Emotional intelligence is at the heart of great leadership. Yet, so many organizations pour thousands of dollars into leadership training and still miss the mark.
That’s because they’ll pack years of development into a weekend workshop. Or hope that Google can offer robust enough answers to churn out healthy, confident leaders. Without ever mentioning emotional intelligence.
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1. Redefine professionalism
According to Amy, what we think of as a “professional” environment is shifting – and for good reason.
Historically, so much pressure is put on workers fitting a mold that removes the authentic self. But this shuts down a lot of creativity and divergent thinking that could lead to a company’s next big idea.
Thankfully, that’s rapidly changing! More and more, companies are creating space for authenticity and encouraging their teams to bring who they really are into the workplace.
And as a result, people can fully express themselves at work. This leads to a more energized and open workplace for everyone. But it also combines more perspectives. Meaning, better ideas can take shape.
2. Hire the weirdos
“Don’t hire people that are like you. Hire the weirdos,” Amy suggests. Curating a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and thinking patterns can open a company up to new perspectives and voices that translate into fresh ideas.
But this means more than diversifying the people on a team. Amy also recommends leaders expose themselves to experiences that they’ve never gone near. Classes, events, and projects that don’t seem like something you’d typically interested in might just be what catalyzes your next big idea.
Here at Trainual, one of our core values is “Collect Experiences” for exactly this reason. We even offer an experience fund to everyone on our team. So there is no excuse not to go skydiving, take the bucket list trip, or even just try a new ice cream flavor.
But, what about the thinkers that aren’t the type to tackle new and bold things with zero reservations? You need them, too!
Having teammates that are willing to ride the 50-foot waves with no prep is great. But a well-rounded team needs someone on the shore to yell, “shark!”
So the logical, more grounded thinkers aren’t holding your team back. Instead, they find blind spots that others might not be looking for. Recognizing these thinkers for their risk assessment skills can help build their confidence and ensure everyone wins.
3. Embrace vulnerability
Emotional intelligence is a next-level skill for leaders. And in a nutshell, it can be summed up to self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management – all at once.
If a leader can understand how these 4 things affect a team, they can prompt this emotional intelligence in others.
For example, if you want your team to be vulnerable, you have to be vulnerable first. Meaning, the best way to utilize emotional intelligence in the workplace is to lead by example.
“I don’t want to discount the discomfort that comes with it,” Amy says. “If you’re too comfortable, or things are too easy, you’re not growing.”
Get used to feeling the tension that comes with being able to admit mistakes and commit to an open mentality with your team. While uncomfortable, this leads to your greatest growth moments and allows you to level up as a leader.
👉 Not sure how to do this? Check out these 8 actionable ways to infuse empathy into your leadership.
4. Think about your thinking
Sometimes things don’t land the way you thought they would, which is where metacognition (AKA thinking about what you’re thinking about) comes in.
By defining the experience you want your team to have, you can work backward to ensure the words, emotions, and energy you bring is intentional. And the room will follow.
“You have to check yourself first,” Amy explains, “because emotions are contagious.”
So before you head into the room, define how you want to make your team feel in 3 words before you walk through the door. When you do this, you naturally start adjusting your behaviors to set these words as the tone.
You can even get more strategic with it by asking yourself questions like:
- How do I want to feel?
- How do I want them to feel?
- What emotions are tied to that?
- What behaviors do I need to display to create those emotions?
Metacognition works because our emotional processing centers and our memory processing centers are physically right next to each other. So tying emotion to information makes it more engaging and stickier.
5. Practice cognitive reappraisal
Plainly put, leading with vulnerability doesn’t work if you’re not learning from your interactions. So, reframing the situations and how you talk to yourself (or “cognitive reappraisal” in technical terms) is a non-negotiable must.
Think about what you tell yourself when you make a mistake in a big meeting or forgot to confirm a date with a client. Chances are good you would never talk to someone you cared about that way! So why are you less kind to yourself?
This is why cognitive reappraisal is so critical to our wellbeing, and ultimately our leadership. When we start by being kind and practicing empathy with ourselves, we lead from an authentic place that resonates with our team.
Anytime you receive negative feedback, reframe the information. Meaning, recognize that you’re a great learner. And this note is a chance to grow as a contributor, not a reason to tear yourself down.
Amy is the first to admit that feedback is hard to hear – especially when it feels negative. But until you reframe it, you can’t put it to work.
🔥 Tip: Feedback goes both ways! Learn how you can make the feedback you give productive – even while working remote.
6. Name your emotions in real time
The ability to label and interpret an emotion helps us clarify feedback. Because, by engaging the brain’s logical side, you can recognize how your emotions influence your perception and regulate how you react.
When Amy gets feedback, she takes detailed notes. At first, she was just creating a record so she didn’t miss anything important. But over time, she started writing down her emotional responses so she could sift through what really resonates.
And she highly suggests trying a version of this yourself – even if you aren’t writing down your emotional responses. This practice allows you to take a step back without removing yourself from the situation all together. So you can look at even the harshest feedback with a level-head and decipher the useful tidbits.
Not all feedback is created equal, so not every bit will be applicable. However, you still need to hear it out. The key is making sure you don’t let one negative comment ruin your relationship with the person – because this negatively affects the team as a whole.
The best leaders ask questions to get to the heart of what’s going on with their team. “But don’t label their emotions for them,” Amy warns. By helping others do the work themselves, you keep your assumptions from writing their narrative – and help your team build their emotional intelligence skills.