5 Keys to Polish Your Emotional Intelligence Skills to Achieve More
Before anyone can lead others, they must first be able to lead themselves. It’s a core leadership competency entrepreneur Frederick Mann calls “personal power.”
“Personal power is the ability to achieve what you want,” says Mann, author of The Economic Rape of America. “More than anything else, it is personal power that brings you success and happiness.”
“The biggest barrier to success in almost any endeavor is powerlessness, negativity, helplessness, and inertia. They belong together. The problem is not only our own powerlessness, but also the powerlessness of those around us.”
How can one develop personal power? Start by understanding and working on your Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills.
When I worked in a corporate environment, there was a strong push to incorporate EI into the organization’s leadership training curriculum in order to improve leadership performance. If people could better “read” others’ feelings – and understand their own – they could become better negotiators, coaches, motivators and conflict resolvers, among other vital workplace skills.
The concept can be as simple as recognizing when a person has become defensive, and thus is not hearing what you’re saying, and responding by adjusting your tone and language to encourage cooperation.
Psychologists John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey co-developed the EI concept and describe it as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
Emotional Quotient is the measure of an individual’s EI. A number of quizzes and tests have been created to identify a person’s EQ through questions that measure such qualities as self-awareness and empathy. Know your EQ can help you understand where you might be weak and work at polishing up those EI skills. The higher your EQ, the better able you will be to objectively evaluate and respond to your own emotions and those of your colleagues and customers. It can help you become a better collaborator, manager, salesperson and co-worker.
My EI training and its practical applications to my work team environment still resonate in my personal life. They became skills that I now methodically apply in both personal and entrepreneurial pursuits.
There are several EI models; but the one to which I ascribe is the mixed model, introduced by Daniel Goldman, a combination of ability and traits. Here are Goldman’s five main EI constructs, and my views on how each of us can develop them:
1. Self-awareness: the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
In order to become self-aware, you need to conduct an honest self-assessment to determine your strengths and weaknesses, such as powerlessness and inertia, and determine the root causes. You then need to create a plan that will help you overcome your fears, which are barriers to courage and stand between you and your successes.
While I am a big proponent of using my intuition to guide my decisions, whenever it is appropriate, I need to caution that unless your gut feelings are often more right than wrong, you cannot make decisions solely based upon intuition. You need to use a balanced combination of intuition and logic.
2. Self-regulation: controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances and work environments as appropriate.
Maybe you’re a middle-manager who reacts angrily to a micro-managing executive. Or vice versa – you want support and coaching and the person who you think should provide that is irritatingly self-absorbed.
Simply put, you need to recognize the negative emotions you’re feeling and find ways instead to adapt to the situation. With some creative thought and by understanding the other person’s perspective, you can look for ways to “manage up” for your personal success. For instance, is your boss micromanaging because he or she feels pressure from his or her own boss? Is there a way you can help him or her feel more confident about your work and your willingness to be his or her ally?
3. Social skills: managing relationships to move people in the desired direction.
Your social skills refer to your interpersonal skills or your ability to relate and connect with people, which can motivate them to deploy discretionary efforts to help you achieve goals that are best accomplished via partnership and collaboration.
Here are some tips for improving your social skills:
Pay attention to the feedback of friends and co-workers, good and bad. Train yourself to repeat the behaviors that get positive feedback and work on eliminating those that make people react negatively. View constructive criticism as just that. When we become defensive, we don’t hear what can be very helpful feedback. Learn to handle conflict and confrontation from a perspective of compassion and caring.
While you manage your interpersonal or social skills, make sure that you are also invested in developing and managing your intrapersonal skills, which will help in solving problems and resolving conflicts. Many conflicts can be resolved by your ability to compromise or reach middle ground by mutual agreement, which can enhance good relationships or improve mediocre relationships.
Pick your battles carefully, and look for compromise when possible. Of course, there will be times when principles or high-stakes matters cannot be compromised. That’s when you test your abilities to diplomatically disagree.
Personal coaching can be very helpful if you need to hone your diplomacy skills!
4. Empathy – considering other people’s feelings, especially when making decisions.
Some people believe empathy cannot be learned, but I believe just the opposite. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see situations from their perspective. Might they be feeling fear? Shame? Guilt? How do those emotions make you feel? Understanding and addressing the concerns of others is essential to EI.
Always consider intent versus impact, and how your actions or decisions may affect the individuals or groups involved.
5. Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.
Simply put, what motivates you? What are your benchmarks for success? Once you achieve certain levels of success, you need to consistently set new benchmarks to keep chasing personal excellence!
Practice your EI skills on yourself first, and you’ll develop greater personal power. That can lead to achievements you may never have dreamed possible.
About the author: Lynda Chervil is an entrepreneur, author, environmental sustainability advocate and active promoter of sustainable brands and luxury brands with sustainable practices. She is the principal of Pearl Strategic Consulting, a business strategy consulting practice. She graduated from New York University with a Master’s of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications and had held many roles in new business development, sales management and executive leadership.