Developing awareness is the first step to increasing Emotional Intelligence and leadership effectiveness.   Dave, a coaching client of mine, was successful, driven, and hungry to succeed even more.  He had been identified as a high potential and groomed to get promoted.  However, he wasn’t, in fact, he had been on that High Potential list longer than others that had already been promoted.  After interviewing him, his manager, his direct reports and team members,  it was obvious that his issue wasn’t technical,  he was oblivious or refused to acknowledge the needs and wants of others, including his direct reports.  He was meeting and exceeding his numbers every time,  but his team wasn’t happy, and many people in it had quit, transferred or wanted out.  That was a problem that Dave seemed to think it wasn’t a problem since he was performing well, consistently.  Dave was, for all intents and purposes, “a brilliant jerk.”

The employee experience is the sum of every aspect of the employee’s interaction with your company.  However, the experience is as good as the interaction with their leader and Dave’s Direct Reports weren’t happy at all.  He needed developing awareness of his leadership style and increase his EQ.  Being known as brilliant was great, but being a “brilliant jerk” wasn’t. 

What is Interesting is that not all supervisors are leaders, in fact, according to Gallup, only 1 in 10 has the innate ability to lead, which explains the dismissal employee engagement numbers,  after all,  the biggest driver of engagement is the relationship with the direct supervisor. Dave seemed not to know that, or perhaps he was simply ignoring it.  Dave needed to pay attention.

Most people, like Dave,  want to grow professionally and achieve the highest level of leadership possible.   Technical knowledge, however,  is not enough to thrive as a leader.  Having a high Emotional Intelligence is the key for them to succeed and lead an engaged group of individuals effectively.  What is even more interesting that the higher the role, the higher EQ comes into play to become more efficient.  A brilliant jerk has the technical ability to deliver but lacks the people’s skills to collaborate and motivate, a serious problem if Dave wanted to get promoted. 

According to Fast Company, Emotional Intelligence is the real secret to getting promoted faster; I would also add that it is the real secret to thriving in any position regardless if you have direct reports or not.  The article emphasizes being able to manage your emotions under pressure, show empathy, own it, among others.  Dave seemed to lack empathy, and seem not to be aware of how his behavior and its effect on his team, his EQ was low.  

Awareness leads to Higher EQ

The only way to develop an EQ is to start with paying attention to yourself, your surroundings and the people you interact with.  In short, to develop a higher EQ, we must develop awareness at three levels

  1. Self-awareness – what are our strengths, our weaknesses, in what conditions do we thrive, our life experiences and what they have thought us. For example, It has been documented that people that overestimate their abilities have somewhat harder time accomplishing their goals.  The opposite is true,  people that underestimate their abilities or appear to do so, show a very strong relationship with leader performance.  Think about this for a second,  can you see the underlying word behind this statement?   Does humility ring a bell?   Humility and brilliant jerk don’t seem to go together, do they?
  2. Social Awareness   Being able to read the room and the people in it.  First, we develop Empathy by understanding other people’s feelings and take an active interest in their concerns; we step on their shoes.  We recognize people’s needs and wants and take active interest to meet them. Second, when we read the room and understand the goals, dynamics, challenges and politics of it we act accordingly.
  3. Perception Awareness  If we asked our friends and close relationships what do they think of us, and if they answer honestly, would we like their answer?  Do we have any blind spots? We all do, but they seem to matter a lot more when people in authority have them.  The higher the position, the more lives are affected by it.  Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has built a career on discovering and helping leaders eliminate their blind spots.   His book “What got you here won’t get you there” is a very inspirational reading about blind spots and perception awareness

After a while, Dave started to pay attention and most importantly started to self-regulate (the second component of EQ).   He began to act in a way that showed empathy and care.  What Dave did to self-regulate with the help of his Direct Reports is the subject of a follow-up post, stay tuned.  It wasn’t easy, it didn’t happen overnight, but Dave started to change, and most importantly people in his team noticed the change to the degree that changed the team dynamics for the better.

Are you paying attention?

As a leader, how aware are you?  How well do you know yourself, your surroundings and the needs and wants of the people you are leading?   Becoming a great leader starts with paying attention, hence increasing your EQ. 

However, people don’t care what you’re aware of, they only care what you do (or how you change). You don’t get points for your intentions.  People care (and so do you) that all that really matters is what you do, not what you say. So paying attention is the first step to growing,  doing something about it is what makes the difference.

Luis Velasquez is an executive coach with many years of professional experience in the field. He is a research scientist, international business consultant and entrepreneur.
Luis is an avid endurance athlete. Having completed many marathons and ultra marathons some at the 100 mile range, several ironman triathlons and cycling events, he is able to share valuable lessons with his clients i.e. work ethic, preparation, focus, determination, commitment, success and failure for their benefit
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