We are experiencing a universal disruption that has changed the way businesses operate. Globally, organizations are faced with uncertainty. There are too many unknowns that lead to a roller coaster of emotions: fear, anxiety, anger, hopelessness and more. The situation creates such a heightened emotional impact that one’s usual coping strategies seem ineffective. Even the ones who are normally mentally, emotionally balanced, healthy and adaptable to varying situations, may experience moments of inadequacy and lack of control which in effect leads to a perception of feeling threatened.
Organizations need to provide a safe zone for employees who are seeking compassion and empathy. Business leaders need to balance and to manage business uncertainty along with the emotions of their employees; to keep everyone productive while maintaining business operations. Caring for our employees’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is integral to business survival in these times.
Having collective EQ (Emotional Quotient) in leadership could enable the organization’s leaders to respond faster, bounce quicker and manage both functional and relational needs of the organization.
We asked our resource person on leadership and organisational development, Ms Anna Esperanza, to enlighten us on how leaders can transform themselves and their teams to lead with emotional intelligence.
Identify your own mental, emotional, spiritual and physical state. What are your strong feelings? Are you more demanding or controlling? Since you don’t see your team everyday, do you become more upset with mistakes? Do you pound on your employees deliverables, measuring productivity as if they are operating on full capacity, with easy access to resources, and tools? Are these feelings rooted in fear? Your internal thoughts say if teams don’t deliver business would crumble and you pound even harder. All of these lead to team burnout, low morale and low quality outputs. Your state affects your decisions and behaviors. Recognizing them helps control its effects on others.
Focus on what you know you can directly control. It gives you a sense of power over the situation. Understand your capacity, limits and capabilities and work with it. Be compassionate to yourself too and set your boundaries to help you navigate self and others positively. For example, you must be aware of how much you can push yourself physically before it changes your mood or before you can feel the toll on your body to the extent that it could affect your behavior. Then make sure you don’t exceed that limit. Personally, I know that ten straight days of less than five hours of sleep could still allow me to function without affecting my mental and emotional state. But more than that, I will be irritable and weak.
As leaders we set the tone and pace. Create an environment of safety. Effective leaders with high EQ practices empathy, compassion plus boundaries. Their behaviors translate to a feeling of being in a safe environment wherein teams are heard, understood, supported and nurtured. Leaders with good social awareness are keen to the team’s varying ways of adjusting to the new normal. They too consider their family dynamics, home environment, structure, living conditions and available tools that their teams have to be able to work within their capacity and limits. An emotionally intelligent leader sets tasks and measures productivity that is doable based on each team member’s unique situation. Addressing everyone’s needs improves one’s well being and morale. Employees having such are associated with higher productivity.
Clearly identify what is socially and ethically important to the organization. It will help in setting policies and guidelines that set the parameters for decision making, given the situation. Listen to your team’s suggestions. Be open to change processes, work structures, or re-assign tasks and give team members a chance to execute their tasks at a reasonable pace, if necessary. Lastly, do make these changes in processes and systems sustainable as well as economically viable.