It was standing-room only for an Emotional Intelligence presentation for government leadership development professionals at the recent American Society of Training Developers (ASTD) conference in Orlando.
When asked about the interest in this topic, many government leaders noted the reason it’s becoming such a hot topic in corporate America: there is more stress in government offices today, with significant budget cuts, more long-term knowledge workers retiring, and more work to be done with fewer resources.
Emotional Intelligence from leadership helps government professionals cope with these stresses and focus on the mission and getting work done in a calmer, more consistent and reliable environment.
When I begin a session around Emotional Intelligence, I’ll tell participants to “check their emotions at the door.” Many think I mean “leave your emotions outside” – and that’s what many of us in leadership roles have been communicating to our employees. Don’t bring your emotions to work, leave your problems at home, leave your emotions outside the workplace.
But in reality, we all know that’s not how it works – emotions can’t be turned on and off so easily. So when I say “check your emotions at the door,” I mean: think about your emotions – check them – what are you feeling? Knowing how you feel you can better control your emotions, and handle your emotions in ways that assist you and support your goals and objectives in the workplace.
In other words, understand and use your emotions in a positive and constructive way to manage your emotions – and the emotions of others. This is what is called Emotional Intelligence.
It used to be that intellect was the most important pre-curser to success – if you had a high IQ, it was expected that you would be successful, and a good leader. It is now commonly accepted that Emotional Intelligence – interpersonal and intrapersonal skills – is often 85 percent of the equation for success, with Intellect being 15 percent. Often IQ and technical skills will get you hired – but Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, will help you excel. And the good news: EQ is a skill that can be learned and developed, to help you become a better leader and enable you to help your team excel.
EQ is comprised of intrapersonal skills – understanding yourself, how you react and respond in different situations emotionally; and interpersonal skills – understanding others, and how they react and respond emotionally in different situations. As we think through how certain thoughts, actions, or triggers set off certain emotional responses, we can better manage those thoughts, actions or triggers, so that we respond rather than react. By not allowing the emotional trigger to take over, we maintain control over the situation, and can then create a positive interaction instead of an emotional hijacking.
Employees need consistency from their leaders; they need to know that a leader will respond in a consistent manner to a certain situation, so that they can bring questions, concerns, problems to their leader and know they will get a fair hearing and a consistent response. The best leaders use Emotional Intelligence to manage their emotions so that their responses are consistent, calm, and fair, and not reactive in nature.
In turn, when we pay attention to the emotional triggers of those around us, we can help provide what they need to get control of their emotions, and we can be careful to not use triggers that will set them off on an emotionally turbulent reaction. And by being responsive and alert to their needs, we demonstrate that we care about them, earning their trust and respect.
It’s often said that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When your employees feel that you care about them, and you’re taking their emotional well being into consideration in standard office behavior, they will be more responsive to you as a leader, and be more likely to follow you as a leader. Emotional Intelligence enables you to influence yourself first, and then influence others, to enable a more stable, productive work environment.
Harry White is an American Management Association (AMA) Leadership Development Course Leader who has more than 25 years of experience as a leadership development facilitator and speaker. His areas of specialization for American Management Association (AMA) Enterprise Government Solutions include emotional intelligence, developing effective executive leadership, dealing with conflict productively, and improving leadership and management effectiveness.