Hello, I’m Maureen O’Callaghan, founder of Beyond Money, a business that aims to change the way people do business by teaching them the art of doing business beyond money.
In this series of podcasts, I’m going to cover some key themes that will help business owners thrive in work and in life, do some good, and discover that their purpose goes way beyond money.
On today’s episode, I’d like to talk about emotional intelligence.
My view on emotional intelligence is that it’s the ability to manage your own emotions and at the same time, understand how the people around you are feeling.
I’d define an emotionally intelligent person as someone who has high levels of self-awareness and is able to control their thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. In addition, they are motivated and understand what motivates them, and they demonstrate empathy and have good social skills. All of this means they are able to read situations and respond to them effectively
You can easily see how possessing these attributes would make you a better leader or manager. The ability to be in tune with how you are feeling, as well as understanding your team members’ emotions, and being able to read situations can be a powerful tool when leading a team.
It helps leaders and managers develop a positive working environment that improves efficiency and productivity, stimulates creativity and innovation, and helps maintain motivation in several ways.
Firstly, understanding their own emotions in difficult situations enables them to make informed and sensible decisions, not ones governed by their emotions. In other words, they are able to respond, not react.
This all starts with self-awareness. Without self-awareness, we can’t truly understand who we are, why we make certain decisions, what our strengths are, and where there’s room for improvement.
As well as understanding yourself, it’s important to understand team members and take their needs and perspectives into account. This is where the ability to demonstrate empathy and compassion comes in. Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they may feel or react to a certain situation? If you can do this, you will better understand what motivates your team members, what upsets them, how they work best, and how to communicate with them.
Connecting with others and building healthy and productive relationships with them is important for leaders and managers. The emotionally intelligent leader recognises that everyone has a different perspective and that the way forward is always finding common ground. It’s important to remember that as a leader, what you do and say can have a positive or negative effect on someone, and that includes your tone of voice and body language, just as much as the actual words you say.
One of the most important ways you can connect with others as a leader is effective communication. Misunderstandings caused by poor communication (or a lack of communication!) are often the root cause of issues between people. Effective communication reduces the risk of misunderstandings and it builds good relationships where everyone knows where they stand, how they fit into the bigger picture, and has a shared sense of purpose.
So if an emotionally intelligent leader builds a harmonious and productive team, what happens when a leader is lacking in emotional intelligence?
Well, a leader lacking in emotional intelligence is not able to effectively understand the needs and wants of the people on their team. Not only that, being led by someone who always reacts rather than responds can damage relationships, cause disengagement, and negatively affect the overall culture.
One of the things that motivates me to be a better leader is I want to have a positive effect on people. Emotional intelligence is a powerful tool and I hope to continue to understand how it can contribute to exceeding goals, improving critical work relationships, and create a healthy, productive workplace and organisational culture.
As a leader, how emotionally intelligent would you say you are? If you feel like there’s room for improvement, the good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. Here are a few tips that have helped me develop my emotional intelligence:
Start journaling-This is a method I use. As a researcher it’s important for me to reflect on how things are going, what I think, and how I feel about my experiences. It really helps develop your self-awareness.
Another thing that’s useful is to get feedback from others which can be formally, for example at the end of a contract, or informally.
It’s also important to practice active listening; listening to actually understand someone rather than to give your opinion or advice.
And finally, learn to start paying attention to how you are feeling, physically and emotionally. So many people don’t do this because they are always busy or on autopilot, but it really is a key step to understanding who you are and why you might react to situations like you do.
There are also courses and books that can help you develop your emotional intelligence. Two books I would recommend are ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’ by Daniel Goleman and ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ by the same author.
The first book explores how emotional intelligence helps people navigate their own lives effectively and enables them to work effectively with others. It also includes some case studies that demonstrate that emotional intelligence is an important predictor of success.
The second book is a comprehensive guide to using emotional intelligence in the workplace and includes exercises that will help you develop your own emotional intelligence.
I can think of many situations from my time in leadership where being emotionally intelligent really helped me.
During my career, I have been involved in some high-profile change initiatives that were challenging for me as a leader. I was very aware of the thoughts and emotions that the situation evoked in me…and also how this affected me physically.
I was also aware of wanting to protect my team and the work they were developing. The temptation was to keep any bad news to myself but I realised that the team needed to be fully informed so that they could take the changes we were facing into account.
I laid out the situation and shared that I would do all that I could to protect their work. I also promised that as far as I was able, I would keep them informed and answer any questions they had.
In fact, I set up a weekly coffee and cake session to do just that. It was an opportunity for people to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings, for me to share information, and for us as a team to make decisions about how we would respond.
As a result the team grew stronger and I felt that I was sharing the burden.
Emotional intelligence really helped me maintain harmony in a situation that could have been quite chaotic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re inspired to look at your own emotional intelligence and where things could be improved so you and your team can reap the benefits of a harmonious and productive workplace.
Tune in for the next episode of the Beyond Money podcast which will look at good manners in the workplace, and how you can lead the way in curbing disrespectful and discourteous behaviour.