Recently we’ve seen an influx of new leaders who are eager to succeed in their new role, but haven’t been given the soft skills required to do their job. People have been put in leadership positions based on their technical skills, and not because they have experience leading people. Or solopreneurs have grown their businesses to the point where needing a team is necessary to support further growth.
Being a good leader requires emotional intelligence. Leaders set the tone for their organization and if they’re not using emotional intelligence to understand themselves and others, they won’t have much success leading their teams.
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman
It’s easy to become so goal oriented or project-focused that we miss the big picture of understanding what our teams need. If you don’t slow down and pay attention to others, it’s a missed opportunity. Remember, people are emotional creatures, not robots on an assembly line.
We all have good days and bad days, and how you support your team during those moments is what will set your business apart. Taking the time to read your team shows them that we are caring. It feels good for them to be seen, heard, and understood.
When we know what obstacles our people are facing, we can encourage them to slow down if needed. Sometimes it takes slowing down to speed up and deliver a better quality result.
Once you understand what your team is feeling or going through, you can show compassion and empathy. But what is the difference between the two?
Compassion is saying “Let me figure out a way to make things better.” You recognize there is a problem that needs to be solved and compassion is your desire to help.
Empathy is saying “Let me sit in the pain with you.” This creates a strong bond and higher levels of trust and safety. Empathy is having the awareness to see yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Showing compassion and empathy are signs of a strong and healthy workplace culture. Leaders often do a great job of showing compassion but can lack the empathy part. Both are needed.
This is where your intuition comes in. It’s okay to take the risk of asking if someone is okay. If you feel like something is off, it probably is. We often notice that something doesn’t feel right but then we talk ourselves out of saying something.
It is absolutely okay to dig deeper beyond the surface. It might not be well-received but it’s always better to err on the side of asking. It’s better to take the chance of saying something, then allowing the issue to grow bigger. The person might not be ready to talk and that’s okay too. You’ve communicated and shown that you care.
And, sometimes outsiders notice an issue first. That’s because self-awareness is hard. Maybe the person thinks they are over the issue or it’s not affecting them as much as it is. They might need help recognizing they have an issue that needs to be addressed.
This one might sound obvious but being patient is often overlooked. It’s easy to get so caught up in the moment that leaders can’t see the bigger picture. Emotions take time and people need time to process them.
Taking the extra time to work through something is important. Taking this time makes people resilient and healthy. Do you want a team of people running at 25% or would you rather have them take the time they need to get to 80-100%? There’s good in being patient. It’s better in the long run for everyone: your people, you, and your business.
Oftentimes we think caring is a sign of weakness and that people will take advantage, but the opposite is true. People want to be cared about, nobody wants to feel like just a number. It’s not just okay to care, it’s a good idea to care. When people know that their leader cares about them, they care about their leader too. And that’s a big benefit to everyone!
There may come a time when the leader isn’t equipped to help the employee, and that’s okay because there are other resources to help. Larger companies have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) full of resources. Even if you’re not a huge corporation, there are resources available to you. Most states have a plan that employers and employees are already paying into. It’s important to do your homework and know what resources are available to you and your employees BEFORE it’s needed.
How will you create a space where emotions are supported in your workplace?