Don’t embarrass yourself

Emotional intelligence caps your leadership potential.

As a leader, you have to understand that emotional intelligence is more than just a buzzword that gets thrown around. The ability to understand and manage not only your own emotions but those of your team is essential for conveying information, building trust, and fostering strong relationships. 

This study from the P&P Group found:

  • 75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies
  • 58% of success in all types of jobs is related to emotional intelligence
  • 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence

Self-awareness is the most valuable tool in your toolbox and the foundation of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness will allow you to shine by leading from your strengths, acknowledging your emotions and ensuring they don’t damage your relationships, and helping you know when to ask for help. By deeply knowing what gives you energy, what stresses you out, and what drives your emotional responses – and how to take care of yourself both before and when things go awry – you can operate, communicate, and lead from a place of clarity and stability. 

I learned the importance of self-awareness the hard way…

I have an embarrassing story to tell.

About 15 years ago, I applied for my first leadership position. I was sure I was the person for the job. I checked every box. Did everything asked of me, and I was always the first person to sign up for extra work. The company I was working for had just finished navigating a potential merger that ended up being blocked by the US Justice Department. 

During this almost two-year period, hiring was frozen, and there were 0 promotions at my level.

After being patient for TWO years, I was HUNGRY for this opportunity and assumed I was the obvious choice for the position. Unfortunately, my ego got the best of me, and I acted like the job was already mine in the interview. 

To save you the suspense–I’m sure many of you have already guessed–I didn’t get the position. 

I was furious.

Even though I didn’t get the promotion, the two interviewers were kind enough to offer me feedback to help set me up for success in the future. Instead of being gracious, I acted like an ungrateful brat in this feedback session. (Yikes!)

In full transparency, I actually let them know why they made the wrong decision and that I shouldn’t have even had to interview for the job. I told them they should have hired me based on my resume and reputation. (YIKES!)

Hard facepalm. 

I ended up with three consequences based on my reaction.

  1. I damaged relationships
  2. I missed out on an opportunity to collect valuable feedback
  3. I completely wasted the time of two people who were trying to help me

Luckily I was humbled by the experience and was able to learn the value of self-awareness.

As an individual contributor, my lack of emotional intelligence hurt me. But when leaders lack emotional intelligence, the impacts are multiplied. 

When you damage relationships with your team, they become disengaged, quit, and start conflict in the office. These are all very expensive consequences.

Developing Self Awareness

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” ― Ralph Ellison

Now that you’ve been made completely aware of how not being self-aware will ruin your success, let’s look at how you can avoid your blindspots and be at your best more often. 

1. Stop judging your emotions

In Susan David’s book Emotional Agility, she describes a healthy relationship with emotions focused on “holding those emotions and thoughts loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to make big things happen in your life.”

Remember this. All emotions have value. It will be impossible for you to be at your best as a leader while bottling up your emotions or trying to be the “positive vibes only” person.

2. Learn to feel your emotions

Emotional cues are a little bit different for all of us. When you get frustrated or stressed, you might tense up, your face might get red, or you might start feeling physically ill.

Learning these cues will help you understand when you need to pump the breaks before reacting based on emotion–instead of responding intentionally. 

3. Watch your ripples

Get in the habit of observing how the energy changes when you walk in a room or when you meet with your team. These can be signals of the energy you are giving off. When you throw something in the water, you’ll see the impact create waves. When a manager starts screaming about a mistake that was made, the team responds. The better you are at understanding your ripples, the easier it will be to create the ripples you want.

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit JacobEspinoza.com.

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