Why Your Boss Lacks Emotional Intelligence
By Dr. Travis Bradberry
Over the past century, the heartless, no-nonsense CEO has become something of an iconand a clichéin American society. Hollywood would have us believe that the Machiavellian chief exec is still alive and well. Whether its the Donald from The Apprentice or Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock, these eat-the-weak-for-breakfast-types seem to be as powerful as ever.
But thats just TV, right? How about in the real world? Do businesses today still allow these inhumane relics to survive?
To find out, we analyzed the emotional intelligence profiles of the million-plus people in our databaseworkers from the frontlines to the C-suite. We discovered that the answer is yes, organizations today do promote the emotionally inept...except when they dont. Allow me to explain.
We found that scores climb with titles from the bottom of the corporate ladder upward toward middle management. Middle managers stand out with the highest emotional intelligence (EQ) scores in the workplace because companies tend to promote people into supervisory 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 wont 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 bottom-line indicators are important, its shortsighted to make someone a senior leader solely because of recent monetary achievements. Even 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 arent 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. Its so easy to get out of touch that leaders EQ levels sink further. It truly is lonely at the top.
Whether youre a leader now or may become one in the future, you dont 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 and ensure that you dont experience declines as you climb the corporate ladder. Even if your employer promotes you for the wrong reasons, youll still outperform your contemporaries.
To help you get started, here are five of my favorite EQ-boosting strategies for leaders. They apply to anyone, so give them a try, even if youre not a leader.
Acknowledge Other Peoples Feelings
Assertive, action-oriented executives dont exactly ignore other peoples feelings. What they tend to do instead is to marginalize them or fix them so that they dont 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 peoples feelings fail to realize 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, youll help them feel understood so that they can move forward without hindrance.
When You Care, Show It
This might be the easiest thing you can doas long as you actually do it. Good leaders always notice when people on their teams are doing good work, but they dont 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. Dont put off letting them know how you feel about it. Your praise will build fierce loyalty and inspire your people to work even harder.
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 youre like the average executive, your weakest self-awareness skills are understanding how your emotions impact others and recognizing 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 behaviors 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 behavior and alter your perception of reality.
Ive beaten this one to death over the years and cant say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and improving your relationships. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the days memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you dont get enoughor the right kindof 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 dont have time to sleep, but not taking the time to get a decent nights sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.
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 thatthoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, its time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what youre doing and write down what youre thinking. Once youve 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 arent true any time you use words like never, worst, ever, etc. If your statements still look like facts once theyre 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 brains natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.