Most leaders have been taught to ignore their emotions as well as the emotions of their coworkers. They were taught to be an Archie Bunker-type of leader. Whenever someone showed too much emotion in the All in the Family sitcom, Archie would shout, "Stifle! Stifle!" In other words, he was saying, “Forget about all that touchy-feely relationship stuff.”
If you were taught that, it's got to be tough for you. Because all the research on emotional Intelligence says Archie’s approach is not the way you get the best possible outcome in today’s work world. You achieve success when you learn how to deal with people.
Daniel Goleman proved that in his review of the research. He concluded that a person’s personal and interpersonal skills carried much more weight than a person’s IQ. in determining which individuals would emerge as leaders. In fact, he concluded that no more than 25 percent of a person's success could be attributed to IQ.
Unfortunately, the emotional intelligence researchers tell us that relationship skills are critical, but they don’t tell us how to do it. I suggest you start with the following connective communication skills.
1. Focus more on “we" and less on “me.”
In connective communication, you realize that it’s not all about me-me-me. You are aware of the fact that there are no successful Lone Rangers out there. Even he had Tonto. Or as TV commentator Hugh Downs puts it, “To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, 'Your end of the boat is sinking.'"
2. Use more personal forms of communication.
Ineffective leaders hide behind digital communication, avoiding genuine human contact. They'll even email a coworker who is seated 25 feet away rather than go and talk to the person face to face. Karl Albrecht, the founder of the Aldi supermarket chain, said, “Making things happen still requires the ability to make people like you, respect you, listen to you and want to connect to you. And by connect, I mean connect personally, not digitally. The human connection will always, always, always outrank the digital connection as a get-ahead skill."
3. Ask questions about the other person’s experiences.
Be obsessively interested in other people. Almost everything you achieve will be the result of the relationships you form. To be specific, everyone in your organization comes to work with a unique set of experiences, lessons, gifts and talents. Learn what they are, so you can not only connect with them but also tap into those experiences to achieve your organizational goals.
Learn how long each team member has been with the organization. You can get a historical perspective from the old-timers, and you can get a fresh perspective from the newer members of your team. Learn the most fulfilling work experience each team member has ever had. Their answers will tell you what you need to do to create a more positive work environment.
4. Learn about your people’s expectations.
Learn what motivates your team members -- money, advancement, challenge? They're all legitimate expectations, but you've got to know what they are if you want to connect with them. Learn your team member's expectations of a leader. It will give you some idea as to what works and doesn't work when it comes to connecting with your people.
5. Intensify your attention.
When you are in the presence of someone else, put the phone away and turn it off. Paying attention to the phone (or your incoming email) instead of the person in front of you is the ultimate insult. Pay undivided attention to every individual you communicate with. Notice the color of his or her eyes as you shake hands. You'll establish great eye contact and communicate real interest.
Listen as if your life depended on it. Don't interrupt. Pause after you ask a question and after they answer. Ask another related question. And don't immediately shift the topic to yourself.
After a business seminar, one man seemed to attract women like a magnet, even though he wasn’t the most physically attractive one there. So one executive asked another what his secret was. His fellow executive replied, “Look at his eyes. When someone speaks, his eyes never leave theirs. He listens with rapt attention. He knows that even if a person isn't a charming conversationalist, he can be a big hit as a charmed listener."
6. Increase your empathy.
Effective leaders are aware of the fact that other people may see things differently than they do. And as leaders, they want to learn how those people see things and what those people feel.
As head of the Disney companies, Michael Eisner instituted a once-a-month field trip for his executives where they had to go out and work alongside other Disney employees. So you might see a vice president, for example, working in the laundry and folding towels all day, next to a housekeeping employee. It was a great way to learn about and learn from the Disney staff -- as well as connect with them.
To increase your empathy, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see the world from his or her point of view. Try to understand the pressures, responsibilities, and demands placed upon the other person. And say "I'd like to know more about that" to increase your empathy.
7. Put the other person’s needs ahead of yours.
Do this at least once in a while. One marketing executive said, "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say." And one supervisor remarked, "We know communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees." Talk about destroying connective communication. Instead, find out how you can help the other person. And then do something. Then follow up and stay in touch.
8. Give generous amounts of recognition.
Great connectors are great recognizers. You can do it verbally. Coach Bear Bryant said, "I have learned how to hold a team together … If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you."
Or you can give written recognition. Especially handwritten notes. They’re much more powerful than an email. And it's not hard to find things to recognize. A psychology professor once sent cards to a dozen acquaintances which he selected at random. Each card had the same message, "Congratulations, you should be very proud."
The results were fascinating. Everyone who received a card replied with a hearty "Thank you." They reported new promotions, new grandchildren, new home purchases, and sports and school victories. Some of them were surprised by the professor's acknowledgment, but they all felt they had done something worthy of praise. The moral is obvious: 1) Everybody wants recognition; 2) it’s easy to give; and 3) there's always something you can recognize.
It’s time you moved beyond seeing emotional Intelligence as important. It’s time you actually implemented it by moving to connective communication. And with these eight techniques, you will.
Related: At Work, Emotional Intelligence Pays