Dr. Jean Ann Larson, BSIE, MBA, EdD, FACHE, LFHIMSS, FIISE, serves as the Leadership Development Officer for UAB School of Medicine and will be a session speaker at Momentum’s Vision 2020 biennial leadership conference in March.
People often ask me what is one thing they can do to become a better leader. The advice I offer is fairly easy. However, it is not quite so easy to follow.
My suggestion is to improve your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). It is said that 90% of the difference in effectiveness between star performers and average performers can be explained by emotional intelligence according to Daniel Goleman’s, (1995) book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence. The good news is that if you really want to improve your emotional intelligence there are actions you can take.
First of all, why would you want to improve your emotional intelligence? Improving EQ not only helps you become a better leader, it also helps you be better at navigating interpersonal differences, build stronger relationships and even deal with change more effectively. Ultimately, strengthening our EQ connects us to more productive reactions to challenging situations.
- Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others
- Self-Regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment and think before acting.
- Motivation: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status, and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.
- Social-awareness or empathy: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people by sensing others’ feelings and perspectives and taking an active interest in their concerns.
- Social regulation or social skills: A proficiency in managing relationships and building networks while wielding effective tactics for persuasion and listening openly and sending convincing messages.
So where to start? It can be very helpful to take an EQ assessment, but even without that, I recommend starting with either self-awareness or self-regulation. The idea is to start with things within yourself before beginning work on external or intrapersonal parts of EQ. I have seen that by focusing on a very few but vital behavioral changes in yourself, it can have a large impact upon how you show up as a leader. Here are some examples of things you can do to improve in each area:
- Practice self-reflection by recognizing your current emotional state – do you experience discreet feelings and emotions? Can you name them?
- Once you identify the emotion, describe it aloud or write it down on paper
- Feel your emotions physically
- To improve your ability to self-assess, ask a family member or trusted advisor to describe your strengths and weaknesses. Compare their perspective with your own self-assessment
- Pay attention to your emotions and behaviors and see if you recognize patterns throughout the day
- Reflect on the connection between your emotions and your behavior
- Know who and what pushes your buttons
- Write in a journal about your emotional responses to situations that were significant
- Practice self-restraint by listening first, pausing and then responding
- When becoming frustrated, identify what brought on that emotion
- Create effective responses to stressful situations by finding strategies for altering a negative mood
- Discuss ways of dealing with change and stress with family members, friends or a trusted advisor
- Focus on events that provide a sense of calm or positive emotions
- Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” in order to consider the reality of the situation
- Journal occurrences during which you were able to regulate your responses or emotions. How did the ability to self-regulate affect the outcomes and your relationship with others?
- Begin regular exercise, yoga or meditation to increase your ability to manage your emotions and relax both body and mind. Exercise regulates your emotions by releasing endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine
- Get adequate sleep and rest. Without it, even with the best intentions, it is too easy to react in a way that you’ll regret.
The lists may seem long and you have many ideas to select from. I recommend you select the one or two items that you can actually incorporate into your daily routine and which you feel will have the most impact on your ability to be a more effective and productive leader.
And if none of the above suggestions work for you, here are general ways to improve your emotional intelligence:
- Improve your non-verbal communication
- Focus on the other person
- Make eye contact
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues
- Use humor and play to deal with challenges
- Take hardships in stride
- Smooth over differences
- Simultaneously relax and energize yourself
- Be creative
- Resolve conflict positively and in a trust building way
- Stay focused in the present
- Choose your arguments
- End conflicts that cannot be resolved
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