Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, email … We are constantly on our gadgets these days, either working or visiting other people’s lives. We feel like we are productive and accomplishing more, but the consequences are lack of connection, higher stress, lack of rest and, ultimately, health issues. With this need to multitask all the time, we are losing the art of connection. We feel like we need to constantly be doing something rather than learning how to be. “Being” is critical in connecting to ourselves and others and developing strong healthy relationships. In other words, “being” involves some of the skills associated with emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a key skill for professionals to be successful. Whether it is becoming self-aware about your strengths, weaknesses and values or increasing your ability to relate to others, it is the key to growth in an organization.
So, what are some key skills or tools that leaders can practice in order to enhance their art of connection?
Taking a few deep breaths can really change your physiology. As Andrew Weil would say, doing a “4-7-8” breathing exercise helps you destress, fall asleep or relax. For leaders, who have a lot of pressure and stress, this process is critical.
Keep your tongue on the ridge of your teeth and take a breath in for four counts. Hold for seven counts, and breath out for eight counts. Repeat this process three times. Doing it up to two times per day is a good way to begin.
Meditation is a great way to become more present in the moment. It also can enable leaders to become more relaxed, destressed and, ultimately, productive. To practice a short meditation, focus on your breath. Sit in a chair with your back supported, feet on the floor and eyes closed. Take a deep breath in, and then begin to breath normally. Focus on the “in” breath and the “out” breath. Whenever you notice a thought come up, refocus on the breath. Do this for three minutes.
Two other skills are critical for leaders to become more emotionally intelligent:
With so much multitasking these days, leaders are trying to finish so many tasks that they feel like they don’t have time to pay attention to their staff or peers. However, this problem is leading to people who feel frustrated and disengaged.
Often, leaders are in “Level 1” listening, where they are in their minds and often just listening in order to solve problems and/or add something to the conversation. Here, they are often making the conversation more about them. Other leaders may be in Level 2 listening, where they are multitasking and therefore only listening to part of the conversation. Often, they must then ask questions. Level 3 listening is where leaders should be, especially in important conversations with their employees. In Level 3, they are fully engaged, asking questions, making eye contact and focusing their body language on the person they are listening to. When asked, leaders often say they are not in Level 3 very often. Helping leaders practice Level 3 listening is a great way to enhance their emotional intelligence.
In order for us to really understand and relate to others, empathy is a key skill. Often, we miss the distinction between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is seeing others from the outside and feeling upset for them. Empathy is feeling the emotion the other person is feeling, fueling connection. Use this great video by Brené Brown to help your leaders understand the difference.
Data show that intelligence often gets someone in the door of a job, but emotional intelligence is what helps leaders move up quickly. When employees move into management or leadership, their responsibility becomes less about doing the work and more about managing the people. Emotional intelligence can be learned; like a fine wine, it comes with age and time.