Have you ever experienced this? …
A senior director reaches out to the Learning & Development department for help.
He’s desperate as he reaches a breaking point, this is becoming his worst possible nightmare:
One of his managers has been causing problems for months and months: being a poor listener and right-fighter (someone who could not possibly be wrong!), he bullies anyone who opposes his ‘no-gray-area’ thinking. The person is self-centered, arrogant and inappropriately competitive, unable to take criticism, taking everything personally. Furthermore, a very low tolerance for frustration leads to short-fuse behavior and outbursts. Besides, he uses every opportunity to ‘power-trip’, to manipulate and put colleagues down.
Result: the team has become dysfunctional. The morale is gone and instead of team spirit, demotivation and disengagement prevail. Even worse: more and more absenteeism occurs so the department / company is losing money. A ‘five-headed monster’ predominates the department, inclusive the responsible senior director. Do you recognize this?
Is it “Peter”, “Dilbert” or “-EQ”?
Now, what could possibly be at the basis of this behavior? Is it the Peter Principle? Or rather the Dilbert Principle ? Or is it a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) & social skills. The answer probably lies in a combination of the above, maybe not even related exclusively to the concerned individual …
In this blog post, let’s focus on low emotional intelligence.
What is emotional intelligence?
Wikipedia describes emotional intelligence (EQ) as follows: “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior”.
In other words: EQ is the non-cognitive skills and competencies we need to successfully communicate and interact with people in the workplace and in our daily lives.
Low emotional intelligence is one of the biggest causes of conflict in the workplace and in people’s personal lives. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned, and transferred to others, especially by leaders with high EQ who lead by example.
“The five-headed monster”
The ‘symptoms’, the resulting behaviors of low emotional intelligence are multiple.
Just to name a few:
1. low self-awareness
2. lack of empathy
3. inability to self-manage
4. lack of responsibility
5. low stress-tolerance
In order to ‘remediate’ to a scenario as described above, a custom-made learning solution must be designed and a blended approach proposed. I’ll possibly come back to that in a future blog article. Here are a few succinct tips to help you and your team members to ‘combat the five-headed monster’.
- Develop self-awareness
A hard look at our emotional skills and weaknesses is the first step to improve EQ. Explore and self-reflect on strengths and weaknesses. A big part of having self-awareness is being honest with ourselves about who we are (see also my previous blog post “Who are you”): knowing where we excel, and where we struggle. In addition, an emotionally intelligent person learns to identify, understand and accept his/her areas of strength and weakness, and sees them as an opportunity, a starting point for further development.
- Grow empathy
Unaware of, not understanding, not taking into account how others think and feel is a sign of low EQ. Let’s try to be curious about people we don’t know. Don’t let our first (sometimes wrong) impression stop us from further exploring the personality of others. Let’s ask lots of questions when we meet new people or colleagues and try to be genuinely interested. Empathy is one of the main components of EQ.
- Pump up self-management
Instead of reacting impulsively or rashly, high EQ people are aware of their emotions which they can manage and control. Of course, we all have our own battles. However, let’s learn to manage our responses to triggers in a proactive way. We should learn how to calm down and relax in situations instead of reverting to panic and fear. Don’t make decisions when angry, hurt, or scared. Instead, self-manage, get to a better mental state, and then make better decisions after reviewing the situation from a different angle.
- Increase responsibility
Some people don’t take responsibility for their feelings and actions. Instead, they will always find and blame others and will keep on refusing to ‘look in the mirror’. Arrogance, blame, coercion and victim behavior are indicators of low EQ because the result is always the same: refusal to accept responsibility for non-productive behavior and/or mistakes. We should introspect, learn to better understand and manage our own thoughts, emotions, words, actions and interactions. Become more responsible for our own happiness, attitude and moods. High EQ individuals don’t go through life feeling like the World owes them. They look within to determine why they do what they do, so they aren’t doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
- Cultivate stress tolerance
First of all, get to know your stressors. Only by being aware of our emotional state and our reactions to stress in our lives, we can hope to manage stress. If really, you cannot cope with some stressors eliminate them as much as possible. Identify the people, things, and situations that cause the most stress in your life, and then sift out the ones you can avoid, minimize, or get rid of completely.
Another thing you can do is to re-frame problems: if you can’t eliminate a stressor, change the way you look at it. When you re-frame a problem, you take back control, and you’ll lower your stress just by changing your attitude. The attitude we take and the expectations we set may actually be what’s causing the stress. There are many things we cannot change in life, but we do have the ability to change the way we react to them.
What’s in it for you?
Organizations that employ staff with higher levels of EQ have a distinct advantage because there is less conflict and more co-operation, hence higher level of productivity leading to better employee engagement and better results. A higher EQ is highly correlated with both, business success and happier lives. Unfortunately, there’s still a very long way to go.
Therefore, leaders – CEO, Business Leader, Human Resources Director, Learning & Development Leader, Team Leader –continue to invest in the development of emotional intelligence, because the world needs it. Continue to lead by example because the world needs you.
Your company will be a better place.
The world will be a better place.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
If your colleagues and network might be interested in this article, please do share.
They will be grateful and so will I.