The technical skills that got you a promotion or into a leadership role might not guarantee your next move. And if you are stepping into higher leadership, the chances of technical knowledge helping you will only decrease.
The working world isn't filled with robots. There is an emotional element that must be considered when leading a team. That element is emotional intelligence, the ability to articulate the emotions you feel, and to accurately perceive emotions in others.
Unlike your IQ, which is pretty well set in stone, you can improve your EQ to become a successful leader who manages stress, delivers helpful feedback, and collaborates well.
In my journey to becoming a business leader, I learned three habits that made my emotional intelligence soar and enabled me to help others along the way.
1. Do things you are terrified of doing.
Make the commitment to constantly push your boundaries to unveil new and varying levels of emotion. The more you are able to experience the fluctuation in your feelings, the easier it will become to recognize them.
Take ordinary emotions, such as fear or joy, and experience them in a different place. One of the scariest things I've done was perform standup comedy. Before I stepped on stage, I was petrified. But after my first joke, when the sound of laughter filled the room, a calmness flushed over me, and I felt complete bliss and joy in the experience. I walked away that night more confident in myself as a speaker and as a leader.
When you experience emotions in new environments, with different people, and at a new level, it helps you describe the emotion more fully and enables you to recognize it sooner. This helps when you are in a stressful work environment, about to lead a difficult conversation or make a tough decision, to recognize and manage your emotions.
2. Look at yourself under a microscope.
Be radically honest about where you are in life. People always say to put yourself in other people's shoes, which is true. But don't forget to put yourself in your own shoes. When you step into being a leader, you must know who you are and where you stand.
Take a self-inventory of all aspects of your life: your health, relationships, family, and mental state. Use this session of introspection to move out of your calculated business mind and settle into your heart, where emotions live most often. If there is an area that is lacking, make a goal to improve it. We are often our own worst critic, so when you do this, practice self-empathy. Do this not only for yourself, but because it will help you understand how to be more empathetic toward others.
The better you can see yourself, the better you will be able to understand how others see you. And this is vital to being a reliable and trusted leader.
3. Invest in coaching.
You are your most valuable asset. No matter how big your business grows, or how large your team becomes, the investments you put in yourself must always be a top priority. In order to be an effective leader, invest in personal therapy and coaches to help you build awareness of your emotions.
Be resourceful and seek out resources that you personally connect with. Books and stories will help, but only to a certain point. A coach will be able to work directly with you and refine the unique characteristics that your personality holds -- and your job demands. The commitment to do this will help you help others in return.
Building your emotional intelligence will only make you a stronger leader. Make the commitment to do it today -- for yourself, and for your team.