Open Your Mind in Chalk on a Blackboard

The other day, a friend of mine, let’s call her Susan, shared her story with me about the time she started her first management role 15 years ago. At the time she had been working at the company for 2 years.

One morning her company announced that the company is looking to promote someone over the next few weeks to the role of Department Manager. Some of the more seasoned members of the department, who have been with the company for over 5 years and some for almost 10 years, began vying for that role.

Although Susan performed well at her job, she did not have seniority when compared to the other members of her team. She did however show certain characteristics that made her stand out from the rest and helped earn her the promotion.

Once her excitement settled, Susan realized that she had a number of major hurdles to overcome if she wished to make a successful transition into management. She was faced the monumental challenge of leading a team of people who were once her peers, and many of whom felt more deserving of the promotion because they had been with the company for far longer than Susan.

At first, Susan was intimidated by the challenge of leading a team of people who now had bruised egos, resentment and jealousy towards her, and several other emotions that prevented them from accepting this transition. She had two choices: let herself be driven by ego and impose her new authority onto her them; or try to earn their trust and respect by investing her time and efforts into rebuilding her relationships with each individual member and truly understanding what she could do to make them excited to come into work each day.

Last week I posted an article, The Power of an Apology, that sparked hundreds of discussions, both online and offline including this one that I had with Susan about the importance of emotional intelligence, also known as EQ (emotional quotient).

Emotional intelligence is something that affects all of us, every day of our lives, and in each interaction that we have with others. It is the key to being an effective leader and a critical factor to the quality of both our personal and business relationships. As such, emotional intelligence directly affects our quality of life, level of happiness and degree of self-satisfaction.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and effectively manage one’s emotions. People who have a high degree of emotional intelligence are able to better manage feelings like anger, happiness, insecurity, or fear and are therefore able to react to many situations in a more appropriate and effective manner than those who posses a lower degree of emotional intelligence.

Studies show that as much as 80% of the average person’s success, in both their personal life and career, can be attributed to their level of emotional intelligence. This means that as little as 20% of a person’s success is as a result of their IQ (intelligence quotient or cognitive intelligence).

Because Susan possessed a high degree of emotional intelligence, which helped her earn the promotion in the first place, she understood that she needed to manage her own feelings towards the resistance and animosity of her team before she could effectively work through the numerous challenges that she faced.

Susan realized that she needed to tap into the deepest layers of her emotional intelligence to prevent herself from reacting like many others would when faced with a similar situation. Instead of letting her ego dictate her actions and getting angry or frustrated with her team members, blaming them for being difficult, and telling them “how it’s going to be” moving forward, she chose to meet with each of member of her team individually and engage them in meaningful conversations.

Susan approached each of these meetings with an open mind, in control of her emotions, and with the goal of understanding each team member’s individual perspectives, feelings, hesitations, needs, and motivators.

Here are the steps she took in each of these meetings:

1. First, she reassured each team member that her intent was not to change the personal relationship she had formed with them as their peer in the previous two years, but instead to help them with their continued career success.

2. Next, she asked them questions that helped her understand what they enjoyed most about their roles and working for the company. She tried to get a sense of what made each of them tick.

3. She asked each of them what they felt the company could do better, and how they would implement their suggested improvements. This really engaged           them and gave them a feeling of ownership over their roles, which in turn helped motivate them to perform at their best.

4. She also asked her team about their career and life goals, and about their timelines for achieving those goals. Based on these conversations, Susan created career development plans with each of her team members and          regularly reviewed these plans to help keep her team members motivated, and to help her determine areas where she could help them succeed.

5. She then asked them one of the most important questions any manager could ask: “how would you like to be managed?” This is a question that should be asked by EVERY good manager, because everyone is different and certain management styles work better with certain types of people. Susan found the right style for each of her team members, which made it easy to lead and inspire them.

6. The most important part of the equation was that Susan followed through on each of the promises she had made to her team, or gave them tangible reasons for why certain things were not possible. She maintained a high     degree of transparency and was loved and respected for that. Her moto is “Stay true to your word by following through with your promises and people will respect you for it!”

What happened next was magical.

As a result of her pragmatic approach Susan earned her team’s trust and succeeded in helping them embrace the management transition. By the end of her second month as their Manager they not only accepted her as their leader, but also respected her and supported her throughout her development in her new role.

Today Susan is the National Vice President of Sales for a very well known publically traded company. She attributes her numerous successes in life to the fact that she started working on developing her level of emotional intelligence early on in life and has been working on it ever since.

Emotional intelligence is something that takes time, a conscientious effort, and constant practice to develop, but once it becomes habit it makes having meaningful relationships with people, both personal and in business, much easier and more enjoyable.

Here are my two favorite books on developing and improving one’s emotional intelligence:

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman

The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success by Steven Stein

Image credit: member Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH.