Unlocking true leadership potential through Emotional Intelligence: Part Three

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Welcome to the third and final blog in our three-part series that has been designed to strengthen your Emotional Intelligence (EI) armour and provide practical insights and tips on how you can develop and demonstrate EI to take your leadership to the next level.

In Part One we highlighted the importance for organisations to invest in EI to understand the emotional factors that contribute to performance. Within that topic we explored the ‘keystone skill’ of EI, self awareness.

In Part Two, we discussed the role of empathy in organisations and its significance to businesses achieving hard-edged business results. 

Building on those learnings and further empowering each other to take the first step to becoming emotionally intelligent leaders and super heroes in our workplace, in Part Three we will take a look at one of the most popular EI skills, self regulation.

 

Self regulation – being the leader you want to be

When it comes to everyday life, and indeed the workplace, our emotions are triggered by biological impulses in the brain. This inbuilt system evolved to keep us safe; an emotion results from our brain’s appraisal of a situation, triggering thoughts to help us understand our context and respond accordingly. Therefore, how we understand and manage our emotions determines our choice and actions in any given situation. In these situations, you may recognise yourself asking and answering a myriad of questions to ensure you excel and deliver what’s required of you in that particular moment – Is it safe or unsafe? Is this pleasurable or unpleasant? Do I stay or leave? Do I say yes or no? And so on.

To take this a step further, your effectiveness and success hinges on your capacity to manage your emotions so that you are able to think clearly and behave in a way that aligns to your best self and the leader you want to be – and have the potential to be.

Whilst it is difficult to control our biological impulses, what we can our control is how we manage and therefore respond to our emotions. This is called self regulation, and according to Daniel Goleman – who popularised EI as we saw in Part One – “It’s the quality of emotion that liberates us from living like hostages to our impulses.”

Further, self regulation is the capacity to notice your feelings and thoughts and respond to them in a desirable way; a way that moves you toward your goal in that given situation. For instance, consider yourself in a situation where an important conversation is to be had with a colleague regarding a piece of work that is on a tight deadline. The task is causing you some stress and when you enter the room with your goal in mind, you notice that your colleague appears upset. The skill of self regulation enables you to manage the conflict you now face – your keen and pre-determined desire to discuss the piece of work versus enquiring about your colleague’s wellbeing. Tapping into the power of self regulation allows you to assess this situation and decide on an appropriate behaviour, which is aligned to your values and the way you want to be.

A person low on EI most likely wouldn’t notice that the colleague was upset. A person low on self regulation may notice that the individual is upset but may not be able to manage their conflicting desires and associated feelings – this may result in a course of behaviour that only services personal gain and may not lend itself to the most productive outcome for all.

Self regulation, however, does not diminish performance and in fact self regulation and peak performance are two sides of the same coin. To have the capability to bring together different skills and to think clearly and execute, we need to be able to manage and work with our stress. To help us fully understand this, let’s consider some more scenarios.

First up, imagine presenting to a large audience on a topic that really matters to you. How can you manage your feelings of stress and fear? How can you manage your self talk? How can you look your audience in the eye and communicate your opening statement with confidence and impact (rather than running for the door)? The answer to all these questions is to self regulate.

Now imagine sitting at the boardroom table, debating a critical topic relevant to your company’s success. How do you identify the right moments to communicate your views with influence and power? Again, it comes back to your ability to self regulate.

This time you are walking into a networking event and know no one in the room. How can you manage your feelings of discomfort and vulnerability whilst still striking up conversations with these ‘strangers’? You got it – self regulation.

As you can see from just these few examples, self regulation is a skill we all need and that aids us in such a variety of situations from managing your emotions watching a sad movie, to giving bad news to someone you care about, to keeping a secret. Without it we would indeed be hostages to our emotions; we would be reactive, demonstrate behaviours misaligned to who we truly are and who we want to be. We would also be incapable of understanding why we feel the way we do. This is the very antithesis of achieving health, happiness and certainly success.

 

Using the DISCflex assessment tool to develop self regulation

To self regulate, we need to moderate our emotional response and engage our thinking. As shared by Victor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

(1)

To take advantage of the space that exists between stimulus and response, we must engage our thinking brain. To do this, we need to understand ourselves across a variety of situations. Why do I feel this way? Why am I having these thoughts? Why did I behave in that manner? Through understanding why our feelings and thoughts are triggering a particular reaction, we deescalate the power that they have on us, and instead of reacting, we insert thinking and respond instead. When we refer to the skill of understanding ourselves, we are referring to our EI cousin, self awareness. We need self awareness to understand our triggers, reactions and responses. As discussed in Part One of this series, the DISCflex provides you with detailed information focused on how you tend to respond and react to specific situations including when making decisions, navigating change and responding to feedback. It is only through this understanding of self, are we able to leverage the power of the space.

At The WRAP Group, we approach every single coaching session, team workshop with self regulation at its centre. We leverage the DISCflex assessment to support our work and help individuals develop this critical skill. A skill more like a super hero power that enables them to see and hear more than what’s on the surface, and lead in a way that others can’t. Please reach out to us to talk more about how we can help you develop this critical skill.

 

Reference: (1) Viktor Frankl (1959), Man’s search for meaning

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