EQ Experts Tell Entrepreneurs to Do These 4 Things to Stay Relevant and Be an Effective Leader
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the most powerful predictor for professional success, even more than intelligence and personality, says Soulaima Gourani, a career development expert and author of the book Take Control Over Your Career. It’s no wonder EQ has become a much pursued job skill.
While there are variations on the definition of emotional intelligence, it can be defined as “understanding yourself and others. To be able to read and understand, control thoughts, emotions and actions,” Gourani explains.
People who possess these qualities tend to thrive in and outside of the workplace. They’re better able to work in teams, adjust to change and problem-solve. In addition, they arouse confidence and trust in others. A company whose leaders have high EQ tends to have more engaged and loyal employees who produce better and more profitable results.
Possessing valuable EQ soft skills is absolutely crucial for a rapidly changing workplace, where performance and productivity aren’t simply about possessing the technical know-how, but also depend on adjusting to and learning new technologies and working through new problems and challenges on the fly. Accomplishment and advancement are a sum of more than smarts and technical skills.
The best part about emotional intelligence is that it isn’t fixed -- it can be learned and taught. “Working to enhance your EQ is a lifelong process,” Gourani says. “There is no finish line.” On that note, here are distinct four behaviors culled from EQ experts that everyone can practice daily to raise their emotional intelligence.
While U.S. culture values authenticity and saying it like it is, knowing how to express yourself constructively, with problem-solving top of mind, is a valuable skill.
Self-regulation means that you can respond and express yourself with restraint. The need for self-regulation typically comes when we encounter frustrations and challenges, which often bring up uncomfortable feelings. Developing self-regulation is about tolerating uncomfortable feelings without throwing a tantrum, lashing out, finger pointing or behaving in other ineffective and alienating ways. It means expressing your feelings in a mature and controlled way for a constructive and positive outcome, according to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and Working With Emotional Intelligence.
We can best tolerate uncomfortable feelings and control our response through mindfulness. That means slow down. Don’t say or do the first thing that comes to mind. Recognize how you feel and your body’s response to a situation. For example, if your heart is racing or your neck muscles are tense, that means you are triggered and are in attack mode. So, if you can, take a walk, get a cup of tea or slow breathe for 30 seconds. Stepping away and giving yourself time can give you the space to think about a mature approach that is accountable and also show you want to offer solutions.
2. Be self-aware.
Self-awareness is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses (internal self-awareness), as well as how you affect others and are perceived by them (external self-awareness). When you’re self-aware, you’re typically able to make smarter decisions and handle feedback and constructive criticism, because you have a healthy and positive sense of who you are. Also, to the self-aware, the constructive criticism you receive may sting, but it isn’t a huge blow to your sense of self.
People believe they’re more self-aware than they really are. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, executive coach and author of the book Insight, explained to Harvard Business Review: “‘According to our research with thousands of people from all around the world, 95 percent of people believe that they’re self-aware, but only about 10 to 15 percent really are.’”
One way to cultivate self-awareness is by being open to feedback, Gourani says. “Feedback is not easy to a lot of people, and it is an essential component of change. You have blind spots and it is like ‘you've got broccoli in your teeth …’ You need people to tell you that, because you can’t see it.” Eurich says it’s helpful to check in with a core group of trusted people (three to five people at different levels at work) you depend on for feedback and criticism. She dubs these people “your loving critics.” So when you receive feedback or criticism from an unknown source or one you may not trust, you can check in with your loving critics. The truth is, the higher you go in the corporate ladder, the less self-aware you tend to become. Perception and how you come across to others has to be something you own, whether you agree with it or not.
Another way for leaders to cultivate self-awareness is to practice a technique called a “pre-mortem,” or anticipating unexpected outcomes. In other words, write down the opposite of what you think is going to happen, so you’re considering all the factors. Also, if you’re trying to cultivate self-awareness in others, there’s nothing better than good old-fashioned constructive feedback that is “timely, specific and future-oriented,” Eurich said. In other words, set your expectations of what you would like to see in the future.
3. Practice empathy.
Empathy is having compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows you to feel what others are feeling and see another person’s perspective, even if it runs counter to your own. That cognitive ability empowers you, helps you to connect and work well with others and inspire trust and morale, which results in better relationships, less conflict and bickering and better results.
Developing empathy requires listening -- which can be hard for leaders or people in positions of power who are accustomed to giving orders. Tap into your curiosity and ask questions related to what is being said, and avoid being judgmental. Also, to make sure you’re getting what was said, summarize your takeaway. When you practice empathy as a leader, you can make those around you feel seen, heard and understood, which makes for a more cohesive team and less turnover.
4. Cultivate resilience.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback. Being a resilient leader or employee allows you to encounter challenges and adversity -- such as job loss or a hacking scandal -- and persevere. Being self-aware, self-regulated and empathetic all help a person to cultivate a resilient mindset.
Psychologist Frank Infurna of Arizona State University told Mental Floss there are two key variables in people who demonstrate resilience after facing adversity: The first is strong social relationships -- having people to lean on (or even one person) can make or break an individual’s resilience. If you don’t have that in your life, find a person whose judgment you trust (it doesn’t have to be someone you are close to) and ask the person for mentorship. The second is having a sense of identity and purpose. This can be achieved by functioning at a consistent level, such as at work or as a parent or a social advocate. Whatever gives you purpose, find it and keep doing it.