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Blog Post

6 Elements of Emotional Intelligence That Support Your People

By Andrew Barenz, Client Engagement Leader

As COVID-19 has spread around the world over the past five months, a plethora of headlines have come across our computers, phones, and TVs: case counts, death tolls, shelter-in-place orders, economic change, vaccine developments, antiviral trials,  and reopening announcements.

Amidst all of this, let me ask two questions:

  1. What emotions have you experienced over the past 5 months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. How does that list compare to the 5 months before the outbreak?

The tremendous amount of change we have experienced over the past months has likely led to a range of emotions and an increase in negative emotions. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 67% of people report higher levels of stress and 41% say their mental health has declined.

For leaders, this complexity increases. Not only are you asked to navigate your own emotions, you must also support your team in dealing with a similar range of emotions and steward a business through uncertain times. Understanding Emotional Intelligence and its impact on you and those you lead can help.

In times of heightened stress and emotion, Emotional Intelligence is a critical skill set that not only increases well-being and performance for yourself, it does the same for employees and can even increase organizational performance. Research shows that Emotional Intelligence is twice as important as IQ or technical skills in predicting performance for individuals and can lead to a 20% increase in business performance.

This is especially true during times of high stress. Focusing on six elements of emotional intelligence enables you to respond in a productive way to support your employees and your business.

  1. Self-Awareness is the awareness of my own emotions and how they impact others. One way to increase self-awareness is to take intentional time to reflect on what emotions you have experienced throughout the day and how those emotions have impacted your behavior. Additionally, you can ask for feedback on what emotions others see in you and how those emotions impact you. Understanding these connections can help you be aware of how stress impacts you and be more intentional with your behavior during periods of stress.
  2. Self-Management is the ability to stay centered and respond appropriately in stressful situations. Once you are aware of your emotions, appropriately managing them is an important next step. Several studies have shown that simply observing someone who is stressed can increase your own stress levels by around 25%. That said, it is important to be intentional with the message you are sending to your team and not allow your stress to send a message you do not intend to.

Captain “Sully” Sullenberger is a great example of self-management when flight 1549 hit a flock of geese and was forced to land in the Hudson River in 2009. By managing emotions, Captain Sullenberger was able to stay focused on the task at hand and safely land the plane with no casualties.

As with Captain Sullenberger, one way to manage your emotions is to focus on what you can control. Taking the facts and feelings from the emotional reasoning exercise, you can use this tool to focus your energy and effort is one way to structure your thinking around what you can control and it can be used to guide group discussions during stressful times.

  1. Awareness of Others is the ability to recognize the emotions of others, have empathy, and provide support. During this crisis, more than 60% of employees do not feel supported by their manager and have not been asked how they are doing. One way to demonstrate awareness of others and support your team is through empathetic listening. When we ask teams around the world, “what do great leaders do?”, listening almost always falls in the top five responses. By listening with empathy, you provide a sense of support and can decrease job-related stress by 50%.
  2. Emotional reasoning occurs when we balance both logical and emotion when making decisions. By being aware of our own emotions and those of others, we are more able to factor them into our decisions. One way to do this is to create two columns when decision-making: one column for the facts of your situation and the other for the primary feelings those facts evoke. Doing so enables you to gain clarity in your decision-making. If you then map your stressors into the control-influence-can’t control diagram below, it allows you to focus on what you can control and take action to reduce those stressors.
  3. Authenticity is the ability to align your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Below is a series of questions and considerations to guide you in communicating authentically and appropriately with your team:
    • The right information: What information does your team need? Sharing your own emotions can increase a sense of authenticity; however, oversharing or venting frustration to your team is probably not the best way to increase authenticity.
    • To the right person: Who needs the information? Does everyone need the same information?
    • In the right frequency: Over 90% of survey respondents report they would like to receive communications at least once a week during this pandemic. Communicating a general update on a regular basis helps provide a sense of stability amidst uncertainty.
    • At the right time: How might the timing of your communication impact your team? When is the best time to communicate your message?
    • In the right amount: How much communication is necessary to convey your point? With difficult information, be cognizant of how much communication is necessary without belaboring or belittling the topic.
    • Using the right medium: What is the most respectful way to communicate this message? Written communication works well for facts and figures but is more difficult when conveying emotion. That said, if you are considering serious organizational changes such as furloughs or layoffs, an in-person medium is likely best.

6. Positive Influence is the ability to create a positive work environment. One of the most powerful tools a leader has is the ability to recognize someone for their contributions. When recognizing a person, include:

    • Feelings: Share the primary feeling. How did you feel about it?
    • Behavior: Acknowledge the specific behavior. What did they do?
    • Impact: Connect to the impact. How did it affect you, the team, and the business?

Beyond achievements and successes, you can also recognize behaviors in others that demonstrate emotional intelligence. Doing so helps to further build a positive environment and encourages others to continue using their emotional intelligence.

Balancing emotions in the workplace can be a difficult task, especially during periods of heightened stress. The past five months have brought on a tremendous amount of change, but focusing on the 6 skills above will enable you to productively navigate the heightened emotions and stress during this pandemic as you look to support your team, maintain accountability, and lead your business.

EI skill and tool chart

Tools referenced in the image above: 

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