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Understanding Your Emotional Intelligence & Applying It In Business

April 19, 2017
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I was 16 years old when I heard of Emotional Intelligence for the first time. I was browsing books in a Barnes & Nobles when I picked up Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. I was a little ahead of my time, but I knew this concept was very important.

For centuries emotion was treated with disdain compared to logic. Emotions can even be seen as a sign of weakness that stood in the way of the pursuit of knowledge. The reality is, humans are emotional. We may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater on that one. Oops.

So what does emotional intelligence mean? Simply put it means that you are aware of your emotions, and others’, and know how to manage them. Sounds like a lot of hippy dippy stuff, right? Well, it’s actually ancient knowledge that we pushed to the wayside and are now bringing back into the spotlight. We are coming home ya’ll. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Fast forward 20 years later and the topic comes up again as part of a mentorship program at Power Digital.  Our Director of Paid Media, Austin Randall, and I both read Travis Bradberry’s book on the topic, Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Austin had this to say on the book:

“I was really impressed by the approach Travis Bradberry took.  Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is an interactive experience that gives you the tools to track your progress.  The book is also easily-digestible; extremely easy to gain a large amount of value in a short amount of time.”

As Austin said, we chose this book because it’s easily digestible and you’re able to track your progress.  For me specifically, this is the perfect time to refine my emotional intelligence skills as I’m looking to better understand myself and where I’m at in my career. As anybody else, I consider myself to have a good balance of strengths and weaknesses, and I find it important to focus on improving personal weaknesses just as much as accentuating strengths.

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Taking The Emotional Intelligence Test

The program starts with a test to assess your current level of 4 core areas: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.  These quadrants are basically measurements of how you handle yourself and how you react to others. Questions that were asked include:

  • Are you confident in your abilities?
  • Do you admit your shortcomings?
  • Can you understand emotions as they happen?
  • Do you handle stress well?
  • Are you open to feedback?

What I loved about these questions is that they forced me to reflect on situations where I was under stress, receiving feedback, and how I handled each situation. Once you complete the test you receive an overall emotional intelligence score and a score in each quadrant. See the diagram below for a visual representation of how the sections are broken up.

Test Results

What I excelled at: The first test I scored myself fairly high and tested an overall emotional intelligence score of 85. I scored myself the highest in the social competence section with areas to work on being personal competence which included the areas of self-awareness and self-management.

Related: Client Communication – What to Avoid as an Account Manager

What I needed work on: The main areas of focus I needed to zero in on were related to my self-management. Since I indicated I had trouble handling frustration, one recommended strategy to deal with this is to control breathing. The book suggests that when I get upset I need to calm myself down and count to ten and focus on my breath. Bringing more oxygen to the brain helps the mind to focus. This is a natural way to relax yourself.  Yogis call this Pranayama (ancient wisdom).

Recognizing Areas Of Improvement

After I took the test I wanted to pinpoint a time when I reacted to a frustrating situation poorly right away. A situation came up where a client of mine was challenging me on a variety of things. I became upset and could feel my blood pressure rising. I tried to stay calm and emphasized why I didn’t agree with them, although unfortunately it didn’t come off well.

The client kept coming back with something new to challenge me on after addressing each of their previous points. I stood my ground and voiced my opinion, even though I allowed myself to get frustrated. The client apologized for their colleague which may sound like a win, but that’s never a good place to be as a client vendor.

So what I really wanted to know after that was, how can I manage my emotions better to avoid that situation all-together? After the call, I went for a short walk outside to get some fresh air. After going on that walk outside and taking some deep breaths, I felt a little better, but exhausted. I was emotionally drained from the experience. The awareness of being upset in this situation was the first step in correcting.

Working To Improve The Situation

Although I was able to recognize that my frustration was getting the best of me in that meeting, I was too late to react that time.  So I took note of my temper in every instance for the next week, making a mental know of every time I seemed to be getting upset over something, actually writing down these instances when possible.

Related: Tips for Managing Relationships in the Workplace

Then I began mentally counting to ten each time to see how that affected my perception of a situation… I think the main point of this exercise, really, is to mentally place yourself in an empathetic position, being able to understand the point of view of the individual you’re speaking with.

Funny enough, I realized that improving this aspect of my self-management in turn would improve my relationship management as well. Obviously though, 10 seconds is a long time, and when you’re in an open discussion with a client, that pause between dialog needs to be tightened to be effective.

So once I got myself in the habit of counting to 10, I cut that down to 7, and then to 5, and then to 3.  The big takeaway here was, it really didn’t matter how long I counted.  As long as I was mentally aware that my tone was more aggressive, that acted as a trigger to take a step back and reserve the desire to argue.

Another strategy besides counting to ten and breathing right that I considered important is to put a mental recharge into my schedule. This is something I’ve been working on for the last year. It’s really important to me and something I strive to be consistent with. I have routines in the morning of reading, stretching, working out, meditating, and journaling.

I also make time to squeeze in surfing when I can and ride my bike to work when I don’t have early meetings and the weather is nice. These activities are a great way to reflect on how I’ve handled situations and how I can improve on my reactions to them, and of course breath.

Related: 4 Easy Steps to Team Building – How to Turn Your Office Into a Community

I plan on taking more yoga classes to deepen my intuition and focus on my breathing as the book suggests. Something else I’ve been focusing on that isn’t in the book is my diet. I’ve been stepping up my nutrition game by eating whole raw vegetables and fruits.

I’ve noticed a big difference in my emotional state as well as my physical state. My joints and muscles are not as stiff and I’m emotionally and physically more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin. Being more comfortable physically has heightened my focus and self-awareness.

How It’s Been Helping

I’ve noticed my client relationships are deepening. I’m able to have a calm, empathetically-driven, decision instead of getting frustrated. This type of dialog has helped me build trust between myself and the client. This in turn builds trust with between our client and Power Digital as a whole.

Final Thoughts From Austin

The work example that Nicole walked us through is just one of many instances where Emotional Intelligence plays a part in everyday business. In my time as a manager, I’ve come to realize just how important these four skills are. And that’s exactly what they are, skills.

They’re things you need to invest time into and develop, keep track of and constantly improve.  Nicole’s dedication to the program has been an inspiration. It’s apparent in our meetings together and on the accounts we share, that she’s taken this opportunity seriously.  I think in addition to her being able to better control reactions, Nicole is also a better rapport-builder, concise communicator, and is truer to herself as a result.

We hope that you can take the lessons we’ve learned and the tools we’ve used this past quarter and apply them to your own emotional intelligence path!

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