Monday, July 14, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Improving your Emotional Intelligence

I am a student of success.  I believe that my clients, regardless of the presenting reasons they provide for hiring me as a coach, are all looking for greater success in their lives and careers.  This means that the more I learn about success factors the more I have to share with others.  My recent book is testimony to my ongoing fascination with the subject, providing you with 365 quick, actionable tips for success.

Despite my commitment to and fascination with learning, 'book' smarts are not enough to be successful.  You also need 'street' smarts to succeed, which is where Emotional Intelligence kicks in.  Studies are now showing just how critical Emotional Intelligence is to the success equation.  In fact, recent studies have found that 90% of top performers, within the organizations reviewed, are all high on the Emotional Intelligence scale.  These and other findings have led top Business Schools such as Yale to begin looking at Emotional Intelligence scores, along with high academic scores, to bolster their admittance criteria.  Their focus means it should also be your focus!

Consider Emotional Intelligence to be two key skill areas:
  • the ability to express and control our emotions
  • coupled with the ability to understand, interpret and respond appropriately to the emotions of others
Despite some ongoing debate on whether Emotional Intelligence is innate or can be learned, I believe strongly in the ability of each of us to improve whatever natural skills we were born with.  Indeed, much of my coaching practice enhances skills that relate to Emotional Intelligence, despite that not being the primary intent.  In order to help you to strengthen your skills and thereby heighten your success, I have pulled together what I feel are the Top 5 tips that will help you to develop your Emotional Intelligence.

  1. Increase your Self Awareness.  You can't change or improve what you don't know needs changing or improvement.  If you do not regularly receive constructive feedback from others (360's are great tools for this) then you might want to explore some options for gaining some unbiased feedback regarding how others perceive you, how you interact with others, etc.  If your company doesn't offer tools such as this for their employees, or for your level, consider investing in it yourself.  Great leaders seek out the truth in how they come across to others in order to improve.  You need to do the same.
  2. Strengthen and Practice your Communication Skills.  We know that our words have power but we often overlook the fact that 50 - 93% of our messages are conveyed through non-verbal channels.  The more that you strengthen your non-verbals skills, and your ability to read those of others, the greater your emotional intelligence quotient will be.
  3. Develop your Listening Skills.  Yes, I know that technically Listening is part of the Communication process but in reality most people are either speaking or waiting to speak.  There is very little listening taking place.  Listening is usually an under-developed communication skill and deserves to be highlighted.  Everyone wants to be heard.  Your learning to listen more intentionally and purposefully helps you to receive more information from your dialogues with others.  Additionally, it develops the focus needed to help you recognise many of the messages coming from secondary messaging streams (like through non-verbals)
  4. Show Interest in Others.  The more that you understand about the others you interact with the greater your ability to engage them positively.  Consider how valuable it would prove if you knew their interests, family situation, values, motivations.  Paying attention to others and showing interest in them, beyond what they can do for you, helps them to feel connected and valued which, in turn, makes them want to do more for you!
  5. Learn to Recognise your Stress Triggers & Cues.  Let's face it, when we're stressed out we are likely to be more emotional, have a shorter fuse and be paying more attention to ourselves than to others.  In short, we tend to exercise less emotional intelligence in these stressed moments.  Improving our ability to recognise stressful moments (so we see 'em coming!) helps us to put more structure and support systems in place.  We therefore navigate the situation better, thereby reducing our stress level and leaving ourselves better able to manage our emotional response to it.  Sometimes though, stress sneaks up on us and we don't have the luxury of recognising it and planning for it.  It is therefore also useful to learn to recognise our stress cues, understanding how stress tends to manifest itself within us. For example, you may feel stress in your head primarily, resulting in your sleeping poorly, experiencing difficulty in concentrating, feeling the need to create to-do lists of your to-do lists.  If you learn to identify where you feel stress and how it typically manifests then you can use any of those cues as your early warning system, knowing that when they show up you are likely not in the best emotional state, highlighting the need to manage your emotional responses more consciously until you are under control again.
Like any muscle, you need to use a skill to strengthen it.  The 5 tips above will help you to grow and strengthen your Emotional Intelligence helping you to not only become more adept in managing and regulating your emotional responses but in perceiving and understanding the emotional cues of others.  Not only proving to be a tremendous asset in building your Success but skills that epitomize truly great Leaders.

(for more information on Emotional Intelligence you might want to check out Daniel Goleman's books below, which should be a part of any business and success library)


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