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Emotional intelligence reality check: 3 things leaders get wrong
Want to take your leadership – and your team’s success – to the next level? Avoid these 3 common mistakes when it comes to emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is critical to success and happiness in today’s dynamic and often intense business world. Yet many tech leaders still get it wrong.
It’s not enough to possess the right mix of intelligence, skill, knowledge, and expertise. What really sets the most impactful leaders apart is their capacity to connect with their own emotions and the emotions of others.
In other words, it comes down to your emotional intelligence: the ability to apply what you’re learning about yourself to the relationships with those around you – including colleagues, team members, and mentees. While it’s a skill that applies to all areas of our lives, developing emotional intelligence as a leader sets your team – and your career – up for success.
[ How strong is your EQ? See our related article: Emotional intelligence test: 5 self-evaluation tools for leaders. ]
According to Daniel Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence, “The single most important factor in job performance and advancement is emotional intelligence.” In fact, an individual’s EQ (emotional quotient) has twice the power of a standard IQ assessment when it comes to predicting job performance. Those who connect, within themselves and with others, succeed. It’s that simple.
3 common emotional intelligence mistakes
Having spent more than 20 years in enterprise software, I’ve seen my share of leaders who possess a high degree of emotional awareness, and those who don’t. Here are three of the most common mistakes leaders across all generations, levels, and industries make when it comes to emotional intelligence:
1. Being guarded instead of open
Emotional intelligence is about being aware of your own emotional state, being able to self-regulate your emotions, and being open to applying that awareness to your relationships with others. At its core, emotional intelligence requires a degree of transparency and vulnerability. You can’t “fake it until you make it.”
Instead, you have to be radically self-aware and open. While negative experiences have taught us to be guarded and reserved in how much we share, spreading emotional intelligence in the workplace demands openness, transparency and vulnerability. Being personable and real, instead of guarded and defensive, makes you accessible as a leader.
[ What does open leadership look like? Read also: How to avoid organizational indigestion through open leadership. ]
2. Viewing emotional intelligence as an innate quality
If we view emotional intelligence as something people either have or don’t have, we miss out on the opportunity to influence the EQ of those around us. Emotional intelligence is a measurable, learnable skill. Instead of viewing it as something your team members either have or don’t have, recognize that you can make an impact by demonstrating emotional intelligence.
You do this when you exercise self-control, show empathy, and manage conflict while staying true to yourself and respecting those around you. The mere act of increasing your own awareness of opportunities to demonstrate emotional intelligence will make a positive and lasting impact. In addition, when you see a colleague missing the cue on emotional intelligence, give the individual the feedback and link it to specific examples.
3. Deferring your own needs
As a leader, it’s imperative that you check in with yourself – and often. If you want to hone your emotional intelligence, you have to tune in to yourself. What am I feeling, and how are my emotions impacting those around me? While there are dozens of emotions, most of them can be boiled down to six universal emotions: joy, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear. Often, what we experience is a mix of multiple emotions. For example, feeling surprise, sadness, and anger all at once. Increasing our own awareness of the emotions we’re experiencing can help us better connect with ourselves and those around us.
As leaders, we have to remember that we’re human first. Emotions don’t just creep into the workplace; they are a part of who we are and how we connect with one another. When we embrace and cultivate our own emotional intelligence, we invite those around us to do the same – and the impact on our collective productivity and engagement is exponential.
[ Soft skills help you lead teams through change. Get the free eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]