Have you ever wondered why some business leaders are considered “star performers” by their firms and clients alike, while others who appear just as knowledgeable and committed do not experience the same level of industry success? In fact, we are not judged solely on how knowledgeable we are or by our expertise — a greater weight is also being placed on how well we handle ourselves and understand others.
As the business world changes, so do the traits needed to excel. In this competitive world, internal qualities such as resiliency, initiative, optimism and adaptability are taking on a new meaning. This ability to demonstrate self-awareness and appropriate social skills in personal and work settings is called emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the set of skills we use to read, understand, and respond effectively to emotional signals. These skills allow us to understand and adjust our reactions to events and people, and they enable us to influence others. Emotional intelligence means managing feelings so they are expressed effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goal.
Take a moment to consider a recent challenging situation that occurred in your role as a business leader or owner. It is unlikely that your intelligence alone resulted in achieving a positive outcome. In fact, research indicates that IQ is second to your EQ (emotional intelligence) in determining outstanding job performance. Emotional intelligence is the X factor that makes the difference as to whether a business leader thrives.
Putting emotional intelligence to use
As a leader, both employees and clients look to you for guidance and expertise. To gain their trust and respect, you need to convey your commitment in every communication with them. This means understanding your emotional intelligence profile and using the emotional strengths you have every day.
Our level of emotional competence demonstrates how much of our potential translates into on-the-job capabilities. For example, being good at servicing clients is an emotional competence based on empathy. Likewise, trustworthiness is a competence based on self-regulation or handling impulses and emotions. Providing great client service and being trustworthy are two behavioral qualities that can make individuals outstanding in their work.
According to Daniel Goleman, a pioneer in emotional intelligence research, there are five dimensions of emotional intelligence that determine our potential for learning the practical skills necessary to be a star performer. They are: self awareness, self regulation (managing emotions), motivation, empathy and social skills.
Key emotional competencies
The ability to utilize intuition and relate to people lies at the heart of self-awareness — a vital skill for three key emotional competencies of a star performer: emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence.
Emotional awareness is the recognition of how our emotions affect our performance, and the ability to use our values to guide our decision making. Such awareness is our guide in fine-tuning job performance, managing our unruly feelings, keeping ourselves motivated, tuning in to the feelings of those around us, and developing work-related social skills. People excelling in this competence are aware of their emotions at any given moment and they can articulate these feelings and express them appropriately.
Accurate self-assessment is a candid sense of our personal strengths and limits, a clear vision of where we need to improve, and the ability to learn from the experience. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and approaching your work accordingly is a competence found in virtually every star performer. Self-awareness is an invaluable tool for change. Star performers know themselves well and seek continually feedback.
Self-confidence is the courage that comes from certainty about our capabilities, values, and goals. Individuals with self-confidence have a strong sense of their own self-worth and capabilities. Believing in yourself is essential for your success.
How to increase your emotional intelligence
Evaluate your own emotional intelligence using the following questions.
- Do you make aligned choices frequently and reconnect more quickly when misalignment occurs? For example, when you make a decision or statement and it’s not well received by the people in that situation, do you pick up the cues and adjust accordingly?
- Do you know yourself well?
- Are you able to examine your thoughts, feelings and behavior and then make decisions that support your goals?
- Are you able to still perform well while experiencing difficult-to-manage emotions?
- Do you manage yourself well and act with clarity and intention?
- Are you committed to yourself, your goals and your values and remain unwavering in this commitment, especially when things go awry?
Now comes the real question — what if it is not at the level you would like it to be? Fortunately, emotional intelligence is not fixed genetically, nor does it develop only in early childhood. Unlike IQ, which changes little after our teen years, EQ seems to be largely learned and can continue to develop. So the good news is you can identify those emotional competencies you feel will help you excel and create a behavioral plan to allow you to achieve your goals.
The following is a 10-step plan for developing your EQ. The best way to evaluate the effectiveness of this program is to test it for yourself. Take one of the emotional intelligence skills you would like to improve, such as increasing your empathy or decreasing your impulsivity. Go through each step and create a plan for enhancing that emotional competency.
Ten Steps to change your EQ
Step One: Select the skill to improve.
Step Two: Test your selection to ensure sustainable motivation.
Step Three: Carefully define behaviors to change.
– Create a vision of how you will behave once you have improved in this area.
– Describe your current behavior.
– Write a measurable goal.
Step Four: Create a plan to get to your goal.
Step Five: Analyze to identify factors that will support and hinder your change.
Step Six: Develop self-monitoring systems to assess progress.
Step Seven: Identify potential sources of additional training, experience, and information.
Step Eight: Develop feedback systems.
Step Nine: Develop self-reward systems.
Step 10: Develop time lines.
The key to learning new behavior is to create a plan that allows you make the desired changes in as painless a way as possible. It is critical to remember that all complex behavior (such as emotional intelligence) is really just simple behavior combined. By engaging in small, achievable steps, allowing for accurate feedback, and making appropriate adjustments, you will achieve your ultimate goal of reaching your highest potential as an emotionally intelligent leader and star performer.
This article was originally published in the Gulf Coast Business Review.