Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Value of Being Emotionally Bright

Do the smartest people make the best managers and leaders, or even teachers?

I used to think so, but that was before I hit the teenage years, when I had a full head of hair and was still trying to figure out the world through what my parents said – and what they didn’t say.

The problem with many smart people is that they like to show you how smart they are and treat their points of view as “the word,” without giving one drop of consideration to the views of others. I used to fall into that trap, even though I’ve never considered myself a candidate for Mensa. I think back about those moments and cringe in shame.

So, I was pleased when I read about a recent CareerBuilder survey that said more employers value “emotional intelligence” in an employee or prospective employee over raw intelligence. And now that I’m in a leadership position, I see it as well.

Emotional intelligence, or EI, is a general sense of how one can control his or her emotions, sense, understand, and react to the emotions of others, and manage relationships. Do that well, especially in a management or leadership role, and you make the workplace run better. Do it poorly, and you can make others miserable enough to want to work elsewhere. I’ve worked with people who had the EI of Mister Rogers, and others who had the EI of Hannibal Lecter. I’ve been in the presence of people of average intelligence who were good leaders because they got the best out of others, in large part because they made the extra effort to understand them. And I’ve seen brilliant people who made terrible leaders.

In each case, I’ll go out on a very short limb here and say the former is better.

What makes someone with a high sense of EI a more desirable employee? The CareerBuilder survey uncovered the following:

• They’re more likely to stay calm under pressure.
• They know how to resolve conflict effectively.
• They’re more empathetic to their team members and react accordingly.
• They lead by example.
• They admit their mistakes and learn from them.
• They take criticism well.
• They can have thoughtful discussions on issues without involving their emotions.

The key qualities that typify someone with a high EI are humility and the ability to listen, both of which can be honed if you consciously practice them. You not only need to be visible and available, you need to be courageous to admit it when you don’t have an answer and depend on team members who might. You also need to understand that the most important part of communication is not talking, but listening. Some team members just need to ask for your expertise; others feel the need to have someone to vent frustration and feel better. You should be prepared to do both – willingly and genuinely.

1 comment:

  1. Rick, I'm just finishing up reading the book "Emotional Intelligence 2.0"; it's worth checking out for people who are interested in the topic.