Great leaders move us—they inspire, motivate, and energize us. How? They do it through emotional intelligence. Dan Goleman woke us all up when he published his ground breaking book on the topic (in 1995). Since then we’ve learned a lot about EI competencies, such as self-awareness and empathy, and about what people can do to develop them.
Emotional intelligence refers to someone’s ability to read, feel and respond to emotions, within both himself (or herself) and others. And, yes, that may seem like a phenomenal quality to have when managing personal relationships, but you’d be surprised to learn how much emotional intelligence can affect your productivity, as well.
You’ve just read a basic definition of emotional intelligence, but let’s look at how it functions in the work environment. Emotional intelligence manifests in three main dimensions:
Awareness and regulation. First, there’s the introspective side of emotional intelligence. This dimension is all about your ability to recognize, analyse and respond to your internal emotions. For example, if your idea is laughed at by a group of people, emotional intelligence will enable you to recognize the frustration or humiliation you feel, and give you some level of control over that emotion.
Empathy. Second, empathy allows you to internally feel what other people are feeling. This allows you to relate to others on a deeper and more reflective level, understanding their motivations and who they are as people.
Social skills. Third, emotional intelligence gives you better social skills, since you can use your emotional understanding to regulate your response, adjust your tone for different target audiences and figure out the “right” thing to say in almost any situation.
Already, you can see how these traits are beneficial, but let’s focus on exactly how emotional intelligence allows you to get more done every day.
Understanding and controlling emotional responses
When you understand and have the ability to control your own emotional responses, you become less susceptible to mood swings or counterproductive reactions to frustrating situations. Allowing your anger or panic to get the better of you forces your mind to race, and prevents you from thinking rationally, or focusing on objectives one by one; this wastes time and instantly compromises your productivity.
Instead, it’s better to recognize where those “hot” emotions are coming from, bring them under control and proceed as calmly as possible.
Stress management and self-care
Work can be pressurized or even stressful. You’ll be facing tough decisions almost every day and working long hours on a regular basis. Emotionally intelligent people know their own limits and can recognize when the stress of the job is starting to get the better of them.
What’s more, they’ll proactively take breaks, whether that means an extra 10 minutes at lunch or a week-long holiday and prevent themselves from ever becoming fully exhausted. As a result, they’ll get more done in a day and be far less likely to burn out.
Accepting and incorporating feedback
Emotionally intelligent people are able to accept feedback, even if it includes negative or harsh criticism, and understand it without taking it personally.
They’re also able to give feedback to their team members more productively, since they can deliver it with more sensitivity and greater focus on individual needs.
By getting in closer touch with your feelings, and working to listen to and understand others, you can gradually gain mastery over your own emotional intelligence.
If you’re in a leadership position, or hope to be someday, I highly recommend you make the attempt.
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