Seven Ways To Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence

In a world where one’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is perceived as the gateway to success, there is a tendency to neglect “emotions” and consider “Emotional Intelligence (EI)” as a roadblock to success. However, latest research has proven EI as a greater predictor of success than IQ.

So, what is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. This involves the following, as shared by Daniel Goleman in his Emoticons_postlandmark book “Emotional
Intelligence”:

  • Knowing one’s own emotions (self awareness)
  • Managing one’s emotions (self regulation)
  • Handling relationships (social skills)
  • Recognizing emotions in others (empathy) and
  • Motivating oneself (motivation)

Mayer & Salovey, while defining EI, speak of it as also “using emotions to facilitate thought”( I love this phrase!). EI without “facilitating thought” is useless. Facilitating thought among emotions drives results!

Having given this short introduction to Emotional Intelligence, here are seven ways that I believe could help you become more Emotionally Intelligent!

Seven Ways to Enhance your Emotional Intelligence

1. Journaling

Spending time to write down your thoughts in a Journal on a regular basis, even for a short time, would help you. The act of putting pen or pencil on paper moves thoughts to words and helps you make your thoughts more concrete. This is a great reflection process that helps you learn more about your emotions, reactions to situations and how you see the world.

A special type of journaling involves maintaining a “Gratitude Journal” where you can write down “Three Gratitudes” (three things that you are grateful for) every night or morning. This increases the positive emotions in you and helps you see the world with a better perspective.

Another type of journal is a “Feeling Journal” which could involve logging your feelings – how you are feeling at morning, afternoon, evening and night. You can jot down your feeling as well as the time of the day and circumstances to log your feelings and review them later. You would be surprised at the trends that may come up showing when, where and how your emotions were altered.

2. Being More Mindful

The rush and pressure that drives us today gives us very few chances to be mindful. You may find it difficult to stay connected to the present while you are bombarded with messages from around the world through the omnipresent mobile phone. In all this rush, can you slow down for a moment, a minute and look at the world through a new lens?

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity. You can become more mindful by simple activities such as:

  • Focusing more on the present – being aware of what you are doing, the people that you are speaking with, the food that you are eating, slowing down to smell the roses, driving your vehicle, etc.
  • Meditating for five to ten minutes – just closing your eyes and watching your breath for five to ten minutes every day could make you a lot more mindful over a period of two to three months
  • Finding ‘Me time’ – this is your time – a time when you are alone and do nothing or a favorite activity that totally immerses you in it without external pressures. Introverts need this time to recharge and extroverts need it even more because they don’t usually realize that they need this time!
  • Focusing more on the positive – by using positive words, thinking positive thoughts and seeing the good in everything & everyone around

3. Listening more

To recognize emotions in others and to handle relationships well, listening is critical.

When listening, you have to listen without judgement. Don’t bother about what your reply should be or what was wrong with the other person’s thoughts. Just listen.

Also, when listening, watch out for changes in facial expressions and body language – these can speak volumes more than the words that the other person is speaking. Especially when in conflict, use that as an opportunity to learn and reflect instead of just getting even with the other party.

4. Asking for more feedback

While listening is good, it is also important to elicit feedback from others on yourself, your emotions and how you come across to others. And when receiving feedback, listen without defending yourself and if the feedback is genuine, work on it with gusto. You can check out this simple process that I have shared for eliciting feedback from your team or stakeholders, if you are searching for ideas.

5. Listening to your body

Do you know that your body speaks to you (although not in as many words!)? The aches that you feel, the weariness of your eyes, the yearning for sleep – all of these are words from your body.

We don’t listen to our body – we push it, stretch it, ignore it till it protests and stops with a loud grunt. The more we listen to our body and adapt ourselves; we become more aware and effective.

6. Being Responsible

Taking responsibility for your words, actions and decisions makes you more emotionally strong and gets you more respect from those whom you lead or work with. Instead of assuming that “we feel…” something, take responsibility and switch to “I feel…” Passing blame on to others doesn’t get you anywhere and only reduces your credibility.

7. Finding a Coach

The inner journey of becoming more emotionally intelligent may be difficult, if travelling alone, for some of us. Finding a good coach or mentor who can work with you on your journey can make the process easier and more effective. As a coach and as someone who has been coached, I can attest the effectiveness of the coaching process (if you need help in finding a coach, contact me – I can help you!) and believe that all of us would need coaches at some stages / crossroads in our life.

These aren’t the only seven ways to enhance your Emotional Intelligence. I am sure that you know more! Why don’t you share the ways that you use in the comments below?

Five Lessons on Leadership from Rocket Scientists!

A year ago or so, I had the opportunity to visit the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota as part of a cross functional team from work. I have always been fascinated by space and wanted to learn as to how all of this was done.

I thought that I would learn a lot about how things are done there. However, I learnt a lot more about leadership! Here are five lessons on leadership that I learnt from the Rocket Scientists.

PSLV C25 Lifting into space

Lesson One:  Face Uncertainty

There are so many things that can go wrong when sending a rocket to space. And small mistakes can be costly and cause a lot of embarrassment. There is a lot of pressure to ensure the success of the mission. They face all of this uncertainty and pressure by creating back-up options for all processes and systems. If one fails, the other takes over!

Do we plan ahead and create adequate back-up people, processes and resources? Are we and our teams ready to face uncertainty?

Lesson Two: Mastery does Matter!

The engineers that we met had gone through a lot of training – both in the class room and on the job to become experts in their areas of focus. Besides having stellar educational records, they also had the passion and enthusiasm for the subject. You could see a spark in their eyes and it definitely did rub off on all of us! It was quite obvious that they had paid the price to get to this level of Mastery. They had spent time, energy and efforts to master their subject.

I was wondering as to how many of us take time to master our area of work! Do we spend time, money and effort to be truly called ‘Masters’ of our work?

Do check out the post that I wrote on Mastery here to read and think more about this!

Lesson Three:  Check It, List It, Do It!

There were checklists and project plans every where! And they had to be rigorously followed. After reading Dr. Atul Gawande’s ‘The Checklist Manifesto‘, I had already bought into the concept of checklists. So, it was an opportunity for me to validate what I learnt on checklists and project plans. Their plans were detailed and had check points during which different teams would coordinate with each other to ensure that they were not building train tracks in the opposite direction.

This lesson is really important for any leader. While we focus on reaching our milestones, we often forget to work with others who may have direct or indirect influence on us reaching our milestones.

For a moment, let us forget about project plans or checklists – do we at least have a prioritized, ‘living’ To-Do list written or typed down some where?

Lesson Four: A Mission Inspires!

The people that we met there were not motivated just by money. They could be, in fact, earning lesser than many in the Information Technology industry in India. All of them sparkled with enthusiasm for their mission and goals. They were proud to be a part of the organization and seemed to know that their role was important in achieving the goals of the organization.

Do we have a higher mission / purpose / goal in life? How about work? How about our teams? Can we inspire our teams to greater levels of contribution and performance through a higher mission / purpose / goal?

Lesson Five: Launch Before Launching

Every move and activity, except the actual launch, is tested and rehearsed repeatedly. While it may seem monotonous, it has been useful for them to identify problems and resolve them in a proactive manner. You can check out pictures of such ‘rehearsals’ where they rehearse the entire launch process here.

Instead of jumping into the fire, isn’t this a great approach? Like Tom Peters says, can we do ‘mini-projects’ or ‘mini-tests’ to validate our assumptions on a course of action? Would it not make us more innovative and successful?

 

Even with all of this in place, some launches do fail – but, there are a lot of success stories including the recent successful launch of PSLV-C25 as part of India’s Mars Mission. I hope we can take a lesson or two (or five?) from these rocket scientists to help us become better leaders!

What are your thoughts on this? Do any other ideas spark in your mind? Feel free to share in the comments!

Seven Ways to Lead During Challenging Times

It is easy to be a leader during good times – you just have to manage to not mess up anything and may be, things would go on well. However, challenging times are another story!

We discussed this topic during the October 2013 meeting of the “Chennai Leadership and Coaching” Meetup group that I organize. This blog post is a short summary of my thoughts on our discussion.

Challenge
Photo by Anthea Brown shared via Flickr through a Creative Commons License

What could cause challenges for leaders?

Here are some reasons that could cause a challenging time for leaders like you and me:

  • Personal Issues
  • People Issues – within their team, with other teams, with their boss or peers etc.
  • Achieving or not achieving results
  • Environmental changes – in the industry, country and world, in general

While these are indeed challenges, there are ways to overcome or minimize these challenges to become a winning leader. So, here we go with the Seven Ways to Lead During Challenging Times!

Seven Ways to Lead During Challenging Times

1. Re-frame – Different words bring out different feelings and reactions within our brain. So, don’t think of your ‘Challenge’ as a ‘Problem’. When you frame it as a ‘Problem’, it evokes negative reactions that hinder solutions. Frame it as a ‘Challenge’ and it would be easier for you to march ahead and overcome it!

2. Slow Down – The usual instinct is to work harder and longer to get through a challenging time. However, hard work alone may not help you face challenges. Slowing down, reviewing what you are doing and thinking through the challenge would help you solve many issues faster than expected.

A leader that I work with uses the phrase “let’s sleep over this for a couple of days and then take a call” when faced with a challenge that seems insurmountable. Usually, within a couple of days, there is more clarity and the challenge begins to seem manageable!

3. Prepare – The best time to prepare for a challenging time is before we face the challenge. During good times, instead of being complacent, we should plan ahead and get knowledge, skills & experience that would help us lead during not so good times!

A good way to ensure that we prepare ourselves is to allocate ‘Quadrant Two Time‘ – time for planning, preparing, building relationships and innovating. These activities help us go outside our box and be ready for a future that is not so clear.

4. The Pareto Principle – Challenges may muddle up our minds. There may be too many things to do! Use the Pareto Principle – focus on 20% of the activities that can produce 80% of the results. Identify and work on these activities to achieve goals that would help you surmount challenges.

5. Long Term Vs Short Term – Leaders want to reach milestones quickly during challenging times and hence, may resort to short term thinking. While short term results are good and do bring temporary relief, it is important to remember that many organizations and individuals have ruined themselves by thinking only of the short term.

When you are taking decisions or planning, ask yourself “What would be the impact of my decision in three/ five / ten years?”. Asking this simple question, would lead you towards better decisions.

6. Get Help! – In today’s social and collaborative world, we are not alone. Others have had the same challenges that we are facing. You would be surprised to find all the help available, if you ask for it.

When I face challenges, I go to one or more of these helpful resources and people:

* My family, friends and mentors
* My team, peers and supervisors at work
* My extended network in Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora or Facebook (of late, Meetup is another network) and
* The Internet
* Books

These people and resources have helped me get through challenging situations. Hopefully, you have a similar network which you can tap into!

7. Assess and Evaluate – What cannot be measured, cannot be improved. Without knowing where you are and where you want to head, there is no way you can face challenges as a leader.

So, constantly measure where you are, move ahead in simple steps and celebrate small victories. Constant evaluation also stretches your mind and helps you reach goals that you once thought can never be achieved.

 

Challenges present themselves to leaders for a reason – challenges bring out the best in leaders. So, if you want to be a great leader, use these seven ways to face challenges and be a great leader!

Do you have additional thoughts to share? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!