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8 Emotional Intelligence Strategies for Leaders

1. Quit treating your feelings as good or bad

EQ Skill: Self-awareness

It's really easy to judge and label emotions as "good" or "bad". The problem with this is that we hinder ourselves from actually understanding what it is that we're feeling. When you allow yourself to sit with an emotion and become fully aware of it, you can understand what is causing it.

Action: Avoid labeling your feelings and emotions. Instead, feel them and try to understand what you need to understand from them.

2. Observe the ripple effect from your emotions

EQ Skill: Self-awareness

Our emotions do the same thing that a stone does when it hits water — it creates ripples. But our emotions instead send these ripples through other people. Since our emotions drive a lot of our behavior, we must understand the effects they are having on those around us.

Action: Watch closely how your emotions impact other people immediately. Use that information as a guide for choosing the types of ripples you want to create.

3. Create an "Emotion vs. Reason" list

EQ Skill: Self-management

We don't always realize it, but we often allow our emotions to sway us in one direction while our reason is trying to do the opposite. To mitigate this internal battle, it's helpful to distinguish the emotional side of the argument from the rational side.

Action: Call to mind a situation where this internal battle is occurring. Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Create a left column and write what your emotions are telling you to do and a right column for what your reason is telling you to do. Now ask yourself: Where are my emotions clouding my judgment? Where is my reason ignoring important cues?

4. Take control of your self-talk

EQ Skill: Self-management

The average person has roughly 50,000 thoughts per day. The crazy part is that our thoughts can actually dictate what we feel, both physically and emotionally. Of those 50,000ish thoughts, those that are most influential are those where we are talking to ourselves (i.e. Self-talk). What you allow yourself to think and say to yourself will bring certain emotions to the surface. Both positive and negative. The goal is to focus on the positive (i.e. usually in the form of helpful and realistic language) over the negative (i.e. any language that is unrealistic, untrue, and self-defeating).

Action: Pay attention to your internal monologue. Identify how you speak to yourself positively and negatively. For the negative, it's helpful to change statements like "I always" or "I never" to "Just this time" or "Sometimes". As well as replacing judgemental statements like "I'm an idiot" with "I made a mistake".

5. Greet people by name

EQ Skill: Social-awareness

Greeting someone by name is the most basic and influential habit you can adopt. It's personal, meaningful, and hits "right in the feels", especially when the person doesn't know you very well.

Action: If you struggle with being warm and inviting, greet 3 people by name every day. And do it with a smile too.

6. Watch body language

EQ Skill: Social-awareness

Body language is critical for understanding how people are feeling in the moment. If you choose to work on any social skill, adding this to the tool belt would be wise. Being able to accurately read someone's body language not only tells you how they are feeling but it gives you the information you need to respond appropriately.

Action: Frequently do head-to-toe body language assessments. This is only weird if you stare, so don't be that person. Start with the face, and eyes, and work your way down. Again, this is meant to happen quickly and is a simple way to pick up on any cues a person is giving bodily when interacting with you.

7. Be open and be curious

EQ Skill: Relationship-management

Being "open" doesn't mean you share your deepest, darkest secrets with anyone. But you do need to understand the benefit of sharing information about yourself with others as a leader (i.e. "being an open book"). It builds trust, gives clarity, adds helpful context and so much more that are all crucial to building relationships. The same can be said about being interested in another's story. The more you show interest and learn more about others, the better shot you have at building a meaningful relationship.

Action: Identify 2-3 relationships that need some attention. From there, make it a point to be open and curious with those people.

8. Build trust

EQ Skill: Relationship-management

"Trust is something that takes time to build, can be lost in seconds, and maybe our most important and most difficult objectives in managing our relationships."

So how is trust built? Open communication; willingness to share; consistency in words, actions, and behavior over time; and reliability in following through on the agreements of the relationship, to name a few. To build trust as leaders, there needs to be a little trust already present for it to really bloom.

Action: Use your self-awareness and self-management skills to be the first to share some of yourself. Don't feel the need to be a complete open book on day 1. Share parts of yourself over time.

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