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A Primer on Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills

Automation may free up managers to practice the forgotten art of connecting deeply with their team members. Here is how to bone up on these skills.

In his Forbes article on leadership skills, Robert Logemann points out, “that by using automation wisely, leaders can reinvest their time into leading, foster better team communication and cooperation, drive innovation and affect positive organizational change. This will require leaders to upgrade their soft skills, which are hard currency in the workforce.” Recently, Forbes Magazine posted that 85% of job success comes down to soft skills, which can include, for example, your ability to build teams and communicate effectively.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande discusses the importance of checklists as a tool to get things right. Gawande points out that the checklist is a strategy for overcoming failure. It builds on the experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have, and makes up for our inadequacies. It can deal with the complexities we confront on a daily basis.

Today’s business environment is filled with stress, turbulence, and demand. This places a need on leadership to use Emotional Intelligence (EI) and soft skills to further their success. Having developed a class and conducted seminars on this subject matter, I decided to highlight some of the key takeaways for both EI and soft skills. Taking a lesson from Gawande, I put this in a checklist format to meet the complexities of today’s environment.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

SELF-AWARENESS:

  • Look at yourself. What habits do you have that help you or harm you? Give yourself permission to observe how you show up, think, and feel throughout the day.
  • Look at past situations with significant emotional impact; your behavior today is influenced by past experiences and what you have learned from them.
  • During the day, stop and check how you are feeling. Reflect on ways your emotions influence your behavior.
  • Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Brainstorm ways to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

SELF-REGULATION:

  • Learn how to change a negative state in the short term.
  • Put things in perspective. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” or “How will I feel about this a week from now?”
  • Learn how to change a negative mood that seems to reoccur.
  • There is a strong mind-body connection. Take control of your body through meditation or yoga to learn to self-regulate your emotions over time.

EMPATHY:

  • This is the ability to understand others and share their feelings.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Educate yourself on the issues and challenges faced by others in your team.
  • Show humility and see others as equals. Do this by being non-judgmental in your interaction with others.
  • Admit and avoid biases.
  • Break bad habits such as interrupting others.

Soft Skills

COMMUNICATION:

  • Non-verbal communication can be just as important as verbal.
  • Body language can make or break a communication interaction. It has been pointed out that as much as 55%?of person-to-person communication is defined by body language.
  • Your body language plays a crucial role in how you deliver a message. For example, your facial expressions influence your tone of voice
  • Konrad Lorenz, a behaviorist, points out that communication is a process: “Said is not the same as heard. Heard is not the same as understood. Understood is not the same as agreed. Agreed is not the same as applied. Applied is not the same as retained.” Therefore, be conscious of what you are saying, who your audience is, and how you are delivering your message.

LISTENING (BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER):

  • Facilitate an open exchange.
  • Be sensitive to body language, which includes facial expressions, breathing patterns, and tones in one’s voice.
  • Understand the emotional makeup of the situation and what has led up to the conversation.
  • Understand the message you are delivering and what is being delivered by others.
  • Acknowledge that you are listening and the other person has been heard.
  • Confirm what you have heard and get agreement on that.

SAYING THANK YOU:

  • A real “thank you” is acknowledging the effort and the person, appreciating the thoughtfulness, recognizing the intent, and offering feedback.
  • Consider town hall meetings and other venues for public acknowledgment.
  • Handwritten thank-you notes are always a personal touch.
  • Make public praise timely and specific.
  • Foster a culture of gratitude.

I hope you find this helpful. Use your EI and Soft Skills and begin to lead by example to create an environment that people clamor to work in. As John Maxwell famously said,?“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”