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Emotional Intelligence

The interesting thing about leading an organization is that you continue to learn about yourself and what your employees think of you. I like to think of myself as an astute manager. What that means is that I am aware of my surroundings, can connect the dots, and always keep my colleagues in mind.

But one of the comments from an employee I mentor was that at times I am emotionally immature. Emotionally immature? Really? You have to understand that everyone in my life comes to me for advice and leadership and counsel. So that comment caught me off guard, to say the least. I actually had to sit back and think about that comment for a moment. It was during one of our mentoring sessions when I was trying to get a point across and when I was not able to convincingly express my point, one of my “gifts” I’ve been told I have. My reaction, a technique I often use as a default, was to reframe. Reframing is a mental framework of approaching a situation from a different perspective. In layman’s term, see the cup as half full instead of half empty.

Instead of beating the preverbal dead horse (issue at hand), I decided the dead horse did not exist and therefore looked at the situation from that point of view. My thought process was thus how can I be convincing and persuasive without being emotional and manipulative? My end goal was the same. I wanted the mentee to behave in a way I felt was best, but from the mentee’s perspective my normal collaborative, consensus, supportive style was replaced by a cold, astute, sterile approach. Thus the comment emotionally immature.

Emotional Intelligence is one of those psychology terms that has become very popular in the last 20 to 30 years with the movement of positive psychology. Positive psychology is a strengths base framework that looks at development (at least from an organizational and industrial psychology development focus) in terms of an appreciative perspective instead of deficit perspective. In other words, how can we accentuate the positive instead of trying to fix the negative? Utilizing this perspective creates an entire different framework of resolving issues because the positive approach asks different questions, creates energy in the room, and drives a concept called contagion – or the spread and acceptance of good energy among others.

Emotional Intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman, is a psychological term or concept that looks at intelligence and decision making in terms of self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation, and social skills. In other words, decision making is emotional. We are emotional beings. And effective leaders understand their own emotions, are able to empathize with others, can regulate their emotions, and has the social skills to effective lead.

I have always considered myself highly emotionally intelligent. I operate in my daily management duties from a mental framework of always being self-aware and empathetic. And I feel my social and verbal skills give me an advantage in leadership. But on this particular day, I was not regulating my emotions very well. As I reflect, I made a promise to this mentee a long time ago that I would do everything I can to help that person succeed. So I had invested emotionally in the outcome of that person’s success. In other words, that person’s success is rewarding to me because it supports my self-actualization mental framework that I am a good manager. And so in the heat of the moment of our discussion, when my mentee suggested I was at times emotionally immature, I reframed as I tend to do, and approach the issue from another angle.

Did the issue get resolved? Yes and no. In terms of yes, I became more aware of my style of decision making through emotions and that even I, like everyone else, is susceptible to non-effective decisions or communication or leadership. In terms of no, my mentee is strong-willed, made up their mind, and still adores me as a mentor.

Well, if I look at it from that perspective, maybe it was a win-win situation after all.

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