Emotional intelligence has been touted as the secret ingredient for success in the workplace. Well, it’s time to let the secret out of the bag.
We need to have a conversation about emotional intelligence and the role it plays with leadership. I think there’s a lot of misconception about what emotional intelligence is and how you might be able to use emotional information in how you operate as a healthcare leader.
You may have heard that we need to check our emotions at the door when we come to work. We need to leave that stuff at home. What the emotionally intelligent leader understands is that the emotional baggage we bring to work each day makes us the employees that we are. It’s impossible to remove that from our everyday lives at work.
The ability model of emotional intelligence, proposed a couple decades ago, involves measurable skills and abilities related to emotional competencies. In other words, we each have different abilities in how we work with emotional information. The ability model of emotional intelligence states that there are four abilities that each of us have that enable us to better lead with emotional information in our roles. The four behaviors are:
- identifying emotions
- using emotions
- understanding emotions
- leading with emotional information
Allow me a quick second to talk about each of these abilities.
Identifying emotions is the first, most basic ability. Your ability to identify emotions or what someone is feeling can affect the interactions or relationships you have with other people at work. For example, if you have the ability to clearly and accurately identify how someone is feeling, that emotional information may have an impact on how you communicate or engage with that person. If you misidentify that emotion, how do you think that might affect that communication?
The second ability is the ability to use emotions. People with this ability understand there is a clear and direct link between our thoughts and our feelings. How we think affects how we feel.
Let me give you a quick example: While you were driving, you might’ve heard a good song on the radio. Did you reach over and turn up the volume? Why did you do that? For me, when I hear a good song, I like to turn it up. It makes me feel good.
This is an emotionally intelligent ability. We didn’t turn up the radio because we wanted to feel bad. We turned up the volume because it made us feel good. This demonstrates that there is a link between how we think about the music and how it makes us feel. Some people are better than others at recognizing this link.
The third ability is understanding emotions. People with this ability understand that if two emotions persist long enough, they may change to another emotion. For example, what happens if happiness and anticipation last a long time? Does that emotional combination change to something else? On the flipside, what about anger and frustration? If these emotions last long enough, what do they change to? People who have the ability to understand emotions are able to anticipate emotional situations and ask the “what if” questions. What if these emotions continue? What could happen? That leads us to our last emotional ability.
Leading with emotions is the final ability, and it’s probably the most complicated. When you recognize how emotions affect how you work and interact with others, how might you change your decision-making? Problem-solving? Leadership style? A leader who is effectively able to synthesize emotional information has a wealth of free knowledge available. These leaders recognize that their decisions, any decisions, will have an emotional impact on employees. As a result of their abilities, they are able to use the emotional information to make appropriate decisions, problem-solve and even minimize conflict.
In a nutshell, everyone has varying levels of emotional intelligence abilities. These abilities are actually something that we can test. But just like any self-assessment, it provides an opportunity for understanding yourself. If you want to make a difference, if you want to improve your leadership, understanding where you’re starting from is an important variable to know if you ever want to improve.
Learn more about Emotional Intelligence at the Cassling Leadership Institute webinar, "Emotional Intelligence: Shared Thinking for Workplace Success."