The evidence is undeniable. Honing our proficiency in emotional intelligence (EQ) can dramatically lift our professional success levels, yet many leaders need improvement.
TalentSmart CEO and author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Travis Bradbury brought this fact to light with a research project involving 500,000 employees. Thirty-three variables were tested to determine which had the most significant effect on workplace success, and EQ accounted for a whopping 58%. The same data also exhibited an inextricable link between success and EQ, showing that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence, whilst just 20% of bottom performers are.
There are many measures of success and even more ways to define it, but one thing is certain – ability in EQ can function as a key enabler of it and, unlike IQ, it is a capability leaders can develop and enhance. There are five ways to do so.
- Become self-aware
We can start by simply observing the ebb and flow of our emotions and thought patterns – by identifying our strengths as well as our defensive triggers. In the process of exposing the nature of our own agitations, we begin to understand similar behaviour in others as well. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt says “Leadership is an intense journey into yourself… Every morning I look in the mirror and say, I could have done three things better yesterday.”
- Hold yourself accountable
The concept of ‘cause and effect’ plays a significant role in the outcomes of our conversations. It’s important for us to take personal responsibility for our contribution to a discussion by considering how our current thoughts and emotions will affect the relationship dynamics if left unchecked. Steve Jobs was an advocate for accountability, saying: “Embrace every failure. Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.”
- Exercise discipline
As a contentious moment arrives in conversation, we can take a moment to get clear about what we value most as an outcome, then intentionally regulate our thoughts and emotions to achieve that desired result. As an example, anger and frustration can be shifted to curiosity or empathy, saving us from potentially burning an important relationship bridge. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, noted in the book that “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
- Practise empathy
This is the intangible skill that allows us to see a situation from someone else’s vantage point, and when we do, they feel valued and ‘heard’. The act of empathy allows us to remain objective and professional by focusing our attention on a 360 perspective, the alternative to which is permitting our defensive reactions to run their course.
- Cultivate trusting relationships
To generate successful business, it’s imperative to build positive relationships where colleagues feel safe, accepted, valued and validated. It takes only seconds in the midst of an emotional outburst to break those tentative ties. Focus on active listening, empathy and curiosity around the other’s perspective to demonstrate acceptance and recognition of their reality. As Bill Gates said: “Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.”