Month: January 2017

Beyond the Brain: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

At the age of 35, I was hired as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization. It was the realization of one of my highest professional goals, and it quickly taught me that I needed to strengthen my emotional intelligence to be an effective leader.

I began a journey that started with becoming aware of how I showed up with people. I’m an extrovert and thrive on engaging with the world around me. I’m also energetic and exude a “youthful energy” when I enter a room. As the newly appointed leader, I discovered those traits sometimes meant I came across as intense, sharp, and overbearing. I had never been in a position to look at myself as others see me, and it was enlightening.

Discovering emotional intelligence

I stumbled onto a Daniel Goleman article about emotional intelligence. He suggested this innate intelligence was categorized into four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill. I was immediately hooked and started learning about me.

In coaching leaders, I often start with emotional intelligence. I share what I learned as I integrated the concepts into life in a leadership role. It helps my clients see for themselves that this kind of growth is within reach, and it demystifies the process of self-mastery and social mastery.

Working with self

I decided I had to understand myself better. I started by finding tools to help me dissect the person I’d known all my life. My favorite was the Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths. It helped me frame traits in affirming statements and helped me see as strengths some things I had viewed as flaws. I had a new appreciation for self-awareness.

Then I reviewed the elements of self-management to determine where I should focus my efforts to improve. I saw exactly what I needed to tackle: adaptability. My Meyers-Briggs Type is ENTJ, so I’m a big fan of order and routine. I also have a keen focus on the goal, whatever task I’m doing. That sounds great until something comes along that disrupts or re-routes me. I’ve improved in this area, and find that the more I’m open to changes, the happier I am with the experience as a whole.

Working with others

The third domain, social awareness, is where I am most comfortable. When I’m in a position to meet the needs of the people around me, I’m happiest. I noticed that observing what happened around me – how people interacted, who helped influence decision making, and what responses people had to my appreciation of their work – allowed me to navigate my workplace relationships more easily. I had an innate talent for active involvement, but observation, followed by integrating what I saw gave me an edge.

The last and, I think, most important domain for leaders is social skill. It’s the realm of nuanced communication that influences and inspires without demanding. It’s the capacity to listen for resolution during conflict and swiftly resolving the problem without escalating it. And it’s nurturing relationships that allow people to flourish while cultivating new ones for the future. Those who have these skills innately are natural leaders. The rest of us have to work at it!

The intelligence of leadership goes far beyond the realms of emotional intelligence. But in my practice, this is the place where my clients see the greatest returns on our work together.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

The Power of the Pause

The Power of the Pause

When I was younger, I thought being responsive was a strength. As more and more things demanded action, it became more and more difficult to respond, and more and more frustrating to me when I was unable to do so. Discussing it with my coach, I found that taking a brief pause gave me a space to make a conscious decision about how, or even if, I respond.

This is one of the ways I practice mindfulness, which I also bring into conversations with clients. When I introduce the idea to them, I explore different ways of expressing it so it feels comfortable. It’s a way of letting our old habits or reactions be present for observation rather than becoming a call to action.

Mindfulness is powerful

The pause became a powerful tool for me. I found that once I had begun to use it, the world around me was a nicer place. And I started to see other things in my life I wanted to change. I also saw the impact of sharing my experience with clients who struggled to understand.

Mindfulness isn’t a magic wand I can wield from time to time, but a decision I must make consistently in response to things that stir up frustration, anger, or disbelief in my mind. As I become better at managing those things, I notice how comfortable I am in the pause. It also means I have to be honest with myself about how easily I react to the things that stir up my unsettling emotions.

One of my clients recently told me how she had come to appreciate the pause. She is working in a new field and finds herself facing the realities of workplace relationships. When she takes a moment to pause, she sees for herself what options she has rather than defaulting to a response that’s mindless and automatic. She’s now helping others in her office see the same options for themselves. I’d call that a success!

What’s keeping you from being comfortable in the pause?

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

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