Growing as a Manager (Part 1) – Practicing Emotional Intelligence

One commitment that I’ve made to myself, to my teammates, and fellow employees is to seek out opportunities to continue growing as a manager.

Develop Personal Go-To Capabilities

With a commitment to self-improvement and continuous learning, I aspire to become a positive example to my team through word AND action. I keep a little post-it note next to the dual screens on my desk with three bullet points: Emotional Intelligence, Integrity, and Vision

This is a three-part series, the first of which will focus on Emotional Intelligence.


Emotional Intelligence

I have to admit, emotional intelligence was a hard pill for me to swallow as a developing manager. As part of a leadership development program, I was asked to read Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Graves. We discussed the book, chapter by chapter, and talked about ways to apply it to our every day work life.

The difficultly in the adjustment for me was rooted in the fact that I did not realize how much of a mask I wore to work. This mask was revealed to me during a 360 Degree Review, during which subordinates, peers and managers participate in a performance review; it yielded surprising results. While I was favorably reviewed as a detail oriented, and competent manager, most of my negative feedback was in the areas of interpersonal engagement and whether my employees felt as though I cared about them.

At the time, I thought that was a ridiculous question to ask in a work-based study. What do feelings have to do with it?? I was accustomed to coming to work, getting my job done, and then going home and making friends outside of work. I did not share details about my weekend activities with my coworkers, because I felt that it was none of their business!! This 360 degree study was very insightful for me; my coworkers left comments indicating that their feelings were actually hurt because I never asked about their families or interests or cared to listen to non-work related stories.

This was also a bit of an amazing situation because I come from a background where I was selected Homecoming Queen of my high school. I absolutely know how to be social and to engage people from a variety of experiences and interests – I just chose not to do that at work, because for some reason, I thought that was inappropriate.

After some careful thinking, I decided to treat the lessons that I learned during this 6-month leadership development course, as an experiment. I gradually began engaging with my coworkers by asking them about the pictures in and around their office. That was a great starting point, and I could see their faces light up as they talked about their children and families, and at first, I made little note – “ask Jim about his grandson Neal” or “Ryan is taking classes at night to get his MBA” – these triggers allowed me to begin to establish relationships. I also shared stories about myself and my family but mostly I’ve found that people value a manager who takes the time to ASK and then LISTEN.

By the end of the year, several employees individually told me that I was the best manager they’d every had, and I think that becoming more emotionally intelligent plays a significant role in the way that I communicate with people and build trust.

Become Emotionally Intelligent by asking questions, by actively listening to verbal and non-verbal communication, and seeking to learn and understand.

Additional Tools

Growing as a manager requires continuous education that is both hands on and academic.  Here are some additional resources which may be used to enhance your strengths and create new skills!

“21 Ways to Become an Outstanding Manager” – Brian Tracy

Please comment below and let me know how difficult (or easy) it has been for you to tackle the intricacies of developing Emotional Intelligence in the workplace.

Up Next: Growing as a Manager (Part 2): Integrity in Project Management

  1. Good read!

    The title of your post definitely caught my attention. Hearing the words “emotional intelligence” always reminds me of a reality TV show I watched early this year where two grown women competing for one man’s love and attention had a heated discussion and one of them slammed the other for not having emotional intelligence.

    After watching that season, I started reading up on the topic of emotional intelligence and was convinced that this is a skill necessary for any manager or team leader to have.

    I believe there’s no point being good at what you do if you do not know how to communicate with the people in your workplace. Emotional intelligence is indeed a skill that every manager needs to develop.

    I’m just curious, do all leadership development training and courses offer lessons on emotional intelligence? What’s the best approach to tell your manager or supervisor that he/she needs to be more emotionally intelligent without offending him/her?

    • Thank you for such a thoughtful comment!

      Yes, these days, Emotional Intelligence is certainly a corporate buzzword. That is one reason why I wanted to share my experience, so those who may not have as much experience can see a tangible transformation. I agree that it’s a necessary skill for all managers and team leaders.

      While I don’t think that emotional intelligence is taught as a portion of ALL leadership and development programs, I feel that it certainly should be. As far as approaching your manager, I would recommend offering it up as something that you would like to learn more about, and then requesting his or her assistance along your learning journey so that emotional intelligence becomes a skill that the two of you could learn together 😉

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