Recently, I am noticing an interesting trend in the training and coaching field: clients are requesting engagements that are shorter in duration and more intense in delivery. As companies attempt to recover from numerous financial and staffing issues caused by the pandemic, they are increasingly aware of the need for emotionally intelligent leadership. More than ever, leaders are the ones employees turn to for steady, consistent presence and emotional reassurance. In a time when employee retention is critical, companies want to be certain that their directors and managers are treating all employees well. Emotionally intelligent leaders will help their people be more productive, profitable, and personally fulfilled.
How are companies making sure they are meeting the need to be emotionally intelligent? Instead of delivering training and coaching slowly over time, executives now have a sense of urgency. People learn new skills through repetition, so it makes sense that training in regular, frequent, short bursts can create change more rapidly.
Now that employees have had a taste of what it feels like to work from home during the pandemic, a whole new can of worms has been opened up. Some employees (often introverts) prefer to continue working from home, and they argue that this model has proven to be effective during all of 2020. Others (often extraverts), can’t wait to get back to the office and say they miss the emotional connections and creativity that in-person interactions foster.
Given these divergent perspectives, how do you manage your teams? How do you bring them together so they function as a cohesive unit? How do these different viewpoints affect employee engagement, team dynamics, and interpersonal relationships, or company culture? It seems that planning for ways to re-enter the office is often just as uncertain as adapting to the pandemic was in 2020.
Three emotional intelligence (EQ) skills seem especially critical for gracefully navigating these times: self-regard, stress tolerance, and optimism.
Here are some ways to quickly build and strengthen these skills.
In order to build and improve other EQ skills, a person must have enough of this foundational skill. When someone scores high in self-regard, it means that this person recognizes their strengths and weaknesses and is still able to accept themselves. Someone with a high level of self-regard can stand up for themselves and speak their mind when it is appropriate to do so. They are open to listening to and accepting feedback, even when it is negative. Instead of becoming defensive or resistant to criticism, they will reflect thoughtfully on how they can use the information to better themselves.
If someone scores low in self-regard, it will prevent them from being able to accept and tolerate external feedback. Instead of viewing it as constructive, they will see it as critical. One way to improve this skill is to have someone make a list of their accomplishments.
They can be personal or professional, but the person has to feel especially proud of them. Then, ask them to identify the skills that helped them achieve these goals and look for patterns. If you focus on this list of skills every day for at least thirty days, you will be reinforcing their awareness of their strengths, which will help boost self-regard.
As businesses begin to fully open and we return to a degree of normalcy, this is an essential EQ skill. A person who scores high in optimism is enthusiastic and can imagine a future full of possibilities. Optimistic managers can help employees see things in a different light when they are discouraged or in a negative headspace. A simple shift in mindset can often improve company culture, which improves moods and boosts productivity.
One way to improve this skill is to think of the most positive person you know. Make a list of their attributes: anything you can define that classifies them as seeing things with a bright attitude. Once your list is complete, compare yourself to see how you measure up to them. How many things do you have in common? Are there any characteristics that you’d like to cultivate? If so, make a plan to spend time focusing on developing these qualities daily.
When someone has high-stress tolerance, they are able to cope well with intense emotional ups and downs during periods of chaos or crisis. Being proficient in this skill gives you the ability to prevent becoming burned out or physically sick in response to stress. When people score low in this skill, they tend to be moody or emotionally inconsistent, and this shows in their lack of leadership skills. More than ever before, employees and direct reports are looking to the leader for steady, consistent leadership and positive emotional reassurance.
One of the best ways to develop this skill is to commit to having a morning routine. It could be any form of exercise, although yoga is known to positively affect the central nervous system and is an excellent choice! It could include meditation or prayer, reading something inspirational, or writing in your journal. It could involve tracking progress on your personal goals, which of course will help you succeed at work. Practicing extreme self-care is the fastest way to build this skill because it sets you up to feel grounded and confident about yourself. At least commit to taking ninety-second breathing breaks, where you close your eyes and breathe deeply, several times throughout the day.
When you focus on developing these three skills, you will be handing your team an action plan for thriving during changing times. People want to work for leaders that are authentic, steady, and consistent. One way to be that type of leader is to value your team, and then to be able to communicate a compelling vision of the future. When direct reports see that their leaders model healthy emotional coping styles, they emulate them and that is how an emotionally intelligent culture grows.