Leaders have to inspire, challenge and lead others. Your people will be asking themselves, “Why should I follow him or her?” In order to be an engaging leader you need to understand and harness the best of your people. Emotional intelligence enables you to do this.
Here are 10 tips to consider:
1. Develop and deepen your self-awareness – this is a fundamental competency of emotional and spiritual intelligence or wisdom (EQ and SQ) and the building block of great leadership. It helps you make more insightful decisions and course-correct as you go. Become more mindful of how you are feeling in the moment, try naming these emotions and observe its impact on your consequent thoughts and behavior.
2. Become more emotionally aware of others – recognize what motivates people and what makes them feel valued. Everyone is different so avoid taking a “cookie cutter” approach. Employee engagement goes up when people feel they are being seen, heard and recognized for who they and the unique combination of skills, qualities, values, needs and drivers they bring. A bit of appreciation goes a long way.
3. Deepen your listening – a common tendency amongst busy executives is to listen only to the words and content of what the other person is saying. Start actively listening out for other things such as the intent and emotion underlying in the other persons communication. You might be pleasantly surprised as to where the communication goes!
4. Be open to feedback – there are aspects of ourselves and our behavior that “we don’t even know that we don’t know.” Feedback allows you to become more in tune with what you need to amplify as well as manage. If you have received feedback which you have filtered out, take note and take action.
5. Show empathy – this is the ability to put yourself in others shoes. This is another fundamental EQ competency which enables leaders to better engage their people. It doesn’t mean sympathy or that you necessarily agree with the other person’s perspective – it demonstrates that you “get” where they are coming from. “People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care.”
6. Take ownership and responsibility – taking full responsibility for your decisions and actions takes courage and occasionally we fail. The issue is not that we fail but that how quickly we correct our mistakes fast enough or take responsibility for them. Maintaining our integrity is a moment by moment occurrence as we make a choice to live our declared mission and values. Taking ownership and responsibility will stretch your EQ.
7. Leverage diversity – create a culture and environment which values the contribution of a diversity of thoughts, ideas and people. This will expand your own mental models, avoid the cloning effect and group think and force your thinking and emotions to go beyond their current comfort zone.
8. Use a Coaching style – rather than tell, coach your people to arrive at solutions themselves. Coaching enhances your EQ as it forces you to actively listen and go beyond the obvious.
9. Time for self-reflection – make time either daily or weekly to reflect on what you have done well and what needs attention. Engaging in self-reflective practice provides a powerful pathway to insights and for growing your EQ. Focus, attention and repetition are keys to laying down new neural pathways.
10. Do an EQ audit – information helps us concretize things. For example a senior executive leading culture change had innovation as one of his mantras. Yet, he was most astonished when he realized that his particular way of operating was stumping his team member s from offering any creative possibilities as they knew how he would react.
Soft skills make hard business sense. Are you harnessing the best of your EQ to drive your business results?
Jasbindar Singh is a leadership coach and an EQ /SQ specialist – www.sqleadership.com. You can also find this post in the latest, March 2011 issue of Management magazine which has other fantastic coverage including the cover story on leadership.