetings thinking, “Wow, that went so well!” only to find out later that actually, it didn’t.
So what’s a practical manager like me to do? I spoke with Ilana Zivkovich, an executive coach, Genos Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, and CEO of Werq, a strategic leadership advisory firm, to learn more about emotional intelligence. Here, Ilana shares strategies for improving our emotional intelligence to improve our awareness, and then how to bring that knowledge into action.
USING EQ TO BECOME AWARE OF YOURSELF
First of all, to those of you who despair about your own EQ, don’t worry. It’s a learned skill. And, if you’re like me, you have EQ skills that you aren’t giving yourself credit for. In my case, Ilana pointed out all the ways I was using my emotional intelligence simply by recognizing that it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
While some people are naturally more tuned into others’ needs, like any skill, we can all improve our abilities through practice. The cornerstone of EQ is self-awareness, something all of us have access to. Ilana distinguishes between two types of self-awareness; big picture awareness and momentary awareness.
Big Picture Self-Awareness
Big Picture Self-Awareness means being aware of who we are; what we’re good at, our general communication style, understanding how people perceive us, and how we tend to behave in the world.
The best way to improve our big picture self-awareness is through feedback. It’s often challenging to gather honest feedback once you’re in a leadership position. To counteract this, become accustomed to asking for feedback regularly. Ask your adult children, parents, and friends what they perceive as your strengths, weaknesses, and communication style. See if your company provides any personality assessments or character profiling. Be careful not to go into these conversations wanting to “prove” who you are. Instead, enter with curiosity. What are the things those who know you would never ask you for help with? Are there things you don’t do well that you should avoid?
Momentary Awareness is being aware in the moment of what we’re experiencing. Back before fancy navigation tools existed, scouts sat up high on that mast of ships. Their only job was to scan the horizon and accurately report what they saw, be it oncoming weather, an iceberg, or land. Likewise, to improve our momentary self-awareness, we need to be our own scouts. We must observe and be honest with ourselves about what we’re feeling and experiencing, especially when it’s an internal, automatic response.
IMPROVE YOUR MOMENTARY AWARENESS THROUGH ‘POWER’
Ilana uses the acronym POWER to help remember this method for improving our momentary self-awareness and subsequent actions.
P: Pause. Notice what’s happening in your body. When you start to feel any sort of escalation from a difficult interaction, like a tingling in your palms or a racing heart, the first thing to do is to stop and pause.
O: Observe. After pausing, notice what’s coming up for you at that moment. What are you thinking and feeling? Don’t judge yourself. Simply accept what you discover as information.
W: Widen. Expand your perspective; not just what's coming up right now, but about the greater context behind what you’re experiencing. Maybe you only got three hours of sleep last night, or you haven't eaten anything since breakfast which is impacting your natural reaction.
E: Elect. Make a choice about how you want to be in that moment. Consider what’s important and how you want to show up.
R: Respond. Speak or act with intention.
The point of self awareness at the end of the day is to gain the ability to respond well instead of defaulting to defensive, automatic reactions.
USING YOUR EQ TO BECOME AWARE OF OTHERS
In addition to working on our own self-awareness, emotional intelligence involves perceiving and responding to others. While we will never be able to understand everything people are going through, if we improve our ability to tune in, we can get a lot closer.
The most important element of tuning in is one of our greatest challenges in the age of distraction - focus. Practice giving the person you are talking to your undivided attention. Look at them in the eye. Observe their body language. When you ask a question, listen to what they're saying instead of preparing your response or next question.
If you spend a lot of time on Zoom calls these days, try the following:
Turn off the “self-view.” It’s helpful to have your camera on, but when we can see ourselves, we subconsciously pay attention to how we look on camera.
Reduce the need to screen share. When screen sharing, all of the meeting participants’ faces get really small, reducing our ability to perceive their emotions and experiences. If possible, encourage people to use a second device to view materials sent ahead of time.
Don’t multitask. As tempting as it may be to get other things done, try to resist the urge to multitask. Instead, focus on how people are doing and what they are conveying.
Leading a team requires deep, emotional intelligence. We cannot lead others if we don't understand ourselves. By observing and knowing our own strengths and weaknesses, we can grow into the people we wish to be. With a little intention and attention, over time we can learn to respond to emotions, both our own and other peoples’, in constructive ways. We can then shift the focus outward, to gain clues to who other people are, how they are feeling, and what they need. Thankfully, emotional intelligence is a developable skill we can all harness to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
KEEP UP WITH ILANA
Get 10% off Werq’s Team Chemistry Workshops when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. These workshops are the perfect way to reach new levels of success using data-backed personality assessments alongside proven coaching mythology for an incredible team strengthening experience.
This article was based on episode 140 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.