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Emotionally Literate Management


Clive Lewis, MD of illumine, highlights why emotional intelligence sits at the heart of the business agenda.

If you are wondering how you and your team can deliver big results in business then the answer might lie in your performance in the area of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Larry Bossidy is one of today’s rising stars on the subject of delivery and in his book ‘Execution’ he talks about two particular qualities that leaders need to master and that speak directly to the EQ debate. The first is ‘robust dialogue’ which, he suggests, brings reality to the surface and makes an organisation effective in gathering and understanding information and reshaping it to produce the best decisions.

The second quality he pinpoints is ‘emotional fortitude’ which he defines as that ability to be honest with yourself, deal honestly with business realities and give people forthright assessments. In essence Bossidy suggests that it takes emotional fortitude to be open to information which may be uncomfortable to hear but which, nevertheless, leaders need to confront.

The way I look at it, both of these qualities sit squarely at the heart of EQ. The first is all about how you develop big enough relationships which allow people to bring their best to work - because it is only when people feel able to talk freely that they will come up with new ideas, powerful questions and critical thinking.

Emotional fortitude is then about managers and leaders being able to bear this diversity. And be careful here, accepting different viewpoints from your own and encouraging challenges to group norms and established cultures is a significant test of leadership courage.

However, the pressure for emotionally literate managers and leaders is not only coming from business – it’s also coming from your employees.

Another powerful force that is pushing EQ to the top of the corporate agenda is the recognition that followers want authenticity and integrity from their leaders. You probably know for yourself that you won’t bring your full enthusiasm or energy to a task or project just because you are told to do so. But you are much more likely to do so if you know it matters to your leader. So in this context leaders are being asked to get in touch with their values, with their passion and with their ability to engage others in their endeavours.

However, while this all sounds very positive and desirable not all emotions are easy to deal with and there are consequences for those managers and leaders who want to develop their EQ.

First, leaders will have to have to master their own emotions, and the first step for those who want to make this change is to self-assess. The simple way to achieve this is to ask for feedback from your partner, from your colleagues or from your direct reports on how well you listen, how powerfully you engage and how easily you handle times when feelings are high. You may also want to consider the breadth and depth of your relationships and particularly your ability to step into someone else’s shoes and see what their experience is like.

Through such assessment you will undoubtedly find some areas in which you are strong and others in which you need to work and then it’s a question of choosing a way of developing yourself that suits you.

Executive coaching is clearly one way of developing your emotional intelligence. But not all coaches are adepts in this area. If you like the sound of one-to-one development then find a coach who has a track record in this area. Even more important than this there is then the question of how to develop an emotionally intelligent team.

An emotionally intelligent team needs all the self-awareness and self-management skills of the individual plus more. And this ‘more’ includes being inclusive and working collaboratively, staying open to new opportunities and being adaptable to change. More than this, the people within the team also need to know what they stand for together, need to be able to challenge one another constructively and recognise that it is not their individual excellence but rather the support that they give one another that makes the greatest contribution to a great result.

This is rather different territory for business from the traditional hierarchical model and it may require team training, group coaching or professional facilitation to achieve the desired emotionally intelligent team culture. But with studies showing that teams with high levels of EQ outperformed teams with low levels of EQ by a margin of two this is a culture that few leaders or organisations can afford to ignore.

A six-step process for developing your emotional intelligence:

  • Know what you feel.

  • Know why you feel it.

  • Acknowledge the emotion and know how to manage it.

  • Know how to motivate yourself and make yourself feel better.

  • Recognise the emotions of other people and develop empathy.

  • Express your feelings appropriately and manage relationships.

  • Trusting the emotions:
    “Emotions have long been considered to be of such depth and power that in Latin, for example, they were described as moutus anima, meaning literally ‘the spirit that moves us’. Contrary to most conventional thinking, emotions are inherently neither positive nor negative; rather they serve as the single most powerful source of human energy, authenticity and drive that can offer us a wellspring of intuitive wisdom. In fact, feelings provide us with vital and potentially profitable information every minute of the day. This feedback from the heart, and not the head, is what ignites creative genius, keeps you honest with yourself, shapes trusting relationships, provides an inner compass for your life and career, guides you to unexpected possibilities, and may even save you or your organization from disaster.”
    Robert Cooper, co-author of Executive EQ.


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