Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three Simple Tips to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

As with many things in life, big impact can come from very small gestures. Sometimes the things that touch us most profoundly are found in moments in time: a specific smile, a kind gesture, a personal note, well-chosen words spoken exactly when you needed to hear them. And the same goes for Emotional Intelligence (EQ). If you are working on increasing your EQ and all the things it brings: more effective working relationships, more genuine and enjoyable personal relationships, a better understanding of other’s needs as well as our own, more opportunities to do what we enjoy with people we enjoy inside and outside work, and the ability to have a greater platform for your thoughts and ideas, don’t feel like you have to reinvent yourself or change some big thing about you. Instead, make subtle but important changes to raise your influence and impact on others. Here are three simple tips to get you started…

In our October 2010 Performance Pointer (, we discussed the important balance between Ego and EQ. When we live in Ego we do things that are
comfortable for us, and force others to do the adjusting. When we use our EQ, we understand that we cannot work from a place that puts our own needs first. So, Tip #1 is get out of your comfort zone. For example, instead of sending out an email late at night or a document for someone else to review while they are on a day off just to be able to check it off your list, wait to do so if the timing is terrible for the receiver. Or if you can’t wait to send it, at least make it clear that you do not want or expect the person to review it on their time off. Setting a clear expectation of response demonstrates a respect and priority for the other person’s time.

Avoid making excuses for your own blind spots or missteps. Take accountability when you have
left someone with a wrong impression. Tip #2 is to judge yourself on your behaviors not your intentions. Get in a habit of nightly or weekly self-reflection where you replay the events of the
week and ponder ways that you may have handled them differently. Perhaps there are some whom you may owe an apology to for your behavior. Pay special attention to times when you unintentionally took out a bad mood or frustration on an undeserving coworker. Consider how
in touch you are with your own body language and behavioral cues. When was the last time you picked up a sense or cue that someone had an issue with you or your approach but didn’t verbalize it? How often do you find yourself mentally defending yourself in your own mind rather than seeking to understand alternate perspectives that would help you connect better with how others see you?

Social self-awareness is increased when we align our intended behavior with the perception others have of our behavior. Simply put, this means there is a congruency between who and how we want to be in relation to others and how others actually perceive us. Intention and reality can be worlds apart. This insight cannot be achieved in a vacuum. Tip #3 is to seek feedback from someone who will be honest. As a high-ranking leader, this is particularly important as the feedback you get on a regular basis will be filtered. Plus, if you don’t ask for it, no one wants
to give their boss unsolicited feedback. Be gracious and open. Thank them for their candor and willingness to care enough to share their thoughts. If anything comes across as unpleasant or confusing, resist the urge to defend or shut down and begin a new reflex response in its place – curiosity. Ask open ended questions in a non confrontive way such as “tell me more about
that….”, “okay that’s an important point…can you give me an example so I can be sure I’m on the same page”, “what would the better way look like if I were to improve or change that?”. If it is too difficult to get honest feedback yourself, consider taking a multi-rater assessment (also popularly called “a 360”) or h hire a coach to do some source interviews with the people who work with you and help you explore the data for meaning and application. Our coaching clients report that receiving once-in-a-lifetime feedback like this was life changing for them both
personally and professionally and from the coaches perspective post-360 is when we gain a lot of developmental traction because the person is able to for the first time clearly see cause and effect of their behavior.

If you’re tired of being frustrated with other’s behavior and wondering why it never seems to change despite your efforts, it might be time to reverse your focus. When we begin working with our clients on themselves (their motives, intentions vs. perceptions, reaction vs. seeking to understand, finding mutually satisfying goals/solutions), they are always shocked at how much the world around them changes as they do. Sailors know that adjusting the sail by even a few degrees can change the entire direction of their course. Human behavior is no different. Make small changes now and you may be amazed at the dramatically different place it takes you.