By Gail Sussman Miller, Guest Columnist
Q: I’ve run a small business for about 10 years, and I see the term “emotional intelligence” popping up more and more in business publications. What is it, and how can I use it to improve my business results?
A: What if you could reduce or even avoid conflicts at work? What if you could elicit more volunteerism, cooperation and collaboration in your organization? What might happen if you could better manage your emotional reactions to incidents and respond versus react without control?
That is the power of emotional intelligence. This is a set of skills that includes control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships. Daniel Goleman, author of the classic 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, popularized this term. In the Harvard Business Review he reported on his study of emotional intelligence and its role in the success of business leaders. The good news is emotional intelligence can be learned and improved, and it has a 2 to 1 success ratio over IQ and technical skills!
You can make a difference by being response-able. In today’s business environment, your contributions are more important than ever. Leadership and responsibility are too often assumed to be in the hands of CEOs and the board rooms of organizations. Amazing things can happen when everyone in an organization becomes more response-able. That is, being able to manage your emotions and choose a response in situations instead of offering a habitual, automatic reaction.
Here are 3 steps to help you become more response-able and successful.
Step 1: Increase your consciousness. The first step is to increase your awareness of who you are, how you work best, and what stimulates or triggers reactions in you (positive and negative). If only we were born with an owner’s manual. Well, you can write your own by simply observing how you operate. To do this without criticism, act as if you are a lab technician in a white coat with a clipboard. Notice rather than ignore or try to hide your reactions. Being more present and knowing yourself better will help you spot new opportunities, find easier solutions, and increase your effectiveness in relationships with others and yourself.
Step 2: Your emotions are like a GPS. Part of being more conscious is being more mindful and aware of your emotions. Your emotions can be a signal and guide, just like the satellite tool you may use in your car to direct you to a destination. Instead of a GPS, you have a “Happy Meter” in your stomach. It’s a gauge, numbered from 1-10, with an indicator to tell you how you are feeling. Your natural state, as offered by Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, is that of joy. Let’s say that is an 8-10 on your Happy Meter. External events or internal fears, embarrassment, anger, or sadness may cause your happiness level to drop.
When you notice being less happy, it’s a signal that you are out of alignment with your values, integrity, safety, true desires or purpose. Perhaps you have agreed to do something you don’t want to do on your team, you feel fearful about taking a risk, you feel threatened by a comment from a co-worker or you are so afraid of losing your job that you hold back from offering the best solutions. You may find yourself avoiding conflicts or saying things that you later regret were said in the heat of the moment.
Step 3: Choose to be response-able and take responsibility. Notice your emotions and listen to these signals. Take a few deep breaths to get re-centered and to process what has happened. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Maybe you need to renegotiate a commitment, avoid something perceived as dangerous or ask for help. Access your self-control or self-management. You can actually choose what to think, feel, say and do. That is being response-able.
See if you can remember an incident at work where you had a conflict that created a strong negative feeling. Think back to elements of the event where you may have blamed your boss, co-workers or the economy, or you made a mistake in judgment on timing or direction. Notice where you made assumptions or criticized other people. Look at how you contributed to the situation, even if it was out of your control. What could you have done differently? This will help you to take responsibility for your actions and to play a positive role in finding solutions.
In summary: Live and act more consciously and mindfully at work and in all your relationships. Notice your reactions and emotions, your assumptions and your judgments about others and yourself. Take a moment to sort out your thoughts and feelings, take responsibility for your part, accept and handle the consequences, and then choose a response. This will develop your leadership skills, help you to spot new opportunities, work more collaboratively with others, reduce conflict and help you arrive at better solutions and strengthen relationships.
Remember that boosting your emotional intelligence and being response-able has a 2 to 1 success factor over IQ and technical skills. You have the power to make a difference today. I hope you’ll rise to the challenge.
Gail Sussman Miller founded Inspired Choice to help executives in career transition, women solopreneurs and others increase business success. She offers a free e-book on emotional intelligence here.