The COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest has affected nearly every person in different ways. Some workers experienced layoffs, pay reductions, remote working situations, or increased duties. Others may have loved ones who are sick or have passed away, while others have been affected by the impact of social injustices. No matter the situation, emotions are running high. Leaders often want their teams to discard their feelings at the door and focus work. But leading with emotional intelligence will pay off better than trying to create a feelings-free workplace, in the short-term and in the long-term. The problem is rarely that leaders are just cold-hearted. Rather, leaders are feeling the pressure themselves. They’re trying to control their stress, and they’re faced with monumental tasks to pivot the company and their teams. They feel the weight on their shoulder to put on “brave faces” for their teams and keep the cogs turning. And it may seem counter-productive to focus on feelings when there’s so much work to be done. Ignoring their employees' emotions can lead to disengagement. Employees may struggle to put in the bare minimum effort. And high-performing employees, often those who retained their jobs, become at risk for burnout. Not only do business results suffer, but it can take a deep physical and mental toll on employees' health. That’s why leading with emotional intelligence is so important.
What Is leading With Emotional Intelligence?
The first part of leading with emotional intelligence is understanding what it is. Years ago, we partnered with leading expert Adele Lynn to create a course about emotional intelligence. In it, we share Adele’s definition of emotional intelligence. She says, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage yourself and your relationships with others so that you truly live your intentions.” In other words, it goes back to that concept that leaders don’t intend to lead without compassion. Usually, they end up focusing only on what practically needs to be done while forgetting about others’ personal needs. This is when the disconnect begins. And without emotional engagement, it’s tough to drive sustained, high quality team performance. As a result, leaders end up frustrated and confused about why they aren’t getting the intended results. We’re hearing that sentiment echoed a lot from leaders. We’ve heard lots of questions about leading with emotional intelligence, specifically:
• What does it mean to “demonstrate empathy”?
• What can managers do to show empathy during these disruptive times?
• How do you get leaders to buy into empathy and not just the bottom line?
• How can leaders create a consistent culture of caring? Every leader has their own views on the situation and wants different things.
While it may not always be a smooth ride, there are three steps to start your leaders down the path of leading with emotional intelligence. The result? Higher engagement. Better productivity. Less chance of team burnout. And a far better chance of reaching your overall goals. Leaders must stabilize their emotions, recognize emotions in others, and mobilize actions to start driving teams toward their goal. For more information about how to properly implement these three steps, visit DDI’s blog.