Day six at a new company and the team administrator tells me that I need to go on an emotional intelligence course. “Hmmm. That’s feedback” is the first conclusion my mind jumps to. It then becomes clear that I am going to need to get accredited in an emotional intelligence tool that is crucial to some upcoming client projects. I can feel the relief wash over me. This is an exciting opportunity: I jump at the chance.
Emotional intelligence has been asserting its role in leadership for many years now, and I’ve always been curious to find out more. Given that I am married to a child psychiatrist and have teenage children, I have to admit that my curiosity extends beyond its application as a leadership development approach into the deep recesses of the human condition, and into its relevance to family life and good mental health.
It is such a cornerstone of leadership – the statistics and research tells a strong story. But it also enables us to be fully human in a demanding world; to get the elusive work-life balance, to be happy, and to keep ourselves in good mental health despite the stress and challenges of cuts, change, chaos and uncertainty. Everyday a new article appears in the press about mental health issues in one sector or another, today soldiers, tomorrow academics. Careers derailed, lives curtailed, families shattered.
So, I got my accreditation and I fell in love with the tool. Well, as much as anyone can fall for a series of graphical scales! The model we are using is based on my all-time favourite model: ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ from Transactional Analysis. With our clients we use the profile with individuals to explore results and identify actions they can take to develop their emotional intelligence, and through that their personal and professional leadership. The conversations that this insight opens up have been profound and often life changing. Stress arises from the need to be perfect, or from long term bullying, from trying so hard that you forget to meet your basic needs, to not noticing the pressure you are putting yourself and others under until it is too late. The tool has highlighted patterns and ways of thinking in extraordinary ways.
What we find is that it enables people to get closer to who they are, and have more choice over how they bring themselves to the world. Stronger regard for self and others, greater self-awareness, and awareness of others all translate into better self-management and relationship management.
The framework we are using is JCA’s Emotional Intelligence Profile created by Jo Maddocks. We combine this with the DPA approach to building personal effectiveness, resilience, creative thinking, communicating and leadership. We add in mindfulness approaches and borrow some great strategies from our sister company, The Energy Project, around managing four types of energy: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
Top tools for developing emotionally intelligent leaders
Start by using a powerful and well-researched tool – it creates a strong platform for focus and effort. Encourage your leaders to:
· Press pause - take time for mindfulness – aim for 20 minutes a day, but five is better than nothing. Make it a habit. Pause several times each day to notice what is going on within – feelings and physical needs.
· Be kind (to themselves) – rest, eat, laugh and play.
· Invite feedback - build self-awareness and ask trusted peers what they would do in their position. Find out what they notice about different situations that they may be ignoring.
· Tune in - notice and observe people, check out what they see.
· Real people in real life – spend time with work colleagues and friends. Family is great for building emotional intelligence, but are tough teachers: the feedback children and teenagers give is as straightforward as it comes!
· Connect – make bonds with people to share and reflect on experiences with.
· Set future goals - goal setting and reflection are both good habits: ask leaders to revisit regularly to monitor progress towards them.
Bringing all of these elements together makes people better equipped to build engaged teams, inspire creativity, build value, collaborate effectively and … lead!