In my other life as an Executive Coach, I’ve recently been working with a number of senior women. In our conversations we’ve covered a range of situations that fundamentally come down to them perceiving more senior managers displaying a distinct lack of emotional intelligence.
As I listen to the women describe those they’re endeavouring to influence, I suspect there’s a need for increased emotional intelligence on both sides – but different aspects of it.
Emotional Intelligence (EI), as you may be aware, is made up of four broad competencies:
Self-awareness: the ability to recognise and understand one’s emotions as they happen
Self-management – the ability to manage the reactions and behaviours which arise from our emotions
Social awareness – the ability to observe and understand the emotions of others
Relationship management – the ability to apply all the other EI competencies to build and maintain positive relationships.
The characters I’ve heard the women describe would seem to be lacking a healthy dose of self-awareness (quite apart from anything else). They are:
The Filibuster – who seems so enamoured with their own views and voice there is barely a pause in the conversation to interject, let alone share a different view point in the depth necessary to make a cogent argument;
The Brainiac – the one who feels compelled to be seen as the smartest person in the room and thus is oblivious to how their behaviour impedes the ability of others in their team to do their job or the cues that inevitably get taken from it by those in more junior positions;
The Teflon man/woman – who does the projects most likely to garner them recognition from those that matter, but fails to support (by way of clear expectations or availability or holding the necessary people to account) those who are doing work they consider to be of lesser importance from a ‘visibility’ stand point.
While the leaders themselves clearly have work to do, the women I’ve been working with have an opportunity to work on their EI too. Influencing others at work or elsewhere means we have to work on our own awareness first. We simply cannot make the kinds of contributions we’re capable of, if we can’t effectively influence others. As some bright spark recently quipped – ‘leadership is about being ethically manipulative’ – which of course requires effectively utilised EI.
And while we can bemoan the fact that this isn’t fair, and that the more senior people are, the more we should be able to expect from them, the reality is ‘it is what it is’ and the only person we can ultimately change is our self.
Having the self-awareness to understand our role in perpetuating the dynamic that exists in these kinds of relationships, the social awareness to understand the drivers of the other parties, and the self-management and relationship management skills to adjust our behaviour to get the best out of ourselves and others takes both insight and conscious effort.
The problem is there’s a widespread societal assumption that we should all have well-honed emotional intelligence as a matter of course, and worse, that not doing so, indicates some embarrassing deficiency.
The reality is that while the scaffolding for emotional intelligence is hard-wired, developing this as a truly useful life-skill takes continual and conscious honing.
EI is not a skill taught at school and can not be picked up on a two-day workshop. It’s also not a finite competency where we can ultimately say we’ve got that nailed! It is like understanding our gifts and putting them to use, as part of our life’s work.
My observation is that most of us excel in one or two areas of emotional intelligence but still have work to do in the others. For example, I’ve worked to hone my social awareness and relationship management skills but my self-management, especially when apply it to my own self-care, still needs some serious attention.
So if you’re committed to honing your emotional intelligence in whatever capacity you may wish to, check out this book summary on developing emotional intelligence.
Any glimpses of recognition about yourself or others you’ve had as you’ve read this article?