When making their mark on the business world, many leaders reveal their secret: a high IQ burnished with a great education. What these folks may not appreciate or fully understand is that most successful professionals thrive in their respective fields due to their EQ — not IQ.
EQ (or emotional intelligence) is the heightened awareness of others’ emotions, including your own. This vital trait goes beyond leaders trying to gauge an employee’s mood — it allows leaders to carefully examine business situations and approach them appropriately. Assessing the emotional element of a situation, whether positive or negative, will help you keep employees engaged and enable you to better understand their mindset and behavior.
It is also a powerful tool that pushes leaders to get things done. Over the years, I have seen the positive effects of EQ when working alongside leaders in companies large and small. Their ability to read employees’ emotional state, reactions, and stress levels helps these men and women manage their teams with a strategy and approach that is both thoughtful and compassionate, but also direct and with trackable outcomes.
From my experience, I want to share a few valuable traits that leaders with high EQs have, in addition to some actionable tactics to help you lead with more emotional intelligence.
1. Reading employees’ emotional strengths and weaknesses.
The value of having a high IQ has greatly diminished as a result of unlimited real time information available on the internet. However, you cannot find your employees’ emotional strengths and weaknesses via a quick Google search. Emotional insights are not something that the internet readily provides.
The next time you and your team have an informal or strategic meeting, carefully analyze who interacts with others and who stays quiet. Who takes initiative and who must be directed? Yes, some people are naturally shyer than others, but often those employees who are disconnected have a dissatisfaction with their job and could be on their way out. Some proactively consider the needs of their clients or go above and beyond what is minimally required. Others do the bare minimum, demonstrating zero drive. Having the skill to be able to identify this activity only strengthens a leader’s perspective, not to mention helping them to individually coach employees needing help, or ultimately weeding out those silently dissenting employees.
2. Knowing your own emotional strengths and weaknesses.
When advising Peter, the CEO of a large international company in Phoenix, I observed him interacting with his employees in a group meeting. While he thought the meeting was casual and comfortable, it was anything but. His approach was so aggressive, critical, and intimidating that his employees hardly spoke, and when they did, they only talked about what they thought “the boss wanted to hear.” After quite a bit of this, I couldn’t take it anymore and introduced myself, told them I was working with Peter and we were here in this meeting to learn more about their views and opinions about how things were going in the company. I asked them to go around the room, say their name, what job they had and to offer two examples of what was working and two examples of things not working. Within a few minutes, we had an extremely interesting, thoughtful and engaging conversation — and Pete and I learned a lot. On the way back to his office, Pete asked me “how did you do this” to which I answered, “you were there in the room with me.” Clearly, Pete was not comfortable in this type of situation where he did not need to be the CEO, but rather as someone who could provoke a conversation, listen and engage.
On a regular basis, it is critical for leaders to carefully analyze their behavior and understand how they are viewed by employees. From this analysis, look closely at what you do well and where you need to improve. This objective assessment of your own EQ will enable you as a leader to tap into known strengths and unearth hidden weaknesses for further development.
The ability to interact with others is essential to the long term success of your company. No wonder why there are so few introverts who run Fortune 500 companies — leaders need to be able to effectively communicate, collaborate, and step out of their emotional comfort zone.
I recently discovered a perfect example of EQ in an unlikely spot. We have a new mail delivery person in my apartment building in NYC who decided to send an introductory letter to all the tenants in the building. Notice how he focuses on relationships and communication with those on his new route.
To All Tenants of xxxx:
My name is Anthony and I will be your new letter carrier. Some of you have seen me on the route before. With time, I will get to know each and every one of you. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to leave a note in your mailbox and I will try as best as best as I can to address them.
Your letter carrier, Anthony
No letter carrier does this and I am still in awe of him for taking the initiative. As you can see from Anthony’s letter, he is appealing to the emotional aspects of the constituents of his new route. Why? He is clearly taking his job seriously and wants his customers to feel comfortable and supported. If the leaders of the US Postal Service took a lesson from Anthony, they would be in much better shape. If Anthony the letter carrier can exhibit EQ, so can you. As a leader, you need to step out of your office and have real, human, conversations with your team. By understanding their morale and engagement in their work, you are able to not only motivate them but improve overall performance.
In order to be a leader, you must utilize both your intelligence (IQ) and your emotional intelligence (EQ). With your emotional intelligence — really focus on being ultra-perceptive of situations, employees’ attitudes, and their own approach to interaction. By keeping these three concepts in mind every day in the trenches, your reward is an unobstructed perspective of your company that can lead to productivity, strength, and longevity.