Maya Angelou, writer, activist, and American icon once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We all admire leaders who maintain a positive attitude amid conflict or during difficult discussions; leaders who can bring a team to closure on the complex issues. These leaders consistently develop and maintain strong relationships with others. What qualities and behaviors have they cultivated to become recognized as top performers?
High-performing individuals have excellent social skills, possess self-awareness, and are self-motivated. Their ability to manage their behaviors, reactions, and words is critical to their success. Becoming this type of leader requires discipline and control of your emotional thoughts, including the ability to manage your behavior in all types of situations. Having a keen awareness of your emotions, as well as an understanding of the emotions of others adds up to your emotional intelligence (EQ).
There have been numerous research studies over the years that have found emotional intelligence as the most important feature that sets high-performing leaders apart from their peers. Studies show 90 percent of top performers who have a high EQ make $29,000 per year more than their peers with lower EQ. Many organizations even include emotional intelligence assessments in their hiring processes.
It’s no wonder…individuals who have these qualities tend to work well with others, understand the importance of teamwork, are effective in leading change, and consistently achieve excellent outcomes. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are essential to the success of the healthcare industry, especially as organizations pursue becoming high-reliability organizations (HRO). An HRO organizational culture is built upon mutual respect and teamwork to achieve optimal organizational effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of high-quality and safe patient care, built on a foundation of excellent customer/patient satisfaction.
How can you boost your emotional intelligence?
1. Don’t allow yourself to become easily stressed. Find tools that help you relieve your stress, anxiety, and tension. There are many new “mindfulness” apps that can help to redirect and focus your thoughts, thereby reducing stress. At Sharp, we’ve rolled out the “whil” app to improve mindfulness and increase resilience. Exercise also renews the body, mind, and soul! Managing your stress enables you to more effectively work through difficult situations and avoid escalation of problems.
2. Be willing to say no. Know your boundaries. Taking on too many projects can ultimately lead to burnout, stress, anger, and even depression. When you say yes to everything, you won’t have time to work on the more important, complex projects that ultimately provide the highest benefit/reward to the organization and to your career.
3. Assert yourself in a positive way. Show empathy and kindness when dealing with others, especially during situations that involve conflict. When you demonstrate control over your emotions, you can deescalate a potentially negative situation, enabling yourself and others to better focus on problem resolution. Modeling compassion with others and being empathetic also increases employee satisfaction and teamwork.
4. Be a good listener, and take time to ask lots of questions. Don’t dominate the discussion. Keep the conversation relevant, seeking to understand other people’s thoughts. Encourage a thorough discussion of many ideas, allowing others to share their points of view. A good listener who leads clear discussions will ensure that all voices are heard. This creates greater strategic alignment on a team.
5. Don’t make assumptions and then defend them endlessly. This in and of itself is emotionally exhausting! Don’t form an opinion too quickly and then fight to support it. This can shut others down. We have all worked with individuals who are “right fighters.” Once they latch onto a position, they discontinue listening and fight to seek agreement with their position. This type of co-worker has a low EQ and is difficult to work with.
6. Don’t hold a grudge. Let it go, which always makes you feel better! Don’t dwell in the past. Move forward with the new opportunities that every day brings.
7. Learn from your mistakes. We all make them. An emotionally intelligent person will have the self-awareness to know when a mistake has been made (or will listen to someone who is trying to tell them that something has gone wrong). Don’t let past mistakes consume you; look for the lesson that can be realized from any situation, good or bad.
8. Don’t get angry. Instead, devote your energy toward looking at the positives and to seeking solutions. Know your trigger points and how to sidestep situations that cause you to act impulsively or say something you might regret. Remember, it is OK to show your emotions, but do so appropriately and in the right environment. You are human and need to manage your emotions to achieve the best possible outcomes.
9. Learn how to deliver your message with clarity and purpose. Practice the message that you want to communicate to ensure others will understand the key points you are trying to make. Make your words work for you. Emotionally intelligent leaders are effective communicators in both their words and approach.
10. Take responsibility for your emotions, and don’t blame other people for how they make you feel. Don’t be easily offended. We have a choice in how we interpret what others say or do, and we shouldn’t make assumptions regarding someone’s intent. Crucial Conversations is an excellent resource for learning how to convert assumptions, anger, or hurt feelings into powerful dialogue, making it safe to talk about almost anything.
Increasing your emotional intelligence is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes continual self-awareness and evaluation of your feelings and interactions with others to improve your emotional intelligence level. You need to be able to accept honest feedback, learn from it, and apply change. It takes patience, and it also takes practice, but the rewards are amazing!
Having emotional intelligence is freeing, and it changes the way we approach life. It enables us to lead authentically and transparently, giving to and encouraging others, instead of worrying about what others think about us. It frees us from an abundance of stress, fear, jealousy, and even anger. Remember, our attitude, compassion, and demeanor creates a positive first—and lasting—impression! Focusing on improving your emotional intelligence will lead you down the path of being recognized as a top performer in your organization!
Kari Cornicelli is VP/CFO for Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus in San Diego and is past chair of the national board of directors for HFMA.