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ATD Blog

Managing With Emotional and Social Intelligence Leads to Trust

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Personal confidence and understanding of the leader-management role are built on self-awareness along with defined cultural values and leadership competencies. These competencies will drive individual openness and honesty, which results in enhancing the integrity and genuineness of the leader. More importantly, authentic, passionate, and clear communication from the head and the heart will build courage and connections between people. Empowering collaboration and teamwork motivate contributions with confidence and compassion.

All of this is based on human chemistry and leadership identity. As Stephen M.R. Covey writes in The Speed of Trust, “There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationships, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world—one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. The one thing is trust.”

Core values define the behaviors and practices of company leaders and the workforce. They serve as the foundation and philosophy of the culture. Even though most core values, such as integrity and trust, are similar from company to company, individual cultures and leadership competencies can be dramatically different. What’s more, strategies, managerial styles, visions and missions, and even budgetary constraints further define the workplace. The same value elements can be connected to different levels of corporate engagement and managerial philosophies.

Growing transformational leadership capabilities with impact and value is based on building insights and leaders’ abilities to connect with people and their emotions—with themselves as well as with relationships. Four foundational priority areas within the development journey of leaders are:

1. building personal self-awareness and emotional intelligence
2. performing as champions of organizational values and defined competencies
3. conducting courageous conversations and communicating with clarity and consistency
4. driving a growth mindset and relationships through active collaboration.

#1: Personal Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, self-awareness is the “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.” Leadership identity is built on commitment by the leader to enhance personal insights and self-awareness and to define their behaviors associated with interactive and engaging relationships with others.

Leader self-awareness is about managing personal competencies that are connected to self-management as well as about social awareness that is connected to relationship management. When leaders understand themselves and know how they are seen by others, leadership skills and abilities can grow and support the development of other competencies. Self-aware leaders need to be adaptive and recognize different situations and individual needs. In the leadership learning journey, there must be a focus on different skills, different levels of commitment, and different levels of confidence. Leaders are always building trust based on truthfulness, honesty, collaboration, and appreciation for achievements.


#2: Cultural Values and Organizational Competencies

Organizations need to establish clear expectations and an inspiring vision for the leader to be able to steer the workforce toward a defined purpose, desired results, and employee engagement. Managerial relationships, work-life balance, and learning activities with growth opportunities are engagement builders.

Leadership competencies and company values are based on professional, managerial, and administrative knowledge. Competencies include the mental and physical capabilities— specifically, the hard skills and cognitive abilities. Meanwhile, soft skills are the behavioral competencies such as influencing, listening, and adapting. A common language of communication will further enhance feedback and listening activities, define a performance management approach, and identify areas for talent development along with career planning.

The purpose of identifying competencies is to link employees to organizational strategies and business objectives and to help the workforce meet job challenges. The value of having a defined culture with specific competencies is that it can drive the desired behaviors and standards as well as establish leadership styles based the attributes of a leader.


#3: Purposeful Conversations and Clear and Consistent Communication

Energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging transfer of information is dependent upon open relationships and courageous trust. Strategic and meaningful communication is central to authentic leadership, and it must go beyond emails and texting. Leaders need to communicate with clarity, consistency, and purpose. They may even have different connecting styles: passive or outgoing, thoughtful or forceful, diplomatic or aggressive, inspiring or decisive.

Communicating effectively is a critical competency of strong leadership. It forges partnerships at work and with customers, it inspires commitment along with accountability, and it grows relationships as part of the lifelong learning journey. The key is to always build connections through communication that has clarity, conciseness, cohesiveness, and courage. There are many ways to improve and enhance leadership communications and personal presence:

  • Active listening is an art, a skill, an ability, and an actual process to seek understanding and meaning. It is built on awareness and trust. A leader must show full presence physically, with face-to-face eye contact and engagement, and mentally, with an open mind, while listening to what is being said and not said. A leader must show care and respect along with appreciation and humility.
  • Feedback—both formal and informal, positive and constructive—is a useful way of connecting when done well and in a timely fashion. The key is to remove judgmental remarks, vague insights, and exaggerated generalities. Managers must take care to blend positive and constructive feedback and avoid being overly psychoanalytical. Success is achieved through value-oriented and specific messages that are clear, detailed, and focused on facts. Always prepare and understand the situation, followed by connecting, delivering, and closing with positive support.
  • Courageous conversations are used by leaders with behaviors that drive passion and desire for risk-taking. These leadership connections are founded on reducing barriers and removing misunderstanding in problem solving at all levels—individuals, teams, and the organization. Leaders with courage tolerate failures and never hide mistakes, always encouraging and building creativity and innovation.
  • Influencing is the ability to persuade, to drive successful goals, and to build creativity and imagination. The key is to develop inclusion, involvement, and connections with passion and compassion. There needs to be a balance of telling and knowledge sharing with open questions that gain discoveries and encourage stretch thinking. Reciprocity helps leaders get closer to people, and employees get closer to the leaders, all based on new insights and new confidence. This type of behavior can be modeled through mentoring and showing of support.
  • Motivating is a process of leading that creates engagement, builds appreciation with praise, and drives development and growth. The mindset focuses on the handling of VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity. External extrinsic motivators are balanced with internal intrinsic motivators. Rewards and job security have short-term impact versus the desire for long-term aspects specific to gaining fulfilment and enjoyment with work. Motivating can be connected to coaching by listening and discovering and providing feedback that reinforces and encourages stronger behaviors. Spot coaching, performance coaching, and development coaching result in enhancing relationships, trust, compassion, and a mutual learning mindset.

#4: Relationships and Collaboration

Collaboration and leadership partnerships are based on openness and trust along with the ownership of an inspirational and motivating vision. Strategic teams have a clear direction and a common purpose based on established goals as well as expectations. They define the desired deliverables that can be measured as well as time targeted. Team members have established roles and responsibilities that drive ownership of the commitments to the objectives and cooperative alignment to the long-term vision. Leaders also establish processes to enhance the execution of actions and encourage creative approaches to achieve results. Specific milestones and defined methods help deliver on team promises. Mutual collaborative and interpersonal relationships improve the sharing, supporting and communicating of performance and personal goals by the team members. They all become more self-aware, adaptive, and flexible and grow interpersonal skills with an open mindedness.

Closing Thought and Reflections

Leaders need to constantly enhance self-awareness and build trust. Leadership is about being completely real and authentic and about gaining the acceptance by others. Leaders need to keep growing and be a part of the lifelong leadership learning journey.

About the Author

Paul Fein is an organizational development consultant and certified life coach. As the the managing leader and director of The IDD Leadership Group, he a develops custom-created management development programs. Connect with Paul on LinkedIn. 

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