I recently had the privilege of attending a forward-thinking, all-women leadership seminar at The Rotman School of Management. Across the two-day event we covered many emerging business and leadership strategies, concepts and tactics all aimed at improving our professional and personal lives and the lives of those around us. Leadership is no longer a task-oriented view of planning, organizing and controlling actions to meet an isolated goal. Instead, leadership is about navigating interpersonal relationships. It incorporates direction setting, aligning those around you and motivating them towards a common goal.
Everyone has the potential to be a leader, but to be a good leader requires you to be in touch with your emotions and to act in emotionally intelligent ways. That means understanding your ability to monitor your own and other’s feelings and to use that knowledge to guide your actions. Improving your emotional intelligence isn’t hard, but it takes some time. Below are the five simple exercises I learned that can help to enhance your emotional quotient (EQ), your work environment and your own personal worth.
One – Learn To Pause
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain
In today’s fast paced world, where we expect immediate answers, gratification and results, it feels impossible to just stop. Even for six seconds. That’s all it takes to get yourself back on track.
Try it with me.
Close your eyes (one Mississippi), take a deep breath (two, three Mississippi), hold it (four, five Mississippi) and breathe out (six Mississippi).
Two – Learn To Check In
“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” – Audre Lorde
Throughout the day we all experience various emotions – stress, anger, happiness, frustration and more. After your six second pause, you need to take a few more seconds to check in with yourself and ask yourself, “why?” Why are you feeling this way?
To analyze your feelings, follow this train of thought: I feel [emotion] when [situation] because [reasoning].
It may not be easy at first, but it’s an important step to identify the real reasons behind your emotions and will shape your behaviours towards yourself and others moving forward.
Three – Learn The Whole Story
“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” – Unknown
You are only one character in this story. Much of our day-to-day emotions are instigated through others’ emotions and actions. Can you understand why the other person reacted the way they did? Are you making assumptions? Is there another way you can approach the situation?
Instead of assuming bad intentions, try to reach out to the individual and ask what’s causing their emotions. Try approaching this as a fact-finding mission. When you learn what’s going on in their mind – by addressing the circumstances directly to get the whole story – you avoid reoccurring instances and can create a more productive environment.
Four – Learn To Act Accordingly
“Insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
It’s one thing to be aware of your feelings and others’, the reasoning behind it and reframing your perspective. It’s another thing to do something about it. But that’s what sets leaders apart.
Once you have all of the information you need, you have the ability to create a constructive, positive and productive environment, but it’s all in how you choose to act. If anger is present, what is hindering you? If you there is joy, what can you maintain? If there is fear, what is at risk and how do you mitigate that risk?
Five – Learn To Show Authentic Appreciation
“When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.” – Chinese Proverb
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that good leaders are those who can work the best with people. People want to be heard and appreciated. All it takes is a listening ear, genuine curiosity and open communication.
The next time someone on your team wants to talk to you, direct your full attention to them. Turn away from your computer, put your phone down and actively listen. Not only will your encounter be more productive (science has shown that multi-tasking is not efficient) but the other person will feel more valued. Then, get curious. Ask them questions, find out more about them – both personally and professionally. Finally, communicate your appreciation. Saying thank you is important, but really acknowledging why you appreciate the other person’s results or behaviours is what will create mutually beneficial relationships. The receiver will feel better, you’ll feel better having done something nice and hopefully will encourage others to appreciate you.
Lastly, don’t forget about yourself! You’re only human too. Learn to listen to yourself, remain curious and show self-compassion.
At the end of my two-day seminar I took away one key message: emotions are not a bad thing. We need to feel them, understand them and use them to our advantage to be the best that we can be. I’m excited to incorporate these five steps into my day-to-day life with the goal of enriching my workplace and to be a more effective team member.
And to put what I learned to use, I would like to end by thanking all of the great speakers at Rotman’s who taught me the importance of emotional intelligence and the tools I need to be a better leader.
(posted by Cassie)