Emotional Intelligence: Strategies for successful change
Kim has just been promoted to the C-Suite in a large multi-national company. It is a well-deserved promotion as she is a capable, effective and thoughtful leader, who has contributed greatly to the organization for years in her many previous roles. She is a PhD scientist and with a wealth of knowledge and experience behind her this should be an easy transition.
But with the promotion has come self-doubt. Thoughts of “I don’t deserve this”, “Others are more capable than me”, “I am not good enough” have begun to creep in. Logically Kim knows that she can take on this role and succeed. She sees where her predecessors work can be improved upon, and the actions that are needed to create a more cohesive and successful culture. But these thoughts, lurking in the back of her mind, unacknowledged, have an impact.
The Executive team are all male, outspoken and at times bullish in their approach. Kim, in contrast is quietly spoken and thoughtful, when she speaks she has a meaningful point to be made. She is finding that in this new environment she is losing her certainty, she speaks with less confidence as she feels deep down she doesn’t have the experience of her colleagues. As a result, she is talked over, her contributions are devalued and she doesn’t stand up for herself as she normally would. In effect, she becomes a less effective leader, and this reinforces her view that she is not ready for the job. Her colleagues start to feel this also.
A lack of emotional self-awareness can be damaging to your self-confidence, effectiveness and your career. This is never more so than at times of transition when the importance of clarity and self-assurance is paramount to the impression and impact you make.
This is the point where I started working with Kim. I had met her previously in a former role and knew how dynamic and effective she could be. Her team looked up to her with respect and had confidence in her decisions knowing they had been taken with the best interest of both the people and the organization in mind. The doubts she had became apparent quickly during our conversations. While she recognized their presence, she had not understood the impact they were having on her performance. By not addressing them and bringing them into conscious awareness they had grown in proportion and were negatively affecting the ways in which her new peers viewed her.
Giving Kim insight into what was happening in her mind, enabling her to understand the real impact that this was having at a neurological and behavioral level helped her to step back and take the time to manage her emotions. This is a key component of emotional intelligence. If we do not manage our reactions and behavior, and consider their impact on those around us then our careers will suffer. But without emotional insight and awareness then we are stuck, unable to manage our emotions because we have no knowledge of what we are managing or where our reactions stem from.
What I find, is that for highly educated executives, change in the realm of emotional intelligence is slow or unsustained through typical development programs. I have come to find that the reasons for this is that without an explanation, or an understanding of the underlying reasons and processes that impact emotional intelligence, these highly inquisitive, knowledgeable people do not have the strength of belief in the process or its outcome to create change in a sustainable way.
We are not, as we advance through academia, taught to pay attention to our own internal processes. We don’t learn that emotions are an important part of our feedback cycle or that they affect the ways we make decisions, interact with others or respond to stressful events and transitions. It is not considered important to our technical advancement. But it is vital to management, to leadership and to being an effective member of a team.
Some strategies for successful change
Be mindful of your current reality. Most of the time we are concerned with our past experiences and where we are going. Try and take time each day to be in the present moment and acknowledge what is going on, both in your environment and internally. Five minutes every day is a great and easy way to start this practice.
Become aware of your own emotions
Insight into the emotions we experience allows us to perceive situations differently. Are our emotions coloring how we hear other peoples’ opinions and view their actions? If we weren’t experiencing this emotion how would the situation be different? To create change we must first know what is present in our experience and what is within our power to alter. Stepping back and taking note of how you feel is key to this.
Understand how change occurs
Neurologically, change occurs in the physical brain. Our neurons have to change and adapt to our new behaviors. For the adaptation to become a permanent change takes practice and repetition, because in effect you are growing and developing new pathways in your brain. Viewed like this it is understandable that change does not occur overnight but requires persistence and consistency.
Make small changes
With awareness of your responses to situations comes the ability to adapt. Small changes in how you respond can be powerful. If you are not speaking out in a meeting because you lack confidence, decide to make at least one meaningful point or ask a pertinent question so your voice is heard. Rather than trying to make dramatic changes, start small. This will increase your chances of success and ensure that the change is sustainable.
As a leader it is important to understand the impact of emotions and the advantage of self-awareness on your own behaviors and development but it is also important to consider how this impacts the ways you support the development of individual team members and change in the organization as a whole.Follow Dr. Kate Price: