When a company has a strong strategic plan that is measurable and understood by all, leadership can set the focus on overcoming the obstacle at hand by asking, “How might we solve this issue to reach our goal?” If your strategic plan does not have goals, initiatives and specific tasks that are measurable, bought-into and regularly benchmarked, there will be more chaos in your organization, in addition to the normal emotions that come up.
Once the strategic foundation is created, increasing the emotional and relational intelligence in the business is the next job of an effective leader. Leaders need to understand it is impossible to keep our emotions out of business, so the key is to be aware of our emotions and use them intelligently to create relationships that enhance performance.
Most people are not taught how to deal with their emotions, and instead go into “fight” or “flight” patterns of relating. These tendencies are typical but not helpful when the need to navigate difficult obstacles and people arises, which in business can be daily.
Let me give you an example: I was hired to help increase results in a business where the owner hired a president to run his company. While the new president had been in the business for years, he did not have the experience of working with a strategic plan and the collaboration required to bring several department managers together to create results. After working with him to develop and deliver the strategic plan, the first monthly benchmark was below the projected results. This gave me an opportunity to notice my client's emotional and relational intelligence. How will he bring his people together to overcome this obstacle?
When I asked him what he was going to do about the results he said, “Have a meeting and tell everyone what they didn't do and what they need to do to reach the results we need.”
I suggested we explore another option that did not include him taking control.
His next suggestion was to not say anything about the poor results other than to say they fell short, but to reiterate to everyone how he believed in them and knew they could reach their goal by the end of the quarter.
I suggested we explore another option other than him avoiding the issue.
These are the typical “fight” or “flight” reactions: Either blame someone, tell them what to do, or give them a pep talk and pray they figure it out.
I asked him what he was honestly feeling and he said anger and fear. I explained to him anger is an emotion that tells us that something needs to change. It is our job to explore with our employees what needs to change. Fear is an emotion that tells us we are in danger, and therefore need to take action now. Our job is to figure out what action needs to be taken to get us to our goal.
With this in mind, here is the approach I suggested he take that would be more emotionally and relationally intelligent:
- Meet with each department manager individually and show them the results.
- Ask them, “what needs to change to help us reach our goals?” “What action do we need to take?”
- I told him to ask these questions to each of his managers and to give a deadline to get back to him with a plan, after they engage their key employees in this same problem-solving process.
Emotional intelligence requires an awareness of emotions as a means to guide us to effective problem-solving with others. While it is common to want to react to obstacles by taking it personally, to be afraid of losing our job, to react and blame, or deny and hope it goes away, these strategies are less than effective to produce results.
When faced with difficult circumstances, use your emotional and relational intelligence to ask good problem solving questions. Remember, going into a “fight” or “flight” mode may relieve you from your immediate emotions, but it will not create the long lasting results you are looking to achieve.
Challenge: Where do you want to increase performance? Identify the issue and ask those involved, “How might we overcome this obstacle to meet our goal?” n
Susan K. Wehrley is the president and CEO of Susan K. Wehrley & Associates Inc. (www.solutionsbysusan.com) and its subsidiary company, BIZremedies (www.BIZremedies.com). Susan can be reached by: (414) 581-0449, or click to contact via email at www.solutionsbysusan.com