Like learning to drive, leading, and managing people is an experiential journey.

My entrance onto the leadership stage was when I was promoted, having stood in for the team leader from time to time. I don’t know about you, but although I had practiced at managing people, I hadn’t experienced it properly until I had to do it for real.

Junior leaders and managers are appointed because they have shown potential, displayed leadership skills, or are extremely good in the specific field they work in.  More senior leaders and managers have usually had a most distinguished career as a professional, such as doctor, lawyer or accountant. The next step for their career is to manage people with the same specialty.  An entrepreneurial business owner may be extremely successful and have acquired commercial business acumen and savvy long before they actually have to employ people.

So, people enter leadership and management at all stages.  Often, one’s success as a leader will be determined by his or her interpersonal skills. If these skills haven’t had a chance to develop, then even the most successful entrepreneur or professional may well find the going very tough indeed.

One of the most impactful people skills is Emotional Intelligence.  Wikipedia describes Emotional Intelligence as” the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.”

If you’ve ever witnessed someone throwing the temper tantrum of a two-year-old in an office, or have experienced the rumour mill as the most reliable communication channel, or have been subjected to an environment that thrives on a prevalent blame culture, then you know a situation where emotional intelligence is somehow lacking.

Even worse, if conflict is commonplace, and your people aren’t firing on all cylinders or even are openly disengaged, then you have may have a problem which stems from limited or unrecognized poor emotional intelligence.

Depending on our psychological profile, (thankfully we are all different), you may have brilliant emotional intelligence, or conversely you may need to develop this skill more.   The great thing about emotional intelligence is that if you are struggling, you can learn!

My first challenge as a young manager was learning how to control my own emotions.  In the early years, I was quite often daunted about having to deal with some larger-than-life characters I had to manage. Managing my fear was one of my first and probably my longest lessons.  I still feel afraid sometimes, but now I know how to deal with it, and it doesn’t faze me.

My second challenge was to learn how to manage the emotions of my team.  This stage was a long one and a steep learning curve.  The journey was interesting, thought provoking, and necessary.

The final stage in my learning came when I had to think about engaging large teams,  some of whom I didn’t see for months at a time. I did try to do the best I could to have physical contact as much as I could humanly manage. Trying to encourage people to feel good, fulfil their potential, and understand how much I appreciated them was more difficult. Although there are many skills attached to managing remotely, my own emotional intelligence was a key player in making remote management a success.

I have worked for and supported many managers and managed teams locally, regionally and nationally.   During this time I have practiced and observed which attitudes and behaviors have been the most successful in getting the best out of a team.  These attitudes and behaviors are  most commonly adopted by people who have honed their emotional intelligence skills and, as a result, have the best people skills. I have practiced these in the latter years, and wish I had access to them in the early years.

The Nine Attitudes are:

  • Accepting people completely for who they are
  • Always looking for the good in people (there is always some)
  • Dealing with negatives in an impersonal but practical way and getting over it!
  • Not judging – we all make mistakes
  • Giving people the benefit of the doubt
  • Listening to what people need and wherever possible – obliging
  • Responding neutrally to anger or other attacking behaviour and helping the person to reframe it in a positive way
  • Pivoting negative situations to achieve a positive outcome
  • Caring about people, even when they were difficult

You might be thinking that it all sounds unrealistic, given some of the people you might be managing.  But I can guarantee that if you think about it enough, they are all attitudes or stances you would like people to take with you.

Unfortunately we aren’t born with an instruction manual. That said, navigating and improving our own emotional intelligence often comes through our own life experiences and self-reflection. The good news is that there are some clear and easy steps to improving our own emotional intelligence and consequently, that of your team and organization.

If you would like to find out about 6 ground breaking secrets to accelerate your journey on developing great emotional intelligence, visit www.peoplediscovery.co.uk, and get your complimentary report, “The 6 Secrets of Great Emotional Intelligence for Inspirational Leaders and Managers.”  In it, I describe

  • The true purpose of emotions
  • How to achieve a more positive emotional state
  • How to break the cycle and create effective change
  • The four strategies for greater connection

I hope you enjoy, and would welcome any feedback or comments.

Photo (© RATOCA – Fotolia.com)

Christina Lattimer

Christina Lattimer

Christina is founder of People Discovery, "a new paradigm of people leadership, management and engagement." Based in the UK, People Discovery works with individuals and businesses to develop vision, strategies and change initiatives that make things happen. Connect with Christina through her member profile, website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Christina Lattimer