How to Keep High Emotional Intelligence As You Climb the Corporate Ladder

We’ve all emerged from meetings wondering, “Wow, how did SHE become a vice president? What a dragon lady!” or “If my ideas are dismissed or made fun of one more time, I am going to resign.”

If it seems like too many leaders have the social skills of a rock or are downright mean, you’re not imagining things. It is very likely that the top leaders in your organization – especially at the highest levels – have low emotional intelligence (EQ). In fact, it’s been proven that most of them do.

TalentSmart analyzed the EQ profiles of more than one million people at every level of organizations, and their analysis confirmed what you saw during that meeting. Organizations tend to promote the emotionally inept – but not always.

Here’s why:

Hands-on managers have the highest EQ

Middle managers are generally very hands-on with their team, vendors, partners, and other stakeholders. Your ability to stay calm, think through things so you can answer objectively, and get along with a wide variety of people is very, very important if projects are to be successfully completed. Middle managers, therefore, have the highest EQ levels at least in the study mentioned above.

As you’re removed from the action, your EQ can drop

People are generally promoted within an organization for the results they deliver, their knowledge, and their tenure – not their EQ. As CEO, you are more isolated. You are no longer working directly with teams of people to accomplish something, and your EQ could start to erode.

However, the most successful CEOs – the ones with staying power, the ones who transform an organization and are beloved by their employees – have very high EQ. There is absolutely no reason you can’t be a high-EQ CEO. Here are three incredibly effective exercises you can do to keep – and boost – your EQ:

1. Praise your team often

This is the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to boost your EQ. Pay attention to people, and praise them for a job well-done or an extraordinary effort (even if it didn’t work out). It will do wonders for boosting loyalty and morale – and you’ll be much more in tune with your team and colleagues.

2. Find out what’s behind that rant

When someone on your team expresses really strong emotions – whether it’s a passionate plea or an angry response – find out what’s really going on. Simply acknowledging their feelings is very powerful and will allow him or her to (hopefully) let go and move forward.  Ask “how and what” questions and listen to the answers.

Again, just like praising your team members, digging deeper will help you forge stronger connections and better understand those around you.

3. Think first, react later

Human instinct causes us to react immediately to a threat with a fight or flight response. In the office, though, it’s not wise to do either! When you feel on the verge of a rant, hit the pause button.

Before you react strongly and defensively in a situation, take a moment, an hour, or a day to think through why you are feeling this way. Decide on your response, and then react. Doing this will help you greatly increase your self-awareness around self-regulation.

What are exercises you do to increase emotional intelligence?

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