How true leaders manage their emotions

The other day, a friend of mine shared her story with me about the time she started her first management when she was promoted to manage the team that she had worked on for only two years. She won the promotion over several others who had more experience and tenure at the company.

She found herself faced with 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 options: 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.

LeadershipLast 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 her 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 she possessed a high degree of emotional intelligence 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.

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.

She 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 helped gain their trust because it showed them she cared about improving their work life.

4. She also asked her team about their career and life goals, and about their timelines for achieving those goals and created career development plans to help them stay focused and motivated.

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. She found the right style for each of her team members, which made it easy to lead and inspire them.

6. She 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.

What happened next was magical.

As a result of her pragmatic approach she 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. She continued to grow with that company for 10 years before accepting a role as the Vice President of Sales for a very large international company.

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.

By: Steven Tulman, 13 may 2014
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