Emotional intelligence - how we manage ourselves and our relationships - marks high-performers and leaders in organizations around the world. This set of human skills matter enormously, in many ways. For instance, in making the crucial connections we depend on to work well, all of the components of emotional intelligence come into play: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Ask yourself how you do on these:
Emotional Insight and Self-Awareness. Do you know what makes you angry, what triggers sadness? Developing such insight can be a lifelong process, but this simple exercise can build your self-awareness muscles. Set a timer for several times during the day. When the timer goes off, tune in for a few moments to notice what you are feeling and your first guess at what triggered that feeling.
It might be frustration with a colleague's performance, excitement about a new project, or sadness about something going on at home. If this exercise feels challenging, consider working with a therapist or coach. Before you can manage your feelings and tune in to another person's feelings, you need to recognize your own.
Emotional Balance and Self-Management. When you feel sad or mad, do you blow up or burst into tears? We can't always avoid situations that trigger distress, but we can control how we respond. It helps to understand what's going on in our brains and bodies when we're in the grip of intense feelings.
University of Alabama psychologist Dolf Zillmann did foundational research on the anatomy of rage. Zillmann sees two main ways of defusing anger: challenge thoughts triggering the surges of anger and cool off physiologically by waiting out the adrenal surge away from further triggers. Seeking out distractions also helps since distraction is a highly powerful mood-altering device.
Empathy and Social Awareness require Good Listening. When someone is talking to you, how well do you focus on them and what they are saying? If self-absorption or preoccupation shrink your attention, you won't notice other people's feelings, let alone respond with empathy or make a connection.
Whether in person, or on the phone or a video conference, put aside distractions and attend to what the other person is saying. It might feel inefficient, but the payback in understanding is great. Leaders of large corporations such as General Electric recognize good listening skills as one of the top characteristics of skillful leaders.
Teamwork and Collaboration: Key Relationship Management Skills. How well do you work collaboratively with others? Do people feel relaxed working with you? If your colleagues laugh easily around you, that's a good sign. And, it means you've made an emotional connection. One way to assess your teamwork skills is to ask for feedback from coworkers you trust.
The stronger our emotional bonds with someone, the more effective our interactions. I've learned a great deal about the importance of emotional connection for high performance leadership from my friend, George Kohlrieser, who is a professor at IMD in Switzerland. It all comes down to emotional intelligence.