Growing My EQ

In the last post we looked at discovering Emotional Intelligence (EQ). I recommend you go back and read that again! Today we are going to look at ways to grow our EQ.

The great leadership and management guru Peter Drucker is famous for saying "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" and we know that the cultures of great companies and organizations prove the maxim. Just think of Apple, or Southwest Airlines, or Zappos. Or, perhaps a little more niche, consider REI or Squarespace or Willow Creek. Culture is king in all these organizations. Even when a company makes a strategic mis-step, culture can help it recover: for example, most people would still prefer shopping at Target over Walmart, whatever their view on restroom policies. And culture is rooted in EQ. Having the interpersonal smarts to help ideas and people flourish will cause the culture to become more healthy, and that healthy culture will shine more brightly than any strategic plan! So to grow my EQ, I want to focus first on culture, and seek to improve it continually.

Second, I can grow my EQ through leading by example. Side thought: I understand that even bad leaders lead by example, so perhaps I should qualify that to say Leading by good example! You may have heard that the Golden Rule (treat others as you would wish to be treated) is being superseded in successful organizations by the Platinum Rule: treat others as they would wish to be treated. If I purpose to lead by example and exemplify the Platinum Rule in my organization, I will quickly fail unless I can learn to honestly seek input from those around me. Whether supervisors, peers, or subordinates, I can only treat them the way they wish to be treated if I invest time and energy finding out what that looks like for them! It is easier to do for others what I would like done, than it is to figure out what THEY want or need!

Let's get practical with the four aspects of EQ. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves unpack each area in their book  Emotional Intelligence 2.0. They list strategies in each area and invite the reader to select two or three to work on.

For self-awareness there are suggestions like "observe the ripple effect of your emotions" or "stop and ask yourself WHY you do the things you do" and "seek feedback". Some of us would benefit from insights gained in this area because our self-awareness is the least developed area of our Emotional Intelligence.

In the area of self-management the authors have equally practical, yet challenging suggestions: "clean up your sleep hygiene" (that includes regular sleep times and no electronics or high-demand mental activities before sleeping). Other ideas include "take control of your self-talk" and "speak to someone who is NOT emotionally invested in your problem". You can see that each of the 15 -20 strategies in each category would require significant investment of effort for a person who is weak in that area. That's why Bradberry and Greaves recommend taking just two or three strategies to work on at a time, and then review in a month to see what progress you have made.

The third area is social awareness, and here the strategies are mostly focused on others: "step into their shoes", "catch the mood of the room" or "greet people by name". Thankfully each strategy in the book comes with practical guidance on how to apply each challenge to grow your EQ!

The final quadrant of emotional intelligence is relationship management. Here we apply the principles to the crucial area of making relationships work better. Some of the strategies recommended sound almost impossible: "explain your decisions, don't just make them" or "take feedback well" might be a harder challenge than some of us would wish to accept! How about "only get mad on purpose" or "tackle a tough conversation"?!

Each of these strategies (and there are many more in the book) will build EQ muscles. It may be just as painful and embarrassing as going to the gym for the first time, but the rewards in relational health and the ability to help others thrive and grow, are worth the effort.

I'm committed to growing my EQ, how about you?