Change and Teams: Emotional Intelligence Matters

By Andrew Jennings, CCO

It’s January 2017 and by the time you read this, we may have already sworn in a new President of the United States―the 45th time this has happened in the country’s history. How is this relevant? Well, because it confirms that one of the only constants we have is change, which is something that seems to strike fear into so many of us. Change creates many questions, most of them starting with “What if ….?” and “How will this affect me?”

As a leader, how do you help people manage change? Is managing change the right thing to do? Or should we be looking to make change something we embrace . . . and even look for? I, for one, believe that being proactive is the best way to keep an organization relevant and able to deliver sustainable growth for all stakeholders, employees and customers.

change, emotional intelligenceBeing a proactive change agent is challenging; it requires a high level of emotional intelligence to get everyone on board with your ideas. Without connecting to your team’s emotional reactions to change, they will not be fully committed to your plans. You’ll be left with a feeling of being alone and unsupported. The result of this lack of commitment from the team ultimately leads to failure of new initiatives, often before they’ve had a chance to be fully implemented.

So, what is Emotional Intelligence, or EQ as it is known? Well, it’s complicated, of course, but here is a great definition: “The ability to perceive, identify, and manage emotion in oneself and others”

We live in a world where IQ is highly regarded, and yet when we ask people to think of a great leader, and the qualities of that leader they most admire, guess what? It is rarely how smart that leader is/was, but how they treated people, how they behaved in times of stress, how they communicated, how they set aspirational vision, and so on―all measures of EQ! Or to put it another way, in the words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How much time do you spend developing your Emotional Intelligence muscles? If you are like me and a lot of others, probably not enough. Imagine if, as a self-aware leader, you have developed such a deep understanding of your own emotions and those around you that, when your organization is faced with the uncertainty of change (either self-generated or from an external influence), you can transparently speak to your team about your feelings of excitement and/or concern. Your team will be more engaged and committed to your vision. Remember that feeling of being alone I mentioned earlier? Well, that will disappear as you now have full support from a team pulling in the same direction.

When your organization is faced with change, being transparent about your feelings will foster full team support.Click To Tweet

Now, imagine that your team has also developed a high level of EQ. Instead of merely managing the change they are experiencing, they embrace it. The team looks for opportunity rather than being paralyzed by fear. They trust you as a Leader to guide them. They are committed to creating sustainable, positive results for the organization and feel accountable for delivering continued growth. Isn’t that what we all want from our teams? That certainly sounds like a team that would be fun to lead!

So much has been written about Culture and Strategy, but what about Execution―isn’t that where real business results come from? In a high EQ organization, everyone is empowered to execute without reprisals and they feel understood. As a result, they do their best creative work.

So many of our client engagements focus on developing EQ among leaders and their teams. It’s not a soft skill, but a core business skill. Think for a moment about a leader you most admire. What would it take for you to become that person?