Emotional Intelligence for People Managers

Part 1 of 3: How to Be Aware of Your Emotions

If you want you want to lead a team, a department, or a company successfully, it’s not enough to be qualified on a technical level. You need to be able to inspire, to motivate, and to be a role model. This requires, more than anything, a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a collection of skills that helps you lead others in the best way possible. In this three-part article series, we’ll take a look at three major components: Being aware of your emotions, being in control of your emotions, and improving your emotional awareness of others. In this first part, we’ll ask you to take a look in the mirror.

Being aware of your own emotions: Why is it important?

Before you can start acquiring or honing a skill, you should be convinced that the effort is worth it. So why should you even try being more aware of how you feel at any given moment?

Here’s why:

  1. Gaining trust: As a people manager, you need your subordinates to trust you. And it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t seem able to acknowledge or even recognize their own emotions.
  2. Gaining respect: Besides trusting you, the people you lead should respect you – but no one will if you’re ignorant of your own feelings while everyone else sees them and the effects they have.
  3. Gaining control: Being aware of you emotions is the foundation for what we’ll discuss in the second part: controlling your emotions. Without step one, there is no step two.

How do you get there?

The good news: Emotional awareness isn’t an innate talent – it can be acquired and improved on just like any other skill. The bad news: It takes time, patience, and the willingness to look at some inconvenient truths:

1. Know your strengths, know your weaknesses

Being aware of what you’re good bad at and what you’re bad at can give you helpful clues about how those strong and weak areas are connected to your emotions whenever those areas are called upon:

  1. Try to think of three things you’re really good at – and three things that, if you’re honest with yourself, aren’t your strong suits.
  2. Imagine a real-life situation for each of those six skills and ask yourself: What do those situations make you feel like – and how does that affect your behavior towards others?
  3. If possible, ask some people who know you well and whom you can trust: Do they share your self-evaluation? In which areas do they disagree?

2. Listen to your body: It’s trying to tell you something

Our bodies often react very strongly to our inner world – sometimes in a way only we notice (the churning stomach of fear), sometimes for everyone to see (the red head of anger). Even if you’re not willing to admit you’re afraid or angry or nervous, your body, more often than not, tells you otherwise. Try to listen to those signals your body is sending and learn to understand what they mean.

3. What are your emotional triggers?

Once you have a better idea of what you feel like in certain situations, go through each of those emotions and ask yourself:

  • What are the most common reasons I feel that way? You can do that, for example, by looking at last week at work and remembering all the situations where you got impatient.
  • Why did that happen? And can you recognize a pattern when you compare multiple situations? If yes, those patterns are your “buttons” that, if pushed, almost always trigger the same emotional reaction.

Those three tools will help you boost your emotional awareness. And once you have achieved that, you’re ready to proceed: In the next part of this article series, you’ll learn how you can control how you feel.

If you would like to read more about the topic of Emotional Intelligence, then download the Premium eBook Emotional intelligence for leaders by Margaret Haffenden.

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