What Can You Learn from Emotions?

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Emotional intelligence has been talked about and researched for many decades. It has been attributed to 90% of a leaders success. And yet, it is still not obvious in the typical workplace. You have probably heard it described as one of those “soft” skills, implying, you can always learn that, but strategy and execution are where leadership success really is. 

Having been an executive coach and facilitator of emotional intelligence training for many years, what I have learned is that the “soft skills” are the most difficult to learn! 

In this short post I want to share what you can learn from your emotions especially if you want to excel in strategy and execution. Of course, executives and leaders need to excel in this, the mistake in thinking is that emotions have nothing to do with it.

We are hardwired to feel first and think second. And without the buffering effects of emotional intelligence (EI), it is more likely your emotions will be hijacked.  When this happens the higher center of your brain, responsible for expanded perspective and good judgment goes offline. And we have all been there when we make decision or act in ways we regret when hijacked by the stress reaction.

It may be interesting to to you that research has discovered that that when the emotions are blocked, decisions cannot be made. 

Emotions convey information and keep us aware of what is happening internally (imagine an iceberg), so we can navigate our world and not end up like the Titanic.

At a conference I was networking and talking to executives about emotional intelligence. Here is what they said, “We don’t have any of that,” and another said, “I would be afraid to find out,” and another, “If I hire you I am admitting I do not have any.”

The phrase, emotional intelligence, is confusing. I mean “emotional” usually means out of control, so how can it be intelligent?

The fact is, emotions have to be a part of of our everyday interactions. You cannot suppress some emotions and then flow freely in others. When emotions get suppressed you will end up sick and tired, because your very life force flows through your emotional makeup.

The problem with emotions is not having them, it is ignoring them, and they get stuck and show up as moods or an attitude. We already talked about being hijacked and creating big problems at work and at home.

What happened the last time your emotions hijacked you and caught you off guard?

We are wired to feel and when you turn off our emotions “at work,” this is when people disengage.

Leadership that persuades people to act, works through emotions.

Self awareness, self regulation and awareness of others are the main components of EI and these skills are not difficult to learn, but they require a decision and commitment to looking underneath the hood, so to speak, to learn more about you. And this can scare people.

Relax, the truth is the fear of looking is much worse than actually looking. We are living in the digital age and information flow has buried most people, making it difficult to focus. The accelerated pace has also turned people off from taking any “time” to learn something new.

You can easily learn about yourself by checking in periodically and noticing what you feel. Start with the basic emotions, Are you hungry, angry, lonely, sad, anxious, etc. Once you notice your emotion, you can choose to act on that right away or put this emotion in your box to be dealt with later. Then you may decide to journal about your emotions at the end of the day before you go to bed, or on the weekend and release all tension from the week.

Perhaps physical activity is how you release tension, then as long as you are intentional with your workout and acknowledge, I am releasing the emotions from the conflict at work, etc., the activity will be highly successful. Again it is in ignoring one’s emotions than problems develop.

EI is more than raw emotions, it is how you use these emotions to achieve your ultimate goals. As you become aware of your emotions you become aware of how they impact others when expressed and you can do something abut it. This is why this is one of the trait of highly successful leaders. They know how to adjust, adapt and revise their approach. And it starts with their emotions.

 Think of emotional intelligence (Ei) as the software upgrade you need to handle the irritability and pressure from distractions, the accelerated pace of change and increased demands to do more with less.

Emotional intelligence begins with self awareness.

I had an accountant client who rarely showed any emotion which was normal for her. It led to mixed reactions from colleagues who were used to people smiling and sharing stories about their pets and family. I also have clients who are effusive with emotions and constantly telling people what they are feeling. In this case, she alienated people who are drained by the constant emotional flood.

While on opposite ends of the continuum for emotional expression, what both people have in common is their lack of awareness of how they are perceived by others.  

Strengthening your emotional intelligence does not mean you become someone you are not; the accountant does not have to become effusive. She needs to develop awareness of how others perceive her and adjust in order to get her message across. Perhaps she makes a joke, “it’s all about the numbers,”  playing on her lack of emotional expression, to help warm up to the people in her workplace.

And the client who is more expressive, might make adjustments in order to be taken more seriously by those in her world. She learns to not share what she is feeling and to be more thoughtful about her passionate expression.

Learning to identify your emotions and then regulate them has a powerful impact on your impact as a leader. It is also a great confidence builder!

Do you want to learn how emotional intelligence can help you perform better as a leader and enjoy greater work life satisfaction?

Check out the offer below for 21 EI exercises that will help you (and your team) strengthen their emotional intelligence.

Where to next?

Dr. Cynthia Howard

Executive Coach  Performance Consultant  LSSBB

It takes resilience and agility to stay focused in these disruptive times. We want to help you get ahead of the challenges in this digital age with short practical tips. Go forward. Be your best

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