I recently created a significant training module on Agile Leadership. One of the key topics in that module is “Emotional Intelligence”. I’m sure some people are wondering “How do you develop and improve emotional intelligence?” I’d like to summarize some of that here.
What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Is It Important?
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
First, here’s a definition of “emotional intelligence”:
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:“
The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and
The ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people”
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills of an effective leader. The reason that emotional intelligence is so important to leadership is that if you can’t control your own emotions; it will be difficult, if not impossible to be an effective leader.
Here’s a quote that sums up the value of emotional intelligence very well:
“We probably also know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition.“
“Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.”https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_59.htm
For More Detail
For more detail on “What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why Is It Important?”, check out this article:
What Are the Benefits of Emotional Intelligence?
Here are some of the key benefits of developing emotional intelligence:
|Increased Leadership Ability||Your leadership approach will be based on sound, rational principles rather than being dominated by emotional responses|
|Increased Team Performance||Team members will feel much more comfortable and secure in a non-threatening team environment with no hidden agendas|
|Improved Decision-making||Decisions are made more objectively and rationally|
|Decreased Occupational Stress||There will be less emotional tension involved in the work environment|
|Reduced Staff Turnover||There will be fewer emotional flare-ups|
|Increased Personal Well-being||Learning to accept yourself and gain control of your emotions can lead to a much happier life|
How Do You Acquire Emotional Intelligence?
I believe that the first and most important step is self-awareness. You have to be somewhat introspective and be able to look at yourself openly and honestly and also learn to be comfortable being open and transparent with others.
- That doesn’t come naturally to all people and requires a certain amount of self-confidence to develop. Many people have a “shell” that they operate within and that “shell” can be either thick or thin.
- There’s a concept that I learned a long time ago called the “Johari Window” that is still valid today.
The Johari Window
The Johari Window is a tool that is used to analyze someone’s level of self-awareness. It breaks up people’s self awareness into four quadrants:
|Open/Free Area||Personality attributes and characteristics that are known to yourself and to others|
|Blind Area||Personality attributes and characteristics that are known to others but not by yourself|
|Hidden Area||Personality attributes and characteristics that are known by yourself but not by others|
|Unknown Area||Personality attributes and characteristics that you are not fully aware of and others are also not aware of|
Alan Chapman has created a very nice diagram that shows the relationship of these four quadrants:
How Do You Improve Emotional Intelligence?
The following tips have been reproduced from the Mind Tools web site:
1. Observe How You React to People
“Do you rush to judgement before you know all the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in their place, and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs.”
2. Look at Your Work Environment
“Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it doesn’t mean that you’re shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine – put the focus on them, and don’t worry too much about getting praise for yourself.”
3. Do a Self-Evaluation
“What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept that you’re not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make yourself a better person? Have the courage to look at yourself honestly – it can change your life.”
4. Examine How You React to Stressful Situations
“Do you become upset every time there’s a delay or something doesn’t happen the way you want? Do you blame others or become angry at them, even when it’s not their fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued – in the business world and outside it. Keep your emotions under control when things go wrong.”
5. Take Responsibility for Your Actions
“If you hurt someone’s feelings, apologize directly – don’t ignore what you did or avoid the person. People are usually more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make things right.”
6. Examine How Your Actions Will Affect Others
“Before you take those actions. If your decision will impact others, put yourself in their place. How will they feel if you do this? Would you want that experience? If you must take the action, how can you help others deal with the effects?”
The key points are:
- People who have a high level of self-awareness and who are also open and transparent in their behavior with others:
- Have a relatively large quadrant one (Open/Free Area)
- The other quadrants are relatively small
- The objective of increasing your self-awareness, openness, and transparency is to:
- Increase the size of quadrant one (Open/Free Area)
- Relative to the size of the “Blind” and “Hidden” quadrants.
- Another objective is to more fully develop your true potential through self-discovery of skills, attributes, and characteristics in the “Unknown” area that neither you or others you interact with are fully aware of.
Self-awareness is one of the biggest components of emotional intelligence. Many people aren’t even aware of who they are as a person and don’t reveal that to others. They live their lives behind a facade that is based on projecting an image of who they are to others that may not be very genuine and others can employees can see through that easily.
Years ago, I can remember many companies made self-awareness training a key part of their management development curriculum for new managers:
- The principle behind that was that you couldn’t be very effective as a manager if you had a hidden personal agenda and
- You weren’t open and transparent in your relationships with other people
- Your employees will recognize the external veneer that you put on, see right through it, and lose respect for you
Unfortunately, over the years, many companies have cut back on that kind of training.
- It was perceived as too “touchy-feely” and when times got tough, it was one of the first things that got cut because it was not seen to have a direct contribution to company profitability.
- The relationship to company profitability may be indirect, but I think it is just as essential today for managers and even more important for people participating in Agile teams.
There are some exercises that can be done with Agile teams to develop higher levels of self awareness. For example, here’s a Johari Window self-assessment tool:
The following are related articles on the topic of “Agile Leadership”
You will find much more detail on this in my Online Agile Project Management Training.