EQ- Part I
Let’s make one thing clear. No one is perfect. No one is the perfect leader, a perfect friend, or a perfect partner. In a world full of distraction, it’s increasingly easy to not be present during conversations or have a dozen going on all at once (thank you Slack/Text/Messenger). This can, if we’re not careful, aide in the deterioration of relationships of all kinds. Or worse, it can lead to the demise of our Emotional Intelligence and that of generations to come.
Google defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” My fascination with EQ began several years back while working in Strategic Services and earning my MBA. We’ll dive into the four primary areas of EQ- self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management.
Before diving in, I have to be honest. I struggled writing portions of this post. At times I felt like a fraud. Who am I to discuss what emotional intelligence is when some days I feel like I can’t hold my own crap together. There is power in perseverance. There is power in learning. Mostly importantly, there is immense power in facing your own struggles, learning, and growing. Try as we may, we all fall short in different areas of EQ. We don’t all have to excel in every area. At the end of the day, it’s about balance and being the best version of yourself you can possibly be. #BeNiceDoGood.
When I think of self awareness, what comes to mind is the earth shattering transition from your early 20’s to the stability of your 30’s. In our late teens/early 20’s many of us set off on our own for the first time. We head to college or leave home thinking we know everything and we’re REAL adults. Then you get burned by the world a few times, learn some hard lessons, and stumble into your 30’s wondering what the hell just happened....maybe that was just me?!
This is where bigger-picture self awareness really takes places. In your 30’s you finally realize you don’t know anything at all. It’s a calming sense of enlightenment. You’re more comfortable with the uncomfort of knowing you’re never going to know everything. It’s boring and oh, so amazing.
Not all self awareness is created equal. Let’s break it down:
Emotional Self Awareness
You know what makes you tick. You’re aware of what sets you off and can communicate your emotional needs. You’re aware when a relationship (significant other or friend) isn’t serving you and make necessary changes to meet your needs.
This is different than having an ego and I think a lot of people misjudge that. Confidence is the surety you bring with your decisions. Your ability to stand your ground and honestly believe in your message, your designs, your code, etc. I feel many people who lack in the area of self awareness may misjudge confidence for ego. An unhealthy ego presents itself as a heightened level of self-worth or importance.
This is an interesting one. There’s a fine line between obsession and motivation. Admittedly, I dance this fine line often when I swap one passion for another. Since leaving the world of bike racing, where I spent every free moment training to become faster and stronger, I’ve simply moved onto working non-stop. I place high value on remaining active, but my goals have shifted and I instead pour my free time into learning, working, and helping my team produce great work. I’m internally motivated easily to achieve the goals I’ve set. However, we all inevitably get stuck on projects that really test this attribute at times.
We all have bad days, weeks, months, etc. It’s how you act and react during these times that shape your level of self management. Admittedly, I’m the type of person to wear my emotions on my sleeve. My experiences have taught me A LOT about how to manage my emotions, not just personally, but professionally as well.
Emotional Self Control
Have you been extremely stressed/anxious/sad and can’t think clearly because it’s consuming your every thought? We all have these moments, but when they become constant, it’s a problem. I’d been working with an extremely dysfunctional client for a while when I realized my self management was not in check. I was visibly stressed every time I walked into their office. I mentally wanted nothing to do with group discussions, then completely lost my mind during a rather unproductive feedback session that had taken four weeks to happen. Having not been proud of the way I handled myself, I spoke to the CEO. I spelled out what I needed in order to be productive with the projects and timelines set forth. I needed our conversations to be focused, I needed feedback quickly, and I needed to be trusted that I was guiding the client in the best direction. After this conversation and no improvements from the client, I realized I did my best and will continue to do my best. Ultimately I can’t change how other people operate, but I can choose the clients I partner with!
Can you readily adapt to different situations you find yourself in? In my above example, my personal post-mortem lent several lessons learned. I tried to have the client adapt to my processes- track projects in Asana, share documents in Google Drive, give feedback quickly and efficiently. In hindsight, that’s not how they operate. They’re old school pen and paper, everything is decision by committee, and they handle everything with sugar coated gloves so no feelings are hurt. Knowing I don’t want to lose my cool like I had previously, I realized I had to stop trying to force them into my mould and meet them where they were. Was it efficient? No. Was it productive? No. But I realize I can’t always be “right” and I still had projects that needed to be completed. Failure to produce what was promised wasn’t an option I was willing to accept, so adapting was the route taken.
I think it’d be a little difficult to be a Project Manager without a strong sense of achievement- orientation! Checking off tasks and delivering a product clients are delighted with is part of my daily routine. However, it’s more than checking off Asana cards. Having a high level of achievement orientation means you welcome constructive feedback and continuously aim for a high bar, not just status quo. You might see this when someone passively floats through their work day without putting in much effort beyond the minimum needed to complete a project.
You don’t need to sugar-coat everything, that becomes a bit ingenuine after a while. However, having a positive outlook has been shown to improve your productivity and those around you. Attributes of this include being trustworthy and genuine or an openness to change.
How you deal with yourself is only have the formula of EQ. How you deal with others could be a totally different story! Stay tuned to learn more.
EQ- Part II
In part two of our emotional intelligence exploration, we’ll cover the next two sections- Social Awareness and Relationship Management. These two competencies focus on the interpersonal side of things.
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