Leaders Set The Tone

Experience, drive and intellect are important skills for leading successfully in today’s business world, but they’re not enough.

Successful leaders need to be able to inspire, motivate and communicate that they care about their people. They need to deal effectively not only with their own emotions but with the emotions of those around them.

The workplace today is increasingly full of challenge and stress. We are all being asked to do more with less. One of the greatest challenges leaders face is dealing with stress.

How a leader responds to stress can be contagious. Leaders who openly display anger, fear, resentment and anxiety under stress can be toxic to their people and the business. Allowed to continue unchecked, this kind of behavior can have a devastating impact on an organization. Loose cannons sink ships and human talent can be driven away.

How we deal with stress, challenge and conflict has roots deep in human evolution. The problem: In times of great stress or crisis, our limbic brains literally take over the rest of the brain. In the emotional intelligence arena, this is referred to as an “amygdala hijack,” meaning the reptilian part of the brain (the amygdala) has taken over for the more advanced, cognitive part of the brain.

The amygdala is the part of the brain largely responsible for our freeze, fight or flight response; in other words, our caveman defense system. We have millions of years of evolution hard-wired into our brains to protect us from those nasty sabertooths and other predators. While sabertooths no longer exist, sometimes it can seem as if your boss or co-worker is out to get you. This is when the lizard part of your brain kicks in so effectively and totally with its highly protective response. But as Martha Beck (Oprah’s O Magazine life coach) says, Do you really want to be taking advice from a lizard?

She makes a great point. When we lose control of our emotions and allow ourselves to be swept away by anger, fear or anxiety, it’s usually the lizard in you that is running the show.

How to get the lizard in you under control:

  • Self-awareness: Develop your ability to see or feel yourself getting “hooked” or hijacked. Getting hooked means someone has pushed your emotional button (or grabbed your lizard). Most of us know our buttons. If you don’t, make it your mission to know so you can see them coming.

Many of our triggers stem from early childhood experiences. For example, if you grew up with a father with very high expectations, you may overreact to criticism from a co-worker or boss. Similarly, if you were the middle child (and didn’t get the attention you craved), you may “react” when members of your workplace team don’t listen to your ideas or pay enough attention to you.

The key is recognizing your triggers so you can make a choice to behave differently. You do have a choice about how you react. Practice tracking and identifying your emotional triggers. Pay attention to the child (and lizard) within you to develop insight about when an “amygdala hijack” may be imminent (Hint: the hair standing up on the back of your neck or breaking into a cold sweat are clues). There are tools and instruments available to help you identify your typical response to stress and challenge and learn new strategies.

  • Self-regulation: Develop self-soothing or coping strategies to rely on when you know you are hooked. For some a walk around the block or taking deep breaths will work. Others use daily exercise or meditation to help them remain calm. The key is finding what works for you, and remembering to use it when you find yourself headed for trouble.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Great Bosses Have High Emotional Intelligence

Today’s leaders require more than experience, business savvy, IQ and technical skills to be successful. Self- awareness, self-regulation, adaptability and the ability to relate well with others are all qualities that make up emotional intelligence, or EQ — an important skill set to master for anyone interested in leadership development.

Daniel Goleman, popular author on EQ, says that “as a leader moves up in an organization, up to 90 percent of their success lies in emotional intelligence.”

If you work for a high-EQ leader, you have a wonderful example to learn from (and likely you are a highly satisfied worker). Emotionally intelligent leaders get more out of their people (yes, this is bottom-line stuff!) They help us see and develop our “greatness” and potential. So what do emotionally intelligent leaders look like?

The profile:

  • Self-aware. They understand their emotional patterns and response tendencies when interacting with others. They know themselves well (their emotional hooks and triggers) and are capable of consciously observing themselves in the middle of high stress or challenge. This enables them to make positive behavioral choices versus typical knee-jerk reactions that may hinder relationship goals. They understand how their emotions and reactions translate to others (smiles, confidence and positive energy are contagious) and are able to adjust their reactions accordingly and appropriately.
  • Adaptive and “tuned in” to their people. The most effective leaders are resilient, with a wide tolerance for different personalities. They adapt their management style to the situation and people involved. They aren’t self-absorbed; on the contrary, they are empathetic. They pay attention to the non-verbal “cues” and “moods” of their people. For example, they recognize when their team has reached its capacity to effectively absorb any more and respond by setting a slower pace.
  • Know how to capture our hearts and emotions. They bring out the best in us by helping us identify our undiscovered strengths and talents. They inspire self-confidence and high performance in others. They pay attention and acknowledge what matters to their people (like work/life balance). Because they truly value their people, they communicate congruently and convey that they genuinely care.
  • Focus on the positive while staying in touch with reality. They help others see the opportunities in the muck. We want to give our best to leaders who display confidence, positive energy and faith in our abilities. A word of caution here: leaders with “rose-colored glasses” will not be trusted for long (Pollyanna was just too good to be true). While we want positive leaders, we also want them to be grounded in reality and to understand the pitfalls and challenges of the task at hand.
  • Inspire trust. They create harmonious workplaces by helping people connect with each other. They are approachable and listen well. They inspire collaboration and commitment (when feasible) with a participative management style — gaining input from their team before initiating change. They value input from others and are adaptive versus “it’s my way or the highway.”
  • Are emotionally available. They are in tune with their own emotions (informed but not ruled by their feelings). By the way, those who hide (or are unaware of) their emotions can be perceived as aloof, uncaring and out of touch. If people can’t read you, they typically create their own labels or stories about what is really going on with you. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate you are human (what you are feeling) or that you care about your people.
  • Keep their composure during a storm. They can maintain calm and self-control even during times of high stress. They self-regulate and can recover quickly from mistakes and relationship challenges. They are in charge of when and how they express their emotions and express them appropriately.

Research suggests most leaders tend to overestimate their emotional intelligence abilities. It’s lonely at the top. The more senior your position, the less likely that you are getting honest, critical feedback on your capacities in the EQ area.

One tool that can help identify how other people in the organization view your EQ is 360-degree feedback.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Don’t underestimate emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” is a core competency for leadership and success in the workplace. EQ was popularized by author Daniel Goleman, who says EQ is “one’s capacity to deal effectively with your own and others’ emotions.”

There is a strong business case for emotional intelligence. Many Fortune 500 companies take a focused approach to assessing and developing EQ in their employees. Numerous studies indicate that EQ is the most important factor in job performance and promotion, particularly leadership.

One Gallup study of more than 2 million employees found the majority of workers rated having a caring boss higher than money or benefits. Productivity and workplace satisfaction have been linked to the amount of time people feel positive emotions at work. Good moods are good for business.

Why should you care about your EQ? The most frequently cited reason behind career derailment is a lack of emotional intelligence. Professionals and leaders who frequently vent anger, are insincere, untrustworthy or let their emotions run out of control can be toxic to workplaces.

The good news: Unlike IQ, EQ can be developed and improved. The bad news: EQ is hard-wired in our neural pathways in the brain; therefore, rerouting those circuits isn’t easy. It requires (like most areas of leadership development) self-awareness, understanding how co-workers interact with you, new skills, practice and focus.

Self-regulation (how we manage ourselves under stress), trust of self and others, empathy, listening, interpersonal communication, optimism, being able to inspire and influence others, team building and self-awareness are the most frequently cited skills and competencies associated with EQ development.

So, how do you increase your EQ? You can get started by focusing on these areas:

Self-awareness: It’s the foundation for EQ. You can’t change what you are unaware of in yourself. Being able to observe yourself in the heat of the moment is the first step to making a different choice versus your typical programmed emotional reaction. Understanding how you react under stress and pressure is imperative. Ask others; become a feedback-seeking missile. EQ assessments help you gain an understanding of how you uniquely respond under stress. This awareness is critical to stopping a downward slide on the corporate ladder — or to moving up.

Develop empathy: Having empathy means being able to understand what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes, to let someone know you have heard, understood and acknowledged their experience. This requires a shift from a focus on you to them. By the way, empathy isn’t about agreeing with someone else’s perspective; it’s about understanding where they are coming from.

Be informed — not ruled — by your emotions: Notice your feelings. It is unfortunate that many people were taught as children not to experience or “own” their feelings. There is valuable information in emotions — if you can tune into that internal channel. Feelings can clue us in about the importance and meaning of an event, situation or interaction. Start tracking your feelings when stressed or challenged. Is there a pattern? Are your feelings mostly positive or negative? What “triggers” your emotions? What action did you take after experiencing the emotion? What do you want to do differently next time?

How we play with (and lead) others is key to successful leadership. One way to improve your EQ is to work with a certified coach who specializes in emotional intelligence like me!  I can help you identify areas of strength and challenge, teach you new EQ skills and provide the necessary feedback for improvement. Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com