Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Savvy
“Today we are faced with the pre-eminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1945
Leaders and managers can study, train and be coached. But if they fail to work on their interpersonal skills, they will not succeed when given more complex responsibilities. The ability to relate to and connect with others helps confer influence and leadership success.
Until recently, there has been little focus on what goes on within the relationship between two people in an organization. Almost all professional development programs focus on the individual: what you can do to improve yourself.
Thousands of people explore leadership and management skills each year with an emphasis on improving their personal abilities. Very few have participated in programs to develop interpersonal skills.
Obviously, pursuing personal growth is worthwhile. Now, however, experts suggest that executives who develop their interpersonal skills will finely hone their ability to lead and influence.
The best managers in the world are not only experts in systems, processes and technical competencies. They are also proficient at managing their employees, personal strengths and preferences. Thus, they increase employee engagement and productivity. Unfortunately, most people’s experience with bosses falls short of these goals.
Do you ever wonder why some of the most brilliant, well-educated people aren’t promoted, while those with fewer obvious skills climb the professional ladder?
Chalk it up to emotional intelligence (EI), a term first coined in 1995 by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence.
In the United States, experts had assumed that high IQ was key to high performance. Decades of research now point to EI as the critical factor that separates star performers from the rest of the pack.
EI is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. It is composed of four core skills that are paired under two primary competencies: personal and social.
Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is distinct from your intellect. There is no connection between IQ and emotional intelligence. Intelligence is your ability to learn, as well as retrieve and apply knowledge.
Emotional intelligence is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. While some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren’t born with it.
Over the last decade there has been a huge increase in evidence that emotional intelligence is an important factor in leadership. Numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, retention, and performance.
"No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." - Theodore Roosevelt
As organizations become more aware of this, they are looking for ways to recruit and promote from within people that are strong in emotional intelligence.
Here are five factors that are crucial for emotionally intelligent leadership:
The basis of any degree of emotional intelligence is awareness of our own emotions, what causes them, and how we react to them. Leaders who are more aware are able to develop skills that will help them manage their own emotions, allowing them to respond more effectively to situations that come up.
Instead of reacting to their emotions, they are able to engage their thinking capacity to come up with better decisions. Leaders who react from their emotions without filtering them can severely damage relationships and increase mistrust amongst employees.
2. Awareness of others
The more self-awareness that leaders demonstrate, the higher will be their awareness of the emotions of others at work. Having an awareness of emotions, how they are created, and how they influence people will allow them to not take emotions of others, such as anger, personally. Less likely to jump to conclusions or judgment, they are more likely to get to the root of the issue and the cause of strong emotional reactions of others.
3. Listening skills
Most people fall into the habit of thinking of a response, while others are speaking instead of actively listening. Emotionally intelligent leaders avoid that trap, realizing that they need to understand not only the content of what others are saying, but also pick up the feelings behind the words that are being spoken.
The emotions behind the words are often more important than the words spoken. It is only when those emotions are acknowledged that people feel that they are being heard. Often complaints are about situations that leaders can do little to change. People are often aware of that, but still have the need to feel heard.
Emotionally intelligent leaders hear their staff and by doing so are able to connect with them on a deeper level.
4. Awareness of the emotional environment
Effective leaders are not only aware of what is going on with their people in individual conversations - they are able to pick up the mood and feelings of their work environment. Tuned in emotionally, they are aware of the many factors that can influence the feelings of their employees.
Fear of job loss, losing coworkers due to death or injury, rumors of financial problems in the organization, and various other factors are common in every workplace and affect the emotional well-being of staff. Feeling that leaders understand their situation and care about their staff will increase trust, loyalty, and performance from them.
It is important that leaders are able to stay tuned in to the emotions of their workplace and effectively communicate that to their people.
5. Ability to anticipate reactions and respond effectively
Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to anticipate how their people are likely to react to situations and don’t wait until after the damage is done to respond. If they are aware that bad news is coming, such as anticipated layoffs, business closures, and other events, they do what they can to openly to respond to them before they happen.
The key to getting along with all kinds of people is to hold back or neutralize your personal reactions and focus on others first. Being savvy is working from the outside in. Then, interpersonal savvy becomes having a range of interpersonal skills and approaches and knowing when to use what with whom.
The outcome is ease of transaction where you get what you need without damaging other parties unnecessarily and leave them wanting to work with you again. Having interpersonal skills will allow you to motivate, inspire, and successfully lead others, as well as further your own career development.
Interpersonal savvy is the combination of strong interpersonal skills such as approachability, listening, empathy, and composure with a “savvy” interpersonal awareness and interpersonal style, which involves discernment, common sense, astuteness, perceptiveness, cleverness and tact.
Leaders want to achieve excellence. Achieving excellence is often confounded by the varied personalities and stresses leader’s encounter. A valuable characteristic is what I call “interpersonal savvy”.
In leaders’ work and personal lives the key to getting along with many people is to hold back one’s initial personal reactions and focus on the other persons needs first. Interpersonal savvy includes a full set of interpersonal skills and approaches, which allow one to discern when to deploy a particular people skill.
The leader who is high in interpersonal savvy has easy interactions with others because of the choices they make in how to interact. High interpersonal savvy is correlated with being more likely to be promoted and being more sought after to work with. How do you know if someone has low interpersonal savvy? People would observe these behaviors:
- Doesn’t relate well to some people
- Lacks approachability
- Poor listening skills
- Avoids making time to develop rapport
- Too direct which offends or makes others uncomfortable
- Excessively work oriented
- Other people describe as intense
- Judgmental or arrogant
- May not read others well
- Shows low confidence when interacting
What does it look like if a leader is skilled in interpersonal savvy?
- Relates well to all kinds of people
- Interacts comfortably with people at different levels in the organization
- Makes time to build rapport
- Maintains constructive relationships
- Manages high-tension situations artfully
When overused interpersonal savvy can become a weakness. An excessive use of interpersonal savvy may look like:
- Spends too much time networking
- Seen as lacking depth or values
- May not be taken seriously
- Low credibility because not trusted
Four Strategies to Improve Interpersonal Savvy
- Help your leader increase their ability to “read” people. How well does your leader pay attention to differences between people?
- You can ask: How would you describe the distinctions between the different key people you work with?
- For example, you can point out that some people are warm versus cold; calm versus emotional; ethical versus unethical; fast talkers versus slow talkers; or pushy versus easy going. Ask, “What are the differences you notice? You have a choice in how to interact with this person. What do you conclude is the smartest way to interact with this person which shows your highest interpersonal savvy?”
- Point out how people like “easy” interactions. What are ways that they can “meet” others where they are? In other words, how could they not fight with them but instead be seen as accepting? You may ask the leader, “How would you act with this person to help them feel accepted and to help things go most smoothly with the other person while still handling whatever needs to be done?
- Help the leader identify how they may be alienating others. You may ask the leader, “When do people seem to avoid interacting with you?” I have used this question most often when other people are complaining about the leader’s interactions, but the leader may be blind to the issue. I may ask the leader, “Which of these following behaviors do you do and when?
- Act Arrogant
- Act Dismissive
- Does not pay attention
- Is Abrupt
- Acts Insensitively
- Is Pushy
- Displays Anger
In this situation, when the leader may not recognize that they are coming across in an alienating manner I have found it helpful to use a multi-rater feedback process.
- Help the leader understand when and how other people are uncomfortable with them. You may ask, “What behaviors have you noticed in others when they are uncomfortable with you? What will you do to become more tuned in to if someone is comfortable with you or not?”
Remember these tips: Choose how to handle an interaction with another by first observing them and their style instead of automatically just doing what comes natural to you.
- Discuss the value of managing the first three minutes of an interaction: The first three minutes is essential. That is when impressions are made and often when decisions are made about if someone is liked or disliked, or can be trusted or not. You can ask the leader:
- What do you often do to manage the first three minutes of interacting with someone?
- What can you do to come across as approachable? Friendly? Interested?
- What can you do in the first three minutes to put the other person at ease?
- How can you set the tone where the other person feels comfortable, and wants to speak and disclose to you?
The interpersonally savvy person navigates through interactions with others smoothly. People open up to others with strong interpersonal skills. The more the other individual shares information the easier it is to tailor ones approach to interact with that person. This leads to a reputation of having interpersonal savvy and also being an individual that is easy to work with, and gets things done efficiently with other people, without creating unnecessary friction.
For additional information see: FYI: For Your Improvement by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger
About Dr. Maynard Brusman…
Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Emotional Intelligence and Mindful Leadership Consultant
Are you a purpose-driven executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results? Emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders build trust, and inspire people to become fully engaged with the vision and mission of their company. They build coaching cultures of positive engagement.
Over the past thirty-five years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to improve their leadership effectiveness. After only 6 months, one executive coaching client reported greater productivity and more stress resiliency helping her company improve revenues by 20%. While this may depend on many factors most of my clients report similar satisfaction in their EQ leadership competence leading to better business results. You can choose to work with a highly seasoned executive coach to help facilitate your leadership development and executive presence awakening what’s possible.
For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 415-546-1252