I gave an interview last night and as soon as the subject of success came up I jumped in with my favorite bit of advice: work on your emotional intelligence skills to increase your chances for success.
“There is a high correlation between high performance and emotional intelligence. Plus people just like working with people who know how to work with people.”
“How can being happy or sad make us better leaders?”
And there we come back to the misunderstanding most people find themselves in when they think about how to build their emotional intelligence (EQ): an assumption that emotional intelligence means the ability to express emotions. Here’s my best advice to orient your thinking around EQ – don’t think of emotions as the labels we give children for their feelings, think of the word “feelings” and then explore the many non happy/sad feelings you have every day.
Fill in this blank, I feel ___________
- high energy/low energy
Our feelings have many layers of subtlety and our language gives us the tools to explore them if we simply look. The problem is that too often we don’t look. We don’t believe our feelings are important and so we don’t challenge ourselves to find the label that fits our exact experience, and explore it. This is challenge number one in developing EQ, and it’s compounded when we don’t develop the ability to sense these levels of subtlety in others. How does our inability to understand and manage these subtleties hurt us in pursuing success? Here are a few examples.
- We ignore our discomfort when giving a presentation but the audience likes the next presenter better because they’re just more energetic
- We push through a meeting with a distracted colleague (who we don’t notice is distracted) and end up frustrated when we have to have the discussion all over again two days later when they don’t follow through
- In our enthusiasm for a topic, we talk over a colleague who is upset about something someone else said and generate tension in the meeting, which people hold us accountable for
Paying attention to these subtle signals can give us the edge in managing ourselves and others for success. At the end of the day most people can’t (or won’t) tell you about all the little things you do and don’t do that make you successful (or not). It’s just a feeling.