Emotional Intelligence has been around for quite some time now. Popularised by Daniel Goleman in a series of books, it is sometimes seen as “just one of the latest management fads”. However there are many practical ways that EI can help you be more effective, in work and in life.
I use the EI model developed by Mayer and Salovey and refined in their work with Caruso in developing the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT).
The model is straightforward and divides Emotional Intelligence into 4 branches – perceiving emotions, facilitating thought, understanding emotions and managing emotions. Let’s look at how these can enhance your effectiveness.
Managing emotions is not about not having emotions or suppressing them. Emotional management is exploring your emotion – how do I feel, why do I feel like this – and then choosing to take constructive action as a result
Note: the MSCEIT is a level B instrument and can only be administered and debriefed by an accredited practitioner.
1 – Perceiving Emotions in self and others is a key skill.
A client I coached using the MSCEIT (let’s call him Rob) observed to me that he had been mostly oblivious to emotions in others. Rob is a sales rep for a large company and often makes pitches worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to potential clients. He told me that after he had been to client meetings, he was often asked “So, how did it go?” He would think about the technicalities, did he remember to put across all his points, did the client say anything positive or negative, but he could never really answer that question.
Rob told me that he took a colleague to one of his pitch meetings (who coincidentally is high on recognising emotions) and debriefing after the meeting was a revelation to him. His colleague pointed out that the body language was very positive, that the clients’ faces were expressing connection and agreement with his points. “We’ve got this one in the bag” was the colleague’s sum up. Sure enough, the client signed the next day.
Rob was excited as he told me that he now understood how the ability to perceive emotions in others can be crucial in business. “I see that it can also alert me if the client isn’t on board. Say they are nodding their heads, but I notice that their body language doesn’t match up. I know to change my approach in the moment, or to follow up in a different way”. He is now paying attention to the visual clues and noticing data he never had access to previously.
2 – Facilitating Thought is matching your mood to the task at hand.
You have more than likely experienced times when you are about to start something and the voice in your head says “I am so not in the mood for this”. Using emotions to facilitate thought is the ability to then switch your mood to something more useful. Some of the things we know about emotions is that a positive mood is enabling if you want to do creative work, or big picture thinking, whereas a neutral or even slightly negative mood enables detailed thinking.
The ability to shift mood to best enable the task you are about to do is one of the secrets of productivity
So, you can think about the task at hand, determine what emotions are going to be most useful and then generate that emotion. Having a good emotional imagination helps – it gives you something to draw on when you are creating a mood. The ability to shift mood to best enable the task you are about to do is one of the secrets of productivity. I know someone who meditates for 10 minutes to shift mood before important meetings. Others go for a quick walk, stretch, listen to a favourite piece of music.
Highly skilled people picture the emotion they need and recall a moment when they felt the emotion. Jenny related an instance to me where she felt scattered and needed to focus. She recalled how she felt doing her most recent exam for a university course she was doing. “I needed to feel that intense concentration. I remembered the exam room, the feel of the pen in my hand, the questions on the paper and the absolute focus that I had at that moment. Then I held onto that feeling and brought it into the present moment”.
3 – Understanding Emotions enables you to better understand not only how people are feeling, but to predict how they might feel at a time in the future.
Emotions follow patterns and there is a logic to how they evolve. Firstly, there is understanding that people can experience blends of emotions –several or many emotions all at once. Michael puts up his hand for a voluntary redundancy. His boss, Emily, assumes that because he has got what he wanted that he will be happy. She treats Michael as if he is happy, and never considers that there might be something else going on.
Michael is happy, but he is also sad to be leaving his team. He is anxious about the future, concerned that the job market might not be favourable. Michael is also feeling devalued because the offer of redundancy means he is “no longer required”. It’s pretty complex and Michael leaves the business hurt that nobody, especially his manager, seemed to care about him.
Secondly, it is understanding how emotions evolve over time. Another employee in the same business, Toni, is unhappy about her work life balance. She speaks to Emily about it and tells her that she is unhappy. Emily takes no action and six months later Toni resigns. Emily is stunned, she had no idea that left unaddressed, Toni’s emotions would escalate – from discontented, to annoyed, to frustrated, to angry and finally to disengagement. Had Emily understood the blends and changes of emotions, she would have handled the two staff members very differently.
4 – Managing Emotions is the final branch of the MSCEIT model.
Managing emotions is not about not having emotions or suppressing them. Emotional management is exploring your emotion – how do I feel, why do I feel like this – and then choosing to take constructive action as a result. The emotion is separate from the action. Take Sandy. Her best friend at work has just taken all the credit for a project that they both worked hard on. Sandy is skilled at emotional management, so rather than explode with uncontrolled emotion she takes a moment to explore. She instantly pinpoints her emotional state – angry, disappointed and betrayed. Sandy recognises that the emotions are caused by her values. She has a very strong values set around fairness and relationships – both of which have been stepped on by the actions of her friend.
Sandy takes constructive action – she takes her friend into a meeting room and gently, but firmly explains how she feels and why, asks for an apology and asks her friend to ensure that people are made aware of Sandy’s contribution to the project. Once this is done, Sandy’s values are back in congruence and her emotions resolve. She still has lingering doubts about her friend’s motives, but she resolves to continue the relationship because it is important to her.
“You see when I get angry or irritated due to very small mistakes of some other people, then I just express and then finish, but sometime when it is a more serious form of anger, I try to separate myself from anger, then watch my anger, that emotion… then immediately the strength of anger diminishes, according to my own experience”. – The Dalai Lama
So, which of these skills do you think would be most useful for you? I’d love to hear from you.
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Rosalind is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.
Ros is a talented executive and leadership coach, with current coaching clients at Executive and Senior levels in Government agencies, private enterprise and the community sectors. She is a sought after guest speaker and subject matter expert at events and conferences. Visit http://www.shapingchange.com.au/