Increase Your Emotional Intelligence through Self-Management

by Mike Crompton
The Excel Leadership Group

Editor’s note: This is the third article by Executive Coach Mike Crompton in a series about how you can improve your emotional intelligence (EQ) to become a more effective leader. The first article in February included an overview of the four EQ quadrants: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. The April article centered on self-awareness, and this article will address self-management. Crompton will discuss social awareness and relationship management in future articles.

The second emotional intelligence (EQ) quadrant of self-management consists of nine essential components: 1) emotional self-control; 2) integrity; 3) innovation and creativity; 4) initiative and bias for action; 5) resilience; 6) achievement drive; 7) stress management; 8) realistic optimism and 9) intentionality. This article focuses on the two key components of emotional self-control and integrity, because both correlate directly to leadership effectiveness.

Emotional Self-Control Fosters a Positive Work Environment
Emotional self-control refers to how we control or effectively manage the behaviors our emotions trigger. People with strong emotional self-control manage to stay composed and poised even in stressful situations. For business leaders, this is a critically important competency to develop, since a team typically reflects the demeanor of its leader.

If a leader loses his or her temper often, this can create an atmosphere of fear that ultimately hampers a team’s productivity. In contrast, if a leader remains unflappable under duress, the leader’s calm reaction can create an atmosphere that’s perceived as positive and supportive of creativity—the type of atmosphere that’s needed to solve today’s complex business problems.

Here are a few coaching tips that can help enhance your emotional or behavioral self-control.

  1. Remain aware of feelings. Paying attention to how you feel—in the moment—is the first step to more effective self-management of your behavior. (See the April iBi article on self-awareness for more tips on staying in tune with your feelings.)
  2. Keep a journal. Create a list of situations or events that “trigger” negative emotions, such as anger or frustration. Then write out a strategy to deal with these situations in a positive and effective manner. Review these strategies often so you’re prepared to put them into practice.
  3. Pay attention to “self talk.” Tell yourself what it looks and feels like to be under control, focused and composed. Repeat this consciously each day and it’s likely your “talk” will become your automatic “action.”
  4. Remember, you have a choice. You have the ability to choose your response to any situation. You can choose to “fly off the handle” in stressful situations, or you can choose to remain calm.

Integrity Builds Confidence and Trust
I once heard integrity defined as “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” That simple, straightforward definition implies that integrity springs from character—or a person’s willingness to keep commitments and build trust. Integrity is a critical leadership trait, because people want and need to be able to trust their leaders. Trust builds employee confidence and fosters a productive working environment.

Imagine for a moment a scenario in which an organization’s leaders lack integrity. What do you see? Certainly, we can expect to find an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion, where employees have little confidence in what their leaders say. Because without integrity, it’s likely these leaders make promises or commitments, and then fail to follow through. Their words simply don’t match their actions. They say one thing and do something quite different. In other words, the organization’s leaders don’t “walk their talk.”

This behavior, this lack of integrity, can create a climate or culture where employees spend valuable time “second-guessing” their leadership—when employees should be focused on achieving company goals. Of course, this creates unnecessary and unacceptable inefficiencies that can negatively impact an organization’s bottom line.

Some coaching tips for enhancing your integrity:

  1. Know your values and principles. Make a list of your values, principles and beliefs. Keep your list in a place where you can easily review it often. Your goal should be to constantly remind yourself of what you believe in, so you naturally live by your values and principles to do what is right—even when your actions won’t result in personal rewards.
  2. Examine your behavior. Take the time each day to examine how you behaved in a certain situation. Think about how well that behavior aligns with your values and principles. Then write down some ways you might improve your behavior in a future, similar situation. 
  3. Admit mistakes. When you are wrong, don’t hesitate to say so. Admitting you were wrong is a sign of strength—not weakness. Open and honest admissions also build your credibility with others. 
  4. Keep your word. If you make a commitment to someone—keep it. It doesn’t matter how small the commitment is; it could be as simple as promising to find an answer to a question. You build trust when you follow through. 
  5. Treat people fairly. Apply your rules and policies the same way to everyone in your organization, regardless of their job title. Nothing can destroy trust or impair integrity faster than “playing favorites.”

You don’t have to look far in today’s national headlines to find business leaders who appear deficient in self-control and integrity. Wall Street executives alone provide several examples.

On a bright note, we can also find prime examples of corporate leaders demonstrating their integrity and clear intent to “walk their talk.” One notable local example is Caterpillar. In light of the recession, the company’s senior executives cut their own compensation, displaying a high degree of emotional intelligence—particularly in self-management. iBi

Mike Crompton is a Certified Executive Coach and founder of The Excel Leadership Group, LLC. The company offers executive coaching and a variety of leadership development services. Visit ExcelLeadership.net for more information.

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