It’s not about what emotions we experience, but how we harness and direct our emotions that will impact our success or failure.
In the AEC industry, each constituent group has a stereotypical emotional profile. Engineers are characterized as emotionless number crunchers, architects as artistic prima donnas, and contractors as argumentative hard cases. We all probably know people who fit those generic descriptions, but if you focus on the most successful members of each group the public emotional profiles become much more homogeneous.
In the relationship-driven work environment, valuing your emotional intelligence – how you recognize and use emotional information to guide your behavior and thinking – can be one of the best predictors of your success and the success of your firm.
According to TalentSmart, an EQ testing organization serving Fortune 500 companies, of the 34 important workplace skills, including such skills as time management, decision-making, teamwork, and communication, EQ is the strongest predictor of performance and forms the foundation for the other business skills critical to success. So, as we are all emotional beings, it is not about what emotions we experience, but how we harness and direct our emotions that will impact our success or failure.
- Harnessing negative emotions. We have all experienced the manager with the explosive personality who is continually railing about everything that happens. Similarly, we have seen the business owner who was akin to an apocalyptic preacher during the economic downturn. In both cases, no one wants to be around them, each fails to achieve success and, in some cases, their firms are now gone. They focused on their negative emotions at the expense of all else. Aggression, anger, fear, and grief – all of which have negative connotations – can actually turn into positive events provided they are managed and focused in the right way. These negative emotions can drive beneficial change in behavior and understanding. We chase new services because we do not want to experience the sense of loss when we were beaten by our competition. We enhance our quality control procedures because we want to avoid the anger over paying our deductible to an attorney. Also, if you only experience the good emotions, you and your firm can become complacent because you begin to believe that no wrong can happen to you. It may be a hard concept to accept, but feeling bad can be very good.
- Don’t be emotion neutral. Some take the position that instead of running the risk of emotional extremes, they will simply be emotion neutral. In theory, that may seem like a fantastic approach as you cannot offend anyone if you don’t have any emotions toward anyone or anything. But who wants to be associated with, much less led by a person with no emotions? Our businesses are based on personal relationships, and staff and clients expect you to have emotions, both good and bad, that are reflective of current events. Avoid hiding what you are really feeling, but do not display your emotions to the extent that they become the primary descriptors of who you are and what you stand for.
- Be emotionally consistent. We may want our firms to be ready to expect the unexpected, but that is not what your staff or clients should expect from you. Consistency in how you manage your response to situations is essential. You cannot afford to be conciliatory toward one employee and angry with another if they have both made the same error unless you want to drive one away from your firm. If you are consistent, your relationships can be strengthened as the unknowns in the relationships are removed. Learning how to avoid emotional extremes is equally important. Showing fits of rage toward a team member can quickly alienate you from your team and your clients. Do you really think it is beneficial for your staff to fear approaching you because they are afraid of your probable volatile response?
- Applying EQ to your team’s experience. We all have different individual emotional profiles and no firm should want monochromatic emotional clones. Just as technical diversity is important to the firm, differing emotional profiles can provide a more healthy and productive work environment. However, as the importance of emotional intelligence crosses all emotional profiles, it is essential for all firms to assist their staff in enhancing their individual EQ. Training, individual counseling and mentor-protégé programs all provide platforms from which this EQ training can take place.
- The power of exercising EQ. You should not shy away from your emotions, but you also should not let them take control of your actions. Pursue self-awareness and manage your behavior because your EQ will positively impact your firm and differentiate you and your team from your competition. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, president of TalentSmart, “emotional intelligence … affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.” Best of all, the more we exercise our emotional intelligence, the more positively ingrained our behavior becomes, enabling us to better understand ourselves and our teams and motivate them to greater performance and success.
Stephen Lucy is CEO of JQ with offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Lubbock, Texas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.