What is emotional intelligence and why do you need it to succeed?

As more baby boomers retire there are new opportunities to move into a position of leadership. In our rapidly changing profession, with increasing pressure from agency leaders, regulators, political leaders and rate payers – do you have the skills necessary to be a great leader? Are you ready?

Over the last two years CWEA has rolled out several workshops on “emotional intelligence” to help members prepare for a leadership role at their agency.  Emotional intelligence is a self-awareness of emotions and the ability to manage them as well as work with the emotions of the people around you.

Our Leadership Workshops in 2014 and 2015 focused on emotional intelligence, as did sessions at the P3S and Annual Conference this year. The classes are led by educational expert Jeff Hurt. Members continue to express interest in leadership topics, so we will continue to offer these classes.

Predictors of Success

One of the most important indicators of a future leader’s success is their EQ (their emotional quotient), according to Jeff. For most leadership positions EQ is more important than technical skills. According to several studies, the indicators of a successful leader are strong emotional intelligence (80%); technical skills (10%) and IQ (10%). According to Jeff, skill and IQ are important, but they simply get you in the door. It is your emotional intelligence that will distinguish you as a good leader.

Researchers have also looked at what causes leaders to fail. Many of those leaders have deficits in their EQ, they are unable to cope with change and they do not work well as part of a team.

Sometimes Intent can be misunderstood

How important is it for managers to be aware of emotions? In one survey 65% of workers felt they were not appreciated by their employer. People have a strong need to feel heard and understood, according to Jeff. As a leader, listening can be one of your greatest skills.

“We have to be aware of our leadership bias,” said Jeff during one workshop. “We perpetuate a double standard as a leader – we judge ourselves by our intent. But we judge others by their impact.”

During the workshops Jeff asks participants to look at their relationships – at work, with customers or in their life. Look for the triggers and events that can set you off – what he calls an “emotional highjack.” Once your emotions are high-jacked, it’s unlikely you will make good decisions or hold a meaningful conversation with co-workers, so consider stepping back for a moment.

If someone hits your trigger and you feel stressed, the SOSS method may help: (S)top; (O)xynegate/breath; (S)trengthen your own appreciation for what you have, be humble; and (S)eek to understand, get information and learn more about your triggers.

What we admire in leaders

One exercise Jeff leads participants through is brainstorming the traits of great leaders they admire. The group then puts the traits on post-its and sorts those traits into columns of EQ, IQ and technical skills. In all of our workshops the traits people admire most – by far – are emotional intelligence traits.

“People respect great leaders for the traits related to emotional intelligence,” said Jeff. “We just never realized that’s what it’s called.”

During one workshop, the traits attendees admired most included: trust; honest communicator; willing to train/teach; calm under pressure; shared success; integrity and vision.

EQ equals success

Jeff provided several examples of how emotional intelligence training helped leaders and their organizations succeed. At one manufacturing company EQ training caused the accident rate to be cut by 50%. As the team connected with one another they were able to perceive unsafe situations better, communicate more clearly and prevent accidents.

At another factory, formal grievances declined by 80% after EQ training as workers and managers developed better ways to talk with one another and work together.

EQ training can even boost business results. An insurance company discovered those representatives with higher emotional intelligence were able to sell twice as much insurance as their colleagues with lower EQ scores.

A continued focus on leadership training for CWEA

As the need for talented California water leaders continues to grow, CWEA is going to continue to expand our leadership training sessions. Look for upcoming leadership workshops this year. Have a suggestion for a workshop? Please email us at conferences2@cwea.org.

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