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From a good to a great leader – a question of EQ?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - Joakim Eriksson, consultant and facilitator at Mannaz.

Your own professional competences are often your ticket to management, but your ability to create results through understanding others is what takes you to another level. When you develop your leadership skills, it makes sense to look into how you can develop your EQ. Read on to learn more.

How high is your actual EQ? Most of us are not particularly preoccupied with this on a day-to-day basis, but it is your emotional intelligence (EQ) that enables you to identify and understand what happens to you and others emotionally, so that you can navigate situations and make appropriate decisions.

Perhaps you feel that we shouldn’t be focusing so much on emotions in a work context. However, if that’s the case, I urge you to briefly reflect on the following questions:

  • How much does motivation and commitment affect the results that you and others create in your organisation?
  • Is the commitment primarily influenced by rational elements, or are emotions at play here?
  • How does conflict and poor working relationships affect your results?
  • Are conflicts typically rational, or are they emotionally charged?

We may not have a well-developed language to talk about  emotions in our workplace, but it is hard to escape the fact that they do indeed exist, and they affect the extent to which you succeed in creating desired results. Maybe that’s why some people translate CEO as Chief Emotional Officer – because leaders must be able to navigate the organisation’s emotions to bring about followership.

If it’s that important, how can I do something about it?

Fortunately, EQ is something you can practise and improve, which comes as a surprise to many. Recent brain research shows that, just as we can train our physical abilities to be stronger and faster, the networks of the brain that are associated with emotional intelligence can be trained and become stronger, too.

Companies like Google, SAP and Plantronics have therefore elected to invest in EQ training of managers at a global level, as they believe it complements their professional competences and enables them to create better results.

Three topics where EQ can make a difference

In order for EQ training to be relevant, it is important to connect it to the challenges and focus areas that we encounter within our organisation. When I facilitate, I work based on three topics that, from my experience, are important in organisations and are affected by our emotional intelligence.

1. How smart are you under pressure?
Factors such as complexity, pace of change and interruptions put our brains and nervous systems under pressure and often leave us in a mental fight-or-flight state. In a state like that, we are not able to use our cognitive abilities optimally. Emotional intelligence is about being able to read your own mental state and using specific methods for altering it.

Just as top athletes work with mental training in order to get into “the zone” when they need to perform, EQ in the workplace is about being able to work with your own inner state. This does not mean that you always can and should be “on top”, but rather that you’re better able to understand and accommodate various mental states that we can find ourselves in, and act accordingly and appropriately.

2. Can constructive empathy improve cross-disciplinary collaboration?
In most organisations, topics like cross-disciplinary collaboration and trust take up a lot of space. Trust is a small word of just five letters, which is easy to say, but much more difficult to gain. Empathy – the ability to understand and feel the needs of others – is a fundamental element of building just that – trust and collaboration.

Empathy is an inherent ability in human beings, but depending on how we use it, it can be more or less developed. Once we understand how empathy works at a neuro-scientific level, we can also train it with simple exercises – and change the dynamic in important relationships in our workplace.

3. How can you navigate effectively through complexity?
Complexity, the pace of change and agility are terms often used these days. People talk a lot about how we should organise and lead according to these topics, but we should also keep an eye on the personal element. What does it require of the leader’s inner capacity to be able to feel at ease in this environment?

In order to navigate effectively through complexity, for example, leaders are expected to be able to see new patterns and use their intuition, but also to challenge fundamental assumptions and conventional thinking. A successful leader has the mental calmness to pause their autopilot and enter into a space of curiosity when the situation calls for it. It’s about having a high degree of self-insight and impulse control, and the good news is that these are EQ disciplines that can be trained.

“There’s a clear connection between how good we are at reading and understanding ourselves, and our ability to read and understand others.”

It starts with you

It may seem a bit self-centred to be working with a topic such as self-insight. However, research points to a clear connection between how good we are at reading and understanding ourselves, and our ability to read and understand others.

As a leader, you are expected to create results through others, and that means that your relational competences are a competitive advantage. Your IQ and your professional competences are prerequisites, but your ability to navigate different cultures and build good relationships makes you a leader that people want to follow.

It doesn’t happen by itself

When I facilitate discussions about EQ, I usually compare it to physical training. You need fundamental knowledge about anatomy and training methods, but you won’t get in good shape just because you know it.

The good news about EQ is that there are simple and specific methods that you can use to train. Research suggests that if you train for ten minutes a day for eight weeks, you will start to see concrete results, with regard to both your own perception and well-being, and to measurable changes in the functions of your brain.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. The question is whether it would be a good investment for you to spend ten of those minutes on strengthening your EQ and perhaps, in the process, become an even better leader.

About Joakim Eriksson

Joakim Eriksson is a consultant and facilitator at Mannaz. Joakim is one of 100 people in the world who are certified in facilitating Search Inside Yourself outside of Google. He has over 15 years of practical experience as a leader – at mid-level and as a CEO. As a consultant, he has many years’ experience in developing leaders and leadership groups, in the roles of coach, facilitator and process consultant. Joakim facilitates Search Inside Yourself – Developed at Google.