Emotional Intelligence: Cooler Heads Prevail!

By Mark Altmayer posted 10-01-2019 11:06


Amongst many different things, leadership is about being consistent, calm, cool and collected!

The first day of school is always highly emotional, from the excitement of the students and staff coming back to school to dealing with a lost kindergartner who was dropped off at the wrong stop or dealing with angry principals about how hot it is in their building. As a result, emotions run high, hot and cold – arguably on the best day of the year!

This year, my rise and fall of emotions did not disappoint! But this year, armed with the right tools, after reading the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves, also referred to as Emotional EQ, I was prepared to deal with the unknown.

"This may be a good time to outline my style under stressful situations such as the one above. It’s controlling, it’s not always empathetic and at times it can get emotional. It needs work! That said, I would rate myself as a very strong leader who is genuinely empathetic and tries to listen to my team. When I’m not under stress, I’m positive, optimistic and highly competitive with winning being the ultimate goal; however, I am also not afraid to admit that the impact of a Hallmark movie is deep and somewhat embarrassing. Enough said on that. More later."

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. It’s powerful!

Although there are numerous competencies within Emotional Intelligence, two primary skills of EI include: self-awareness, which is the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; and self-management, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.

Stated another way, an emotionally intelligent individual is both highly conscious of his or her own emotional states, such as negativity, frustration or sadness, and is able to identify and manage them while helping others do the same.

Let’s start with identifying one’s own emotions, self-awareness. The ability to recognize an emotion as it happens is the key to your emotional intelligence. Developing self-awareness requires tuning in to your true feelings. If you evaluate your emotions, you can identify your emotional “triggers” and manage them.

An emotional trigger is something that elicits an emotional response, good or bad. But it’s generally the bad that gets us in trouble… thus the opportunity! A trigger can be a changing priority, a missed deadline, someone who is goofing off all the time at work, someone who makes the same mistake over and over, unreasonable requests, individuals that become highly emotional in a negative way and/or simply those people that are always negative and have bad attitudes. A trigger can be a person. Do you have someone at work with that elicits anxiety every time you are in a meeting with them? I think we all do.

"You may or may not be aware of what sets you off – but with a little self-reflection, you can identify your triggers and begin the process of improving your EI! Take the time, write down those instances at work that elicit an emotional reaction. Review those instances and begin to formulate a plan. Develop an EI action plan!"

Self-management of your emotions and practicing strategies will help you overcome these hijack moments, or minimize the amount of time you stay in that emotional zone. Within the book, there are seventeen strategies such as breathing right, counting to ten and speaking to someone who is not emotionally invested in the issue. Other key strategies I rely on when managing my emotions include:

  • Name the emotion. – By recognizing and naming it, you are better able to manage it.
  • Bridge to the positive. – This requires you to recognize that even in dire circumstances, a positive result is probable.
  • Know where your edges are! – This is a reflection strategy. You can’t be pushed over the edge if you know where your edges are!
  • Build resilience! – Identify key practices that trigger a positive path to resilience and how to get there.
  • Respond, question calmly, DO NOT REACT! – Don’t be drawn into the vortex of emotional hijack! Ask clarification questions, respond but, do not react!

Our emotional intelligence has implications for how others look at us and our leadership. Clearly, the way in which individuals handle difficult situations defines many leaders and can make or break a young leader coming up the ranks. I encourage you to read the book, or better yet, attend the next Illinois ASBO seminar on emotional intelligence happening on November 14.

For the rest of the story? I still cry at the end of Rudy, Remember the Titans and every single holiday Hallmark movie. But I do so with grace, armed with the knowledge of triggers and creative strategies to deal with all that high emotion!

To learn more about Emotional Intelligence, Join Illinois ASBO on November 14 for a half-day seminar presented by the Leadership Center. Click here to learn more. 

By Mark Altmayer
Huntley CSD 158