Throughout my career, I unfortunately have had a few toxic bosses. (Not here, though – Kelly, you’re a doll.) So, when I was promoted to Editorial Director at my previous job, I knew I wanted to be an empathetic leader with an open-door policy. Basically, I wanted to practice emotional intelligence. But what is emotional intelligence? And how can you build it? Read on for the deets.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
According to HelpGuide, emotional intelligence (aka emotional quotient or EQ) has four elements: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management. Basically you’re aware of your emotions; your emotions’ effects on the outside world, including your relationships; your communication skills; and your empathetic attitude towards others.
Emotional intelligence can be difficult to build – there are so many facets to it! – but it’s crucial in order to be a successful leader. A lack of emotional intelligence can lead to a toxic work environment; for example, a leader who takes their stress out on their employees only alienates their employees and creates a tense environment. Or, a leader may think it’s best to be stringent with their employees, therefore closing the door on open communication.
How to Be an Emotionally Intelligent Leader
Through trial and error, I learned the best ways to encourage open communication, support my writers, and maintain a level head when stress was overwhelming. Here are my top seven tips:
Examine your communication style.
Do you close your door when you’re in an office environment? Do you tend to be stoic rather than emotive? These may suggest that you’re closed off, and your employees may feel uncomfortable coming to you with questions. Consider opening that door every now and then, and check in on your employees to see if they need support.
Own your misunderstandings.
Acknowledging misunderstandings is so important for a healthy environment. It indicates that mistakes happen to everybody, and they aren’t the end of the world. Take full responsibility and apologize to your team. Create an environment where everyone supports each other.
While you shouldn’t let your emotions rule your leadership, having empathy for your employees can result in a more trusting environment. If an employee comes to you with a problem, don’t write them off and send them to HR – listen, empathize, and then offer solutions if it’s within your wheelhouse.
… but don’t let emotions rule your decision-making.
Like I said, empathy is super important, because it creates a healthy and open environment. However, emotional intelligence also means finding the balance between being empathetic and maintaining professionalism. Ultimately, you and your employees are there to achieve company goals. Remain supportive, but also create boundaries.
Understand that everyone makes mistakes occasionally.
At one of my previous jobs, everybody was on edge and afraid of making mistakes. Your response to a team member’s mistake sets the tone for the relationship and the office environment. Give people the grace of a fresh start, make mistakes into teachable moments, and assume that everyone’s intentions are good.
Seeing your boss freak out – in general or at an employee – is intimidating, and it can cause employees to wonder if that’s simply your M.O. Coming back to self-management, check your attitude at the door and investigate the root of your tantrum. If you’ve taken out your emotions on an employee, apologize and state how you’re going to change your reaction next time.
Praise the good.
Celebrate successes, both relevant to your employees and the company. Positivity is infectious, and it will up the team morale and elevate the general emotions and efforts. If you are recognized in a significant way, credit your team and acknowledge those who helped you achieve this success. Or, if your team won a sales competition, share their names in a company email. Everybody likes feeling celebrated, and it fosters a positive environment.
Being a leader is one of the most rewarding things in the world, and it’s made all the more special when you and your team work together. Do you have tips for growing your emotional intelligence? How do you celebrate your employees? Let us know in the comments!
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