University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

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Leading With Emotional Intelligence

IQ and Technical Expertise Get You Hired.
EQ Turbocharges Your Performance and Gets You Promoted.
By Kirk Froggatt

Do you know someone who is technically brilliant but not an effective collaborator or leader? Someone who really knows his stuff, but likes to talk much more than listen to anyone else’s point of view? Someone who has all the answers and doesn't appreciate it when others challenge his ideas or suggest another option?

Chances are you do. Technical professionals are trained to solve problems, challenge the status quo, and have the right answer. This works very well when we are working independently on scientific and technical problems. It does not work as well when we are working interdependently on strategic, operational and organizational “dilemmas” for which there is no single “right” answer.

Once we move beyond our first or second role at the bench or in the lab, we typically find ourselves spending a significant amount of time working interdependently in project teams, task forces, cross-functional process improvement teams, etc. At this stage of our careers technical expertise is still very important, but the game changes from invention to innovation—translating technical ideas into customer solutions that generate economic value. True innovation requires cross-functional collaboration and the ability to optimize the whole value delivery system. This is where we are faced with a world of strategic, operational and organizational dilemmas often characterized by competing priorities and perspectives as well as no single “right” answers.

My 27 years in global tech companies and a growing body of research show that in jobs of moderate to high complexity IQ is necessary but not sufficient for success. In these roles, the key differentiator of top performers becomes emotional intelligence or EQ—the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others in order to more effectively manage your behavior and relationships. In fact, the research shows that nearly 2/3 of star performance is accounted for by EQ versus IQ.

The reason EQ makes the difference is that, as much as we hate to admit it, emotions trump logic. Advances in neuroscience demonstrate that this is how our brains are hardwired. When we FEEL angry, upset, frustrated, unappreciated, etc. we can’t THINK clearly. And these negative emotions are highly contagious and distracting, reducing the productivity of others around us as they try to avoid us, guess what we really want, or in extreme cases, work to sabotage rather than support our efforts. Conversely, when we FEEL excited, valued and challenged to do great work, we become emotionally engaged and contribute up to 57% more discretionary effort! This is the holy grail of high performance. As leaders, how can we develop the personal and social competence to tap the power of full engagement and inspire others to contribute their best work?

The good news is that EQ can be developed throughout our lives. And because it is such a powerful lever of success, it is the area I encourage leaders to make the foundation of their development journey. Here are a few simple steps each of us can take to enhance our EQ and become more effective, engaging leaders.

1. Practice the platinum rule. As children many of us learned the “golden rule”—treat others as we would like to be treated. While this is helpful when working with others like us, the reality is that we live and work in a diverse world characterized by differences in background on many levels--functions, cultures, ages, genders, ethnicities, etc. In order to fully engage a diverse set of team members, the “platinum rule” becomes much more powerful: treat others as they would like to be treated. Living the platinum rule requires taking genuine interest in others. Getting to know who they are, what they value, and how they like to work—not by guessing, but by observing and asking them—gives us insight into how we can collaborate in a way that helps them do their best work. Here are two simple questions we can ask to gain this valuable insight:

• As we begin this project, what is most important to you personally?

• What can I continue, start, or stop doing to better support you?

2. “Check in” as often as you “check on”. As team members and leaders we tend to be good at “checking on” task and project status. “Did you get the problem solved? What did you find out from the test results? When will you have the results to send me?” However, we generally are not as good at “checking in” with our colleagues to see how THEY are doing. “How are you feeling about our progress? What is most exciting and most frustrating about the project for you? What can I do differently to be more helpful?” These types of questions demonstrate that you care about the other person and give you insight into what someone else is feeling as well as thinking about their work experience. Simply taking the time to care goes a long way. Learning how you can adapt your own behavior to support a colleague gives you vital insight for improving results—yours as well as the team’s.

As leadership guru John C. Maxwell has noted: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

3. Make vulnerability a strength. Each and every one of us has a handful of natural talents—areas of strength in which we excel and have fun. Conversely, we all have “gaps”—areas where we may be weak, inexperienced, or good but not great. Rather than feeling you need to be the “hero” who is good at everything, focus your time and effort on your signature strengths and engage others to partner with you to close your gaps. The operative words here are “engage” and “partner.” By noticing who is great at things you are not, inviting them to help you in a win-win way, and demonstrating genuine appreciation for their help and contributions, you inspire others to join you in a partnership of success. This is much more powerful than either attempting to “go it alone” or “dumping” what you don’t like on others.

There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.
M. Scott Peck

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Brené Brown

4. Lean into discomfort. How often do we say—or hear someone else say—“Oh, that’s the elephant in the room!”? And how often to we spend time and energy talking about the elephant OUTSIDE the room without addressing it INSIDE the room where it lives? Elephants can appear in 1:1 or team dynamics. Wherever they appear, they distract us and reduce our productivity or performance. Yet we seldom address them. Rather than continually paying the price, we can choose to address them by (1) noticing them out loud in a nonjudgmental manner, (2) asking the other(s) if they see a need or opportunity to change something, and (3) offering and/or soliciting ideas for a different approach.

Here’s an example: Your team has weekly project meetings for 60 minutes. For several weeks you have started 5-10 minutes late because people aren’t arriving on time—including the project leader. Everyone talks about their frustration with the late start—which usually results in a late finish—but no one wants to address it because the leader himself is usually late. Rather than ignore it in the room and get distracted by it outside, you should address it. At the beginning of your next meeting simply point out, “We’ve typically been starting our meetings 5-10 minutes late. Is there something we should do to make it possible for everyone to arrive on time?” By simply putting the elephant on the table, you are empowering the group to make a conscious choice to do something, or nothing. This act of conscious choice tends to diffuse the emotion and often catalyzes a positive change in behavior.

Ultimately, each of us has the choice to “go along” to get along or “dare to care” and lead. If you choose to lead, developing your EQ and developing a few simple habits can make the difference between good and GREAT performance. I’ll close with several examples of little things that can help us become more effective leaders who deliver better results.

Leadership EQ

Source: TalentSmart

To learn more about emotional intelligence, view Kirk’s Technically Speaking event Leading with Emotional Intelligence or visit his recommended resources.