Robert-photo-w-icon-150-4-7-10-FINAL4-150x150Leaders increasingly recognize that the competency of their people and the consistency with which they demonstrate their company’s values when serving customers can be the company’s most sustainable competitive advantage.  Nurturing the engagement of these dedicated employees compels leaders to evaluate and strengthen their emotional intelligence (EI).

A leader with high emotional intelligence demonstrates these attributes:

  • Active listening that enables the hearing of unspoken words by paying attention to tone of voice, inflection, pauses, and other cues;
  • Awareness of and ability to read nonverbal communication like body language and facial expressions;
  • Understanding and responding to the underlying emotion of a communication from an employee as much as to the stated needs of the message;
  • Ability to control and handle emotions like frustration, anger, sorrow, joy, annoyance, and others; and
  • Recognizing and reacting to the impact that his or her words and actions have on coworkers.

Exceptional employees are more aware of whether or not they are a good fit in their workplace culture and they want their leaders to be more mindful of their needs.  They expect their supervisors and leaders to be more in touch with who they are as people and to support their personal and professional goals.

Here are three ideas that can strengthen your emotional intelligence in day-to-day practice:

  1. Practice active listening. Focus on hearing the spoken and unspoken message instead of rehearsing your response.  Recognize when body language is inconsistent with the words spoken.  If you have difficulty reading the employee’s emotion, ask him or her to describe how they feel about the information they’re sharing or how things are progressing.  Summarize what you think you heard the individual say to you and ask if your summary of the message content is accurate.
  1. Show that you care. Caring is a simple thing to do, but not always conveyed or genuine in its delivery or tone.  Make the extra effort to say thank you and be consistent about it – people want to be appreciated.  Mentor employees who have earned the opportunity.  Strive for balance between the head and the heart, modulating intensity and compassion. Your people may not have the same drive to succeed or willingness to sacrifice as you do.
  1. Observe your own reactions to an employee’s message. Make sure that you react on two levels – to the facts and to the expressed emotions, needs, etc.  If you can’t interpret the emotional connection, ask until you understand it.  Pay attention to your own emotions.  Seek feedback on your reaction from trusted employees, or from a boss or mentor who can describe your impact on others.

Without emotional intelligence, a leader is severely handicapped in his or her ability to foster full engagement of employees.  Strengthen your emotional intelligence with persistent focus and practice.  Solicit and use feedback to clarify your own perceptions of your actions and behaviors.

How do you rate your level of EI?

Who in your organization can help you evaluate your EI?