According to surveys of companies around the world, emotional intelligence is one of the most critical job skills of the future.
Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ (for emotional quotient), is the ability to: 1) recognize your own emotions and manage them without letting them control you; and 2) understand what others are feeling and use that knowledge to work with them productively.
Essential for teamwork, leadership
The time we spend in team activities at work has increased 50% in the past 20 years. EQ helps you work more effectively with people with diverse personalities and backgrounds. That’s why surveys say 70% of managers and HR professionals value EQ more than IQ.
EQ is especially important for leaders. The biggest factor in whether employees are engaged at work is their relationship with managers. (A cautionary note for leaders: A review of a million-plus EQ scores revealed that while middle managers had the highest average EQ, the higher you go in the organization, the lower the average EQ. One reason may be these leaders spend less time building relationships with staff. At the same time, the top-performing CEOs had the highest EQ.)
Important in any job
EQ is more important in professions that rely on relationships—such as teaching, nursing, customer service or sales—and may be less critical in jobs where people work alone or are mostly task oriented—such as computer programming or accounting.
But we are all driven by our emotions. You may operate a truck alone, but you “interact” with others on the road. You’ll encounter many situations that anger you. If you’re not in control of your emotions, you’ll lose focus, endangering you and everyone around you. EQ helps you respond calmly, even if you aren’t “relating” with words.
Improving EQ with The FISH! Philosophy
EQ is an essential part of practicing The FISH! Philosophy. To Choose Your Attitude, you must be aware of the emotional reactions that lead to your attitudes. Be There means really trying to understand where the other person is coming from. Make Their Day is about finding ways to show people you appreciate them. Play works best when it elevates everyone’s spirits.
Here are three tips to boost your EQ and help you live The FISH! Philosophy:
1. Know your triggers.
When you become angry, the amygdala, the primitive part of your brain that controls emotions, takes over from the neocortex, which is responsible for higher level cognition. This “emotional hijacking” happens almost instantly. Until your neocortex regains control, you are not “thinking.” You might not even remember what you’ve said or done.
That’s why it’s important to think ahead: What triggers your anger, especially when you are under stress? How do you react when something doesn’t go your way? When are you quick to blame others? When do you judge before you have all the facts?
Once you know your triggers, you can plan how to respond when they happen. When you feel your anger rising, don’t say anything. Slow your breathing. Count as high as you need to go.
Once your neocortex turns back on, you’ll be able to consciously Choose Your Attitude. Ask yourself: Is my reaction likely to damage the relationships and trust I’ve taken months or years to build?
With a sincere apology you can rebuild trust, but it takes time and work. Why not put that effort into preserving your relationships instead?
2. Shine the spotlight on others
People with high EQ are confident in their abilities and accomplishments, but humble about it. Instead of seeking attention, they give their colleagues a chance to shine. Good to Great author Jim Collins says humility and giving credit to others are key qualities of the “Level 5 leaders” who guide their organizations to sustained excellence.
When you focus on others, it’s easy to Make Their Day. “Catch” them doing good things. Thank them. Celebrate their successes. Encourage them when they’re down.
When you make someone’s day, pay close attention to their reaction. How does it make them feel? How does it make you feel? The more you understand the impact of making someone’s day, the more you build your ability to empathize—a key in high EQ.
3. Get an objective assessment
Studies show people rate their EQ higher than others would rate it. Assessment tools and outside coaching are proven ways to find out what you are really thinking and doing.
Coaching from the people around you helps too. Before you can Be There for them, you need them to Be There for you by being honest. Tell them who you are trying to “be” as a colleague or boss. Give them permission to help you by pointing out when you are being—or not being—that person.
Check in with them regularly to find out how you’re doing. Ask what you are doing well and what you aren’t. When they tell you, listen respectfully and gratefully. Thank them. Your “coaches” are sharing insights you requested to help you see yourself more objectively.