When making a list of the key qualities a manager should bring to their work, emotional intelligence (or EQ) is sometimes forgotten. Yet emotional intelligence, or the ability to recognize the impact one’s behavior has on others, is a key ingredient in management success.
A person who is skilled in the use of emotional intelligence can:
- Effectively regulate their emotions in difficult situations or challenging conversations
- Maintain self-awareness during interactions with others
- Identify and sympathize with what others may be experiencing or feeling
A strong EQ increases our capacity for empathy and removes barriers to understanding.
Emotional intelligence comes more naturally to some people than others. However, EQ is a learned skill, and anyone who is willing can improve their abilities. To increase your EQ:
- Learn about people from other cultures and value systems, including those from generations other than your own. Consider how differing experiences may impact a person’s view of the world and how they communicate with others.
- Step outside your comfort zone by learning a new skill or taking on a big challenge. Keep in mind that we learn more from mistakes than we do from successes. It’s okay to not be perfect.
- Ask your family, friends, and workplace peers for feedback regarding your active listening and relationship skills. Identify areas where you could improve your ability to express yourself to others.
- Examine how your biases impact your capacity to empathize with others, especially those with differing backgrounds or levels of experience. Be sensitive to unconscious biases related to race, gender, or cultural background.
- When you are spending time with people of differing viewpoints, listen and look for common ground. When necessary, practice the art of “agreeing to disagree.”
- Read a book that diverges from your usual genre, watch a movie that is outside your comfort zone, or switch to a different newspaper or news website for a few weeks. Experiencing a wider variety of media may broaden your perspective.
Strengthening EQ has benefits for managers beyond their own personal growth. To apply these skills to your role as a manager:
- Connect with each of your direct reports. Learn about their work background and experience (avoid prying into their personal lives). Spend time learning about what they do and, if possible, occasionally “walk in their shoes” by assisting with tasks or talking through problems.
- Become a better listener. Listening is the best way to learn what a person is thinking or feeling. Start by asking open-ended questions and focusing on the person’s responses. In face-to-face conversations, pay attention to the other person’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Keep in mind that non-verbal communication is key to deciphering a person’s true feelings in a given situation.
- Practice compassion. Your team is made up of human beings who encounter the same stresses and personal challenges that you do. When a team member is struggling with a personal situation, it’s important to express your support. Remind the person about helpful organizational resources and let them know that you care about their wellbeing.
- Be mindful of your own behavior. Set an example for your team to emulate. If you make a mistake, own it.
Emotional intelligence is a key asset in creating a healthy, respectful workplace. A manager who communicates effectively and who expresses appreciation well may find it easier to maintain individual and team morale. In addition, employees who feel both emotionally safe and valued for their contributions are more likely to bring their best selves to their work.