Emotional Intelligence: Getting our emotions out of the driver’s seat

Originally published on March 7, 2018 by The Montrose Daily Press

My boss recently sent a city-wide email with a link to an article titled “With 1 Sentence, This NBA Champion Coach Teaches Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Intelligence.” The article was written by Mareo McCracken for Inc.com. McCracken details the story of NBA basketball coach Greg Popovich’s reaction toward a star player asking to be traded to another team. According to the text, Popovich took full responsibility for the situation and took action accordingly.

Reading about a humble and accountable leader is both refreshing and compelling. All too often when faced with high turnover rates or losing star employees, leaders will blame external factors or attribute the changes to personal choice on behalf of the employee. As noted in the article, Popovich “bucked” that way of thinking and instead employed emotional intelligence as a way of recapturing the star player as well as preventing a reoccurrence of the issue.

Emotional intelligence as defined by Wikipedia is “the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one's goal(s).”

In plain English, those who are emotionally intelligent can remove their emotions from the driver’s seat. This doesn’t mean they’ve stuffed them in the trunk so-to-speak, but perhaps buckled them safely in the passenger seat. This approach can easily separate the good leaders from the great ones.

How great leaders approach emotional intelligence:

1. They expect emotion at work. Most leaders are passionate about their work. Because they are emotionally invested, great leaders anticipate situations that may cause themselves and others internal discomfort. They (great leaders) are not surprised by emotions like anger, hurt, sadness, disappointment and pride. Because they expect these emotions, great leaders are able to buckle up, ride the wave of their feelings, and react appropriately.

2. They wait to react. Speaking of reactions, great leaders know (most likely through experience), that nothing good ever comes from immediate reaction when dealing with negative emotions. Great leaders push pause on sending the email, having the conversation, or addressing the issue. Twenty-four hours is usually enough time to navigate reactive emotions to safe ground, though more cumbersome and personal situations could require a few days.

3. They focus on understanding, not being understood. How many times have you found yourself in the middle of a “heated” discussion arguing desperately to be heard and understood by the other person? How many times has it worked? Great leaders realize the path to achieving desired outcomes is paved with swallowed pride, open ears and an attitude of compromise. A wise man once said, “You can be happy, or you can be right.”

Emotional intelligence begs us to tune in. Whether facing massive turnover issues in our organization, or another upsetting and albeit personal challenge, we are better served being in charge of our emotions rather than being ran by them. It could be wagered that this type of self-awareness is a lot like wisdom; it is something gained over time and through experience. That is often the case as many of us (myself included) insist upon learning lessons professionally and personally the hard way.

Through self-education and practice, wisdom is available for free (without the school of hard-knocks) as is emotional intelligence. Calmly asking anger, hurt and pride to hand over the keys and take a backseat to a more rational and planned approach is possible. The reward to this method will be decisions made based on rational rather than emotion; likened to building a house on solid ground versus the top of a volcano.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Contact her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.