I expect you’ll be fascinated, perhaps even concerned, by the following article.
It describes research on how emotional intelligence declines significantly as a leader climbs the corporate ladder. The results weren’t what I was expecting—and probably not what you’re expecting either.
It tells us that CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ in the workplace.
And, interestingly, why the EQ of middle managers are, on average, the highest in the workplace.
The article also describes six great steps senior leaders can take to lift their EQ.
Give me a yell if you’d like support in this arena.
The Real Reason Your Boss Lacks Emotional Intelligence
by Dr Travis Bradberry, TalentSmart
We found that EQ scores climb with titles from the bottom of the corporate ladder upward toward middle management. Middle managers stand out with the highest EQ scores in the workplace because companies tend to promote people into these positions who are level-headed and good with people. The assumption here is that a manager with a high EQ is someone for whom people will want to work.
But things change drastically as you move beyond middle management.
For the titles of director and above, scores descend faster than a snowboarder on a black diamond. CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace.
The trick is, for every title in the graph above, the top performers are those with the highest EQ scores. Even though CEOs have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace, the best-performing CEOs are those with the highest EQs. You might get promoted with a low EQ, but you won’t outshine your high-EQ competition in your new role.
The higher you go above middle management, the more companies focus on metrics to make hiring and promotion decisions. While these short-term, bottom-line indicators are important, it’s short-sighted to make someone a senior leader because of recent monetary achievements. Possibly worse than metrics, companies also promote leaders for their knowledge and tenure, rather than their skill in inspiring others to excel.
Companies sell themselves short by selecting leaders who aren’t well-rounded enough to perform at the highest levels for the long term.
Once leaders get promoted they enter an environment that tends to erode their emotional intelligence. They spend less time in meaningful interactions with their staff and lose sight of how their emotional states impact those around them. It’s so easy to get out of touch that leaders’ EQ levels sink further. It truly is lonely at the top.
Whether you’re a leader now or may become one in the future, you don’t have to succumb to this trend. Your emotional intelligence is completely under your control. Work on your EQ and it will boost your performance now.
Your effort can also ensure that you don’t experience declines as you climb the corporate ladder. Even if your employer promotes you for the wrong reasons, you’ll still outperform your contemporaries.
To help you get started, here are some of my favourite EQ-boosting strategies for leaders. They apply to anyone, so give them a try, even if you’re not a leader (yet).
1. Acknowledge Other People’s Feelings
Assertive, action-oriented executives don’t exactly ignore other people’s feelings. What they tend to do instead is to marginalise them or “fix” them so that they don’t get in the way of action. While some have suggested that this is a predominantly male problem, it can more accurately be described as a “power problem.” People who fail to acknowledge other people’s feelings fail to realise that lingering emotions inhibit effective action. So, the next time you notice someone on your team expressing a strong emotion, ask him or her about it. Then listen intently and play back what you have just heard in summary form. By validating their emotions, you’ll help them feel understood so that they can move forward without hindrance.
2. Watch Your Emotions Like a Hawk
The techniques above are extremely effective, but both require an awareness of your own emotions in the moment. You may think you have a world-class poker face, but if you’re like the average executive, your weakest self-awareness skills are “understanding how your emotions impact others” and “recognising the role you have played in creating difficult circumstances.” In other words, you would become a much more effective leader if you obtained a better understanding of what you feel, when you feel it. Practice this by taking notice of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours just as a situation unfolds. The goal is to slow yourself down and take in all that is in front of you, so that you can understand how your emotions influence your behaviour and alter your perception of reality.
3. Don’t Hold Grudges
The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. When the threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when the threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Letting go of a grudge not only makes you feel better now but can also improve your health.
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and improving your relationships. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. The pressure that leaders are under often makes them feel as if they don’t have time to sleep, but not taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.
5. Quash Negative Self-Talk
A big step in developing emotional intelligence involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labelling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
6. When You Care, Show It
This might be the easiest thing you can do—as long as you actually do it. Good leaders always notice when people on their teams are doing good work, but they don’t often show it. When you appreciate something that another person does, let him or her know about it. Even a quick email or pat on the back goes a long way in this regard. There are people who do great work around you every day. Don’t put off letting them know how you feel about it. Your praise will build fierce loyalty and inspire your people to work even harder.
“I appreciated the opportunity to discuss specific matters affecting my role and
getting tangible, immediate ideas on how to best address them. Having someone
independent review the situation was very helpful—and refreshing.
I recommend Carolyn’s coaching to anyone who wants to lift their game,
improve their influence and kick some goals (not just set them).
Thank you, Carolyn, for your amazing active listening skills and genuine
empathy for all that I shared. I found the time very valuable.”
—Nick Gillan, Head of I.S., Amgen ANZ
—10 Vital Strategies for Ambitious But Frustrated Female Leaders”
About the Author:
For more than 25-years, Carolyn Stevens has helped leaders flourish and become more confident, more courageous and impressively influential (including those who’ve previously struggled to confront difficult situations, let alone persuasively deal with them).
She also specialises in helping ambitious but frustrated female leaders remove their stumbling blocks and accelerate their careers.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She’ll draw on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit your situation.
She’s never too busy to talk to you if you’re in a hurry to boost your success. Same goes for leaders you refer.
Email if you’d like to arrange a time to chat: firstname.lastname@example.org