Relationships are everything when it comes to providing an enjoyable customer or work experience that breeds trust and loyalty. But you can’t form these relationships if you aren’t tapping into your emotional intelligence.
Part of emotional intelligence is being self-aware and intelligently managing your own emotions. The other side of the coin is being aware of and managing the emotions of other people. Many people do pretty well on the first part, but truly fearless leadership requires positively influencing those around you by executing the second part.
Some of this positive swaying needs to happen in the moment. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and there’s amazing value in taking the time to look back and reflect to figure out what you can do better next time. You can usually sense when it’s time to do some of this reflection because you’ll see your results drop or people will flood you with questions and emails.
3 Areas to Watch for Excellent EQ
To see if you’re using your EQ well with others, consider these main points:
Were you the only one that talked or spewed ideas and information during the meeting? Did you leave space for people to give feedback or contribute in other ways? And if you did, were you really actively listening? Constant egocentricity is never very becoming, and if it’s always all about you, then nothing is going to be enjoyable for the people around you.
So, make sure you’re not just dominating everyone else. Good communication is always an exchange. If your balance is off, an easy way to fix this is to build time for others into the meeting agenda when you’re scheduling it. You can also bring a notepad or device to encourage yourself to jot down the insights you gain from others. Choose your mode of interacting carefully based on the goals you’re looking to reach, too. Using a detailed Powerpoint you just read from, for example, can discourage people from speaking up.
As a leader, you need to be focused on your outcomes, including the outcomes of individual meetings. But, too often, leaders become so fixed on those outcomes that they become tone-deaf to everyone else. They don’t notice how people are reacting or interacting, and they allow metrics, facts, or “the plan” to become more important than the relationships. There are other reasons leaders display low EQ, but this is probably the most common.
Be flexible, and buckle up for a journey, because authoritative, fixed leadership is outdated and doesn’t do much to align your team. Keep people out of the weeds, but enjoy a little spontaneity. Recognize that what people need in the moment to continue their success might require a change of plans. Then, focus on facilitating open-minded, safe engagement.
This ties back to the first point. One of the simplest ways to ensure balance in the workplace and during meetings is to ask more questions. If you focus on inquisition rather than just advocating for yourself or your plan and ideas, then you can focus on learning. At the same time, asking questions reassures others that their thoughts and feelings count. It confirms that you know others have expertise and knowledge that you don’t and that you’re respectful and humble because of it.
Don’t think that asking questions requires you to give up the driver’s seat completely. In fact, the questions you choose will have a direct influence on where the conversation goes. If you choose them wisely, then you can up the odds of getting the information you know you need or help people approach topics they might not bring up otherwise. People will feel more heard and valued as you steer them along.
What to Ask Yourself and Others Along the Way
As you think about the above points, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do people feel better or worse after interacting with you? What specific clues let you know this?
- What do you feel after leaving the room?
- Do people seem to come to you naturally, or do they seem to stay away?
- What do people say or do before meeting with you?
Of course, we all have our biases, blind spots, and information gaps. To make sure your assessment is accurate, ask a few other people—not just your best buddy—the same things. Compare their answers to yours, and you’ll find where you really need to do a little better.
With Continuous Reflection and Feedback, EQ Will Be One of Your Strongest Leadership Assets
Emotional intelligence is by definition a two-part affair that includes recognizing and managing the emotions of others in addition to your own feelings. There are common traps to the second half of the equation, but you can avoid them by checking for balance and rigidity and by asking questions. Do this on an ongoing basis because if the above three points align, then your EQ can truly work for you and your organization.