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Emotional Intelligence and Productivity

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A few weeks ago, Nancy and I had the pleasure of attending the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professional’s (NAPO) annual conference. Always educational and an excellent opportunity to interact with like-minded people, this conference was especially poignant given it was the first time in three years we could gather in-person. One of our learning sessions featured leadership educator Dr. Irvine Nugent, a thought-leader on the subject of Emotional Intelligence. Skilled at coaching professionals on the importance of both reading and understanding their own and other’s emotions (think body language, facial expressions and subtext), he walked us through the importance of emotional intelligence, highlighting how it factors into our productivity. Nancy and I wanted to share some of what we learned, including some tools you can use to sharpen your own emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence Defined

At the most basic level, emotional intelligence, or “EQ”, can be broken down into three components. It’s the ability to:

  1. Recognize one’s emotions,
  2. Read the emotions of others and empathize with them, and
  3. Use this data to effectively communicate and build relationships.

Considering the above three elements, it’s clear that, unless you live and work in isolation, you’re relying on EQ often throughout your day. Some of us are better at these things than others. But the great thing is, we can sharpen and strengthen our EQ, no matter our age.

Two keys to improving EQ lie within ourselves: using greater self-awareness and exercising increased self-management. The other two tie to how we interact with others: utilizing social awareness and practicing social management. Sound touchy-feely? It really isn’t. Acknowledging we’re feeling an emotion doesn’t automatically require us to talk in-depth about it. (Though we can share, if we want, with the right audience.) But becoming aware of where our mind is will enable us to regulate our behaviors. I’ll share an example to make my point.

EQ in Action

Many moons ago, I was a young manager charged with leading a standing weekly call (no Zoom back then!) which involved a relatively large group of individuals. One of the members was in labor one day when we were holding the meeting; obviously, she was not participating. Maybe ten minutes before I was scheduled to open the call bridge, I received word her baby had tragically died. The team member, whom I knew well, was facing a stillbirth delivery. Though devastated by this news, and terribly upset, I proceeded with the telephonic meeting. But fifteen minutes in, unable to contain my emotion, I broke down. I shared the news, which impacted many in the group, and ultimately ended the session early.

Sometimes we just have to manage as best we can. And, I’m confident I did the best I could at the time. But let’s break down how I might have relied on greater emotional intelligence in this situation.

Self-Awareness & Self-Management

Did I acknowledge how upset I was after getting this news? I recall simply pushing back tears, and soldiering on through the logistics of opening the call bridge. What if I had paused? Maybe given myself time to process the information – and the tears? Perhaps reached out to someone close to talk through my feelings? I think it would have been a better experience for me, and for the team.

Social Awareness & Social Management

Privacy always takes precedence when sharing intimate information. In my case what I shared with the group was appropriate, but I wouldn’t deem my delivery ideal. What if I had proactively canceled the meeting? The business would not have shut down had we not held the call. And none of us were the least bit productive in our session, following the news I shared.

What if I had spent the time, instead, after processing my own emotions, crafting a communication to update the team? This would have given them the chance to absorb the news privately. And, as a side note if, in fact, the news had not been mine to share, cancelling the call would have ensured my emotions didn’t raise concerns, encourage gossip or prompt questions that I could not answer.

What EQ in Action Might Sound Like

“Reading the room” is a great way to sum up social-awareness. And “acknowledging the elephant in the room,” social management. Doing these things in light of your own feelings is the self-awareness and self-management part. Though highly situationally diverse, social awareness and management might sound like:

  • “I understand you are going through a lot with your teen right now. Let’s reschedule our lunch for next month.”
  • “I know the news of Fred’s sudden resignation is a lot for all of us to process. As we work through the transition of leadership, I commit to transparency and timely updates. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.”
  • “I sensed your frustration in the meeting. Let’s sit down tomorrow and talk through things.”
  • “Your facial expression, upon hearing my estimates, raised questions in me about my assumptions. Can you walk me through any concerns you have?”
  • “Many of you have asked how you can help. We’ve set up a GoFundMe page for the Smith family and will email you the details.”

How to Flex Your Emotional Intelligence

If you normally cut topics like “mindfulness” and “being present” and “checking in” from your professional development – stop today. They warrant a seat at the table. If you want some science to help you get there, Google neural plasticity and EQ. Be encouraged knowing this aspect of our personhood is flexible and can be strengthened.

Already sold and ready to get started? Simply gaining awareness of your emotional intelligence is the first step in building EQ. Do you consider yourself someone who acknowledges feelings and honors emotions? If your answer is “rarely,” reflect on how this has impacted you. Consider situations where others have been facing heightened emotions. Was your interaction here helpful? Encouraging? Can you think of ways you could have improved the situation? Maybe you could have gotten the team or project back on track sooner? Perhaps salvaged or even strengthened a working partnership?

EQ is a buzzy topic today. As such, you can find lots of reading and how-to guides on the subject. Irvine Nugget offers a wealth of free, quality information on his website. Featuring topics like “Finding your Triggerpoint” and “7 Second Reset,” there’s something for just about everyone.

Up Your Potential and Boost Your Productivity

Reflect on where you can improve your EQ. Do your homework. Embrace the resources that resonate with you in order to grow your awareness. I guarantee you’ll find opportunities daily to practice what you’re learning on your journey. And, well, as they say, practice makes perfect.

Sara Genrich & Nancy Kruschke, founders of Productivity Training Academy, came together with the vision of creating practical, results-driven online on-demand courses for time management, productivity and technology training.  With over 50 years of combined productivity experience, Sara and Nancy’s knowledge, skills and talents illuminate valuable paths to business gain, serving as an effective catalyst for positive change.

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