Emotional Intelligence has always been an essential set of skills required to be an effective leader. Being able to lead with self-awareness, recognise the feelings of others and build strong relationships, manage pressure, and use emotions in the decision-making process are challenges that leaders constantly face in their role.
What does it mean to use these skills in a hybrid or remote work environment?
We have identified some skills that are key to being more effective in the current and future world of work – we’ll discuss what they are, and how to practice them.
This skill involves listening to others and trying to understand how they are feeling. It is about suspending judgement and being curious and considerate towards others.
Empathy is useful for getting the most out of your team by recognising each individual’s unique contribution that they can make. Truly listening to others make them feel valued.
It is also is key for avoiding unhelpful conflict which stems from miscommunication or misunderstanding. We can often assume a person thinks or feels something, but this can lead to us misinterpreting behaviours or not getting the full picture of what is going on.
One way to do utilise this skill is by taking a few minutes to consider how your colleague might be feeling, how their workload is, how they might perceive the message you are delivering to them. Consider rephrasing your message to ensure it is both clear and direct while being considerate and respectful.
As mentioned above, a lack of clarity in our communication can cause conflict or misunderstanding. Emotional Expression is the skill of knowing how and when to express how we are feeling.
Effectively expressing one’s feelings allows you to build authentic relationships. It helps those working with you to know where you stand and helps to build trust. Trust is a crucial part of any successful team, especially in a hybrid or remote team, as it allows psychological safety to build.
After a conversation with your team, check-in with yourself and ask:
- “What were my thoughts and feelings?”
- “What did I express and how?”
- “What did I not express?”
- “How would my team have benefitted if I shared my feelings?”
A benefit of sharing your personal thoughts and experiences is that others know they are safe to do the same with you. However, a potential pitfall with this skill is over-sharing. Before discussing something personal, you can ask yourself, is it helpful for me to share this?
“The only constant in life is change” as Heraclitus said. While many of us do not like change, especially change that is forced upon it, it is inevitable and so we need the skills to manage it. As individuals and organisations, if we cannot adapt to our environment, we are liable to fall behind or become overwhelmed.
The skill of flexibility is about being able to adapt thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Sometimes people think that to change one’s mind is to appear uncertain or unreliable. While this can be true in some cases, it is important to remain open-minded and constantly assess if the current course of action is best. Otherwise, we can fall into the “sunk cost” trap, where we persevere through the wrong path because we have already invested time and money into it.
A potential barrier to being open to change is our emotions. When faced with uncertainty or ambiguity, pause to examine how you are feeling. Fear, anxiety, and nervousness are all normal but may be holding you back from taking necessary action.
Over the last year, we’ve seen examples of how different people may react completely differently to the same news story or piece of information. Some people catastrophise, some sugar-coat.
When we are dealing with complexity, a common (but often unhelpful) reaction is for us to narrow it down to a binary issue. We see things as being two sides of a coin, but a complex issue is more like a prism, with many sides. We can be more effective with our decision making if we try to see more options.
When dealing with complexity, there is never going to be one right answer that will work every time. A solution that resolved a problem yesterday might not work tomorrow. ‘Best practice’ is not always going to be appropriate, and so we need to be regularly checking our thinking to ensure we are examining our subjective impressions, while also checking them against what objectively exists.
A strategy for using this skill is to seek out disruption and disagreement, rather than consensus. Having people around you that are willing to respectfully challenge your ideas will help you consider various options and not be guided purely by your emotions or bias.
Alongside being realistic, it is valuable to be optimistic. Many of us have experienced challenges and setbacks in the last year or so, and a belief that things will improve helps us to meet these challenges with resilience.
Without optimism, we may be less inclined to believe something is possible. This means we will not try it out, which can result in us missing opportunities. This year has been so full of disruption that now is a great time to go into the unknown, try out new ways of working.
If you are inclined to think negatively, focus on weaknesses, or criticise solutions, try to notice when you do this, and think of the strengths or upsides as well. Modify your language so that you are not drawn down by negative thinking. Every possible choice has upsides and downsides, and it is important to consider both.
Some of these skills may be familiar to you, others may be more challenging. Some may need to be upgraded, having been learnt in the office and now need to be adapted to suit the hybrid team.
The positive news is that they can all be developed, with practice and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Understanding our emotional intelligence, leveraging our strengths, and working on areas for development will help us meet the demands of the hybrid world of work.
If you’re interested in helping your colleagues or clients to develop these skills, you can become certified with the scientifically valid and reliable framework for emotional intelligence, the EQ-i 2.0.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.