July 19, 2010 Management, Thought Provoking

Emotional Intelligence – Does it mean grow up

Emotional intelligence (EI) is pretty popular these days.  It describes the ability, capacity, skill or, in the case of the trait EI model, a self-perceived grand ability to identify, assess, manage and control the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups.  There are many possible definitions of emotional intelligence, and many definitions can be found on the Internet.

My theory is when we start out as children we learn how to get attention, be cute, and cry when we’re hurt or hungry. The Teenage years are a little harder; not sure if for the kids or the parents, but that is a different discussion. As for becoming an adult, many of us work on it for decades and it can be a slow process. Everything gets harder as you get older, and becoming a good manager is no exception.

In fact, becoming a good manager is harder than all of those other phases combined. Why? Because, it not only depends on how much of an adult you’ve become, but here it comes, emotional intelligence plays a big part.  First as adults we need to understand our emotions and how we react, we then need to manage our emotions to make sure our thought process is clear and perceive emotions in others and why they react to things.  All pretty complicated.

So, for all you relatively new, aspiring managers, and for those supposedly seasoned veterans who are honest enough with themselves to admit that they’re still trying to figure it out, here are three relatively critical but not necessarily intuitive tips I’ve learned by trial and lots of blunders along the way.

Try to act like a mature adult. As I alluded to above, the best managers are those rare individuals who actually behave like mature adults. What does that mean? It means being as honest, comfortable, and empathetic with your own issues and shortcomings as you are with your strengths and skills. Only then can you do the same for others, and that’s what good managers do.

Do the work – hands on. Work your tail off learning the basics of your business and industry, whatever that is, while you still can – before you get promoted and lose the opportunity. Why? No matter how smart you are, that’s the only way to get hands-on experience that will bring about respect from employees and help you to make effective management decisions down the road.

Become adept at 5 things: business communication, negotiating, presenting, finance and selling.

Communicating. Great managers are also great communicators; it’s a critical success skill. Unfortunately, they don’t teach you about business communications in school.

Negotiating. Negotiation skills are critical to resolving conflicts, driving consensus among peers and other key constituents, and developing your own career.

Presenting. It’s hard to imagine your career going anywhere unless you can deliver an effective presentation. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t born with the presentation gene.

Finance. I don’t care if you manage engineering, HR, IT, sales, whatever, you need to learn about finance. Why? Because that’s how companies are run and how business works. Can’t argue here.

Selling. To sell your own programs internally you have to learn how to open doors, help constituents and peers to make informed decisions, and close deals.

I would really appreciate hearing your examples of how you’ve used the EI model in your organization or role.   What worked and what did not? Why?