This is Part 2 of a series on understanding what emotional intelligence really is.
Earlier this week I wrote a blog post on: How Emotional Intelligence can be a Career Enhancing Attribute, making the case for why we all need to take emotional intelligence seriously. I’m going to follow that on to develop out the four learning actions you can take to get to that point. It is a journey, not a destination, as all soft skills learning is. You just get better and better with every conscious practised action.
The four actions you can learn that will help you achieve well-developed emotional intelligence are:
1. Develop self-awareness.
2. Develop self-management and self-mastery.
3. Develop social awareness.
4. Excel at relationship management.
A Big Part of Emotional Intelligence is About How Well You Know Yourself.
Like it or not, emotions are an intrinsic part of our biological make-up,
and every morning they march into the office
with us and influence our behaviour.
– Shari Caudron.
What Shari Caudron says is so true, we all have to understand the emotions we carry with us everywhere. We need to become aware of them. The way we express them brands us in the eyes of everyone looking on.
Self-awareness is about how well you know yourself. What makes you tick? What are your strengths? What challenges you most and why?
When you develop self-awareness you are much more aware of what impacts on you emotionally and how your responses impact on others. It is an important self-leadership and self-management skill. You can then choose how to respond to people, rather than act on auto-pilot and regret it afterwards.
Being able to recognise your own emotions, what you are feeling, and name that emotion is the first step. What exactly are you feeling when a colleague attacks you in a meeting, or when another personally criticises you for the way you handled a situation? What do you feel when rumours are spread about you behind your back? What emotions are triggered in you when your demanding client makes unrealistic demands of you? What exactly is happening on that day when you wake up with a feeling of unexplained dread and you don’t want to get up, let alone go to work?
What about the feelings you have about the poor performance discussion?
Let’s take that exact example and talk about how you might manage it. Let’s also start by saying you have a very good manager who conducted the discussion well. (Some do it very badly and that’s a completely different scenario to work with.) You still came out of it shell-shocked, however, not expecting him to tell you that he didn’t believe you were going to be able to do the job and that they were giving you 3 weeks notice. What do you do?
A natural reaction for the emotionally unintelligent would be to leave the room and explode to anyone who will listen. You could bad-mouth the manager. You could go on social media and talk about the injustice. You could completely disengage and work to rule for the next 3 weeks. Or you could become completely emotional, crying a lot, taking sick days, becoming quite depressed. All of these responses will do nothing to grow your career or enhance your personal brand, and they will destroy your professional credibility and certainly not encourage your manager to refer you for another job.
So how could you turn this devastating situation around and make it work for you by responding in an emotionally intelligent way?
- Instead of reacting immediately, you stop, step back and think. You work out what you are really feeling about it all. You are shell-shocked. This was unexpected. You are angry that the organisation has done this to you. You were trying very hard and putting in a lot of effort and you feel betrayed. You are frightened about the future, and wonder whether you’ll get another job anywhere because you’ve been dismissed from this one. You can’t sort out these feelings. They overwhelm you. You realise you can’t do anything while you are in that space.
- Because you can’t work out what you are feeling, you find a senior colleague whom you trust, a mentor figure, to talk it through with you and help you become aware of what you are experiencing. That gives you back control of your life and you can begin to rebuild. It’s important to get clear what you are really feeling because it is often not what is on the surface.
- You mentor helps you see that what you are feeling is enormous insecurity. You think it is because you now don’t have a job and you are frightened you won’t get another one. Your mentor talks further with you about that and leads you below the surface. You discover that you were actually feeling insecure in the job anyway right from the beginning, right when you applied for it. That was a big aha! discovery for you. You are able to acknowledge that you didn’t want this kind of job in the first place. It was your parents who thought it had good prospects for your future. You were working hard but felt you were getting nowhere. It all didn’t align and resonate for you, but you thought if you worked harder it would eventually all come together. It hadn’t. Your manager became aware of your unsuitability for the role and had this difficult discussion with you that caused this emotional upheaval.
Now you are clear about what you are feeling and why, what will you do next?
- The emotionally unintelligent reaction is to go back to your parents and blame them for making you take that job, have a fight with them and not talk to them for a month. The emotionally intelligent response is to take ownership of what you are feeling, this insecurity about your future, the realisation that the job was not right for you in the first place, and be pro-active – become solution focused. That feeling of insecurity will disappear when you can discover what you really want to do, what skills you need to do it and how you can get them.
- Who can help you work that through? You could continue to talk that through with your mentor, but a better idea may be to go back to your manager and ask for his help. Because he handled the initial difficult performance discussion well, he will likely respond well to you coming back to him at this stage. Tell him what you have discovered, that you realise he was right in not continuing your employment and ask if he will help you move forward. This approach has so much going for it. You can reclaim your professional credibility, if not in the way you did your job but certainly in the way you handled losing it. You can work through with your manager which profession or industry sector your interests and skills lie in. You ask him which skills you need to further develop and how you could do that. You ask him how you can best contribute in the last 3 weeks you are there and you give 150%.
So where are you now?
You have developed a lot of self-awareness and learned a lot about yourself through the way you have approached this situation.
You have been able to identify what was happening for you and taken back control when you felt emotionally overwhelmed.
You were able to choose to respond in a way that enhanced your professional brand and credibility, rather than in a way that would have potentially destroyed it and your future prospects.
You chose to be pro-active, solution focused and a “can do” person and front that initial devastating situation in a way that made you proud of what you achieved. You lead yourself through this difficult situation.
You have developed some very important soft skills that will enhance your professional future and greatly advance your career.