Over the past few months, we’ve zoomed in on each component of Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, and Relationship Management. You’ve noticed natural connections and callbacks from one piece to the next, but we haven’t really shown how it all fits together, so we figured it’s about time for a story (we haven’t done one of those in a while!).
Picture this: You are a member of a department leadership team and you have a deliverable that you need approval from your leader – it directly impacts multiple stakeholders concentrated within your department, and they cannot take any action or begin planning until the scope of the project is finalized. It’s a task that nobody likes - it requires a lot of strategic thinking and focus - it happens once a year.
You started with last year’s version and it was mostly finalized, but you received more information that condensed the project timeline and expanded the scope, which means significant revisions. The ideal deadline was one week ago, if you were going to keep everyone comfortable and appease your varying tolerances of “The Unknown” and preference for advance notice. The next reasonable deadline is the end of this week, but the following Friday would be down to the wire and people could pull through. Your organization is notorious for making The Very Last Minute an acceptable internal deadline, but that understandably frustrates all of your impacted stakeholders.
Let’s break it down.
This is your first year on the leadership team, and the closest you’ve been to the task from this side. You know this task does not align with your strengths and interests – it’s the exact combination of strategic and rigid thinking that is so far outside your wheelhouse it may as well be in an Australian desert. Because of those things, you know your part of the task will take longer, and you’ll need breathers, as well as discipline, to get it done and stay focused.
You’re feeling frustrated – you know this impacts your group of people, you’ve experienced it from the other side, and if you could just do it and get it over with, you would have, but you need your leader’s input because they know things about the scope and task itself that you don’t.
Because this is not your favorite task, and it’s new to you, you block off a quiet hour and a half on your calendar after meetings are done, so you don’t have other things to prepare for or distract you.
You assume your Big Think atmosphere. For you, this means turning off the lights, turning your phone on Do Not Disturb, turning on your office air puffy with some Spearmint essential oil. Good Big Think vibes. You take a brain break every twenty minutes for no more than two minutes, and knock out what you can before sending it to your boss for review if they have time, knowing the likelihood of them doing so is low.
Some of your department members are getting antsy as they await the information and action items that will be determined or impacted by this decision. Thinking through your stakeholders, you have two plan-aheaders who are becoming actively uncomfortable. One of them has spoken with you this week, asking when they’ll be able to start planning their next assignment. Some of your team is so used to “Last Minute” that they’re not overly concerned (at least not that they’ve expressed to you). One of your team members will have an immediate action item as soon as your leader completes the final sign off, as well as multiple time-sensitive actions once that is completed. She’s been checking in with you daily for the past week.
Your boss is constantly in meetings, and he does his best Big Thinks first thing in the mornings (the opposite of when you do yours). Like you, this is not his favorite task, and he’s frustrated that the scope has changed once the deliverable was nearly finalized. You know he’ll drag his feet on it if he doesn’t have an accountabili-buddy, and this is something that really needs to be sooner than later. Your department and leadership team has really been trying to push timeliness and get away from the Last Minute being an acceptable deadline.
When people approach you asking if the project has been approved yet, you acknowledge that it’s still in the works, and that you understand the team is growing anxious. You’ve taken initiative to reach out with progress updates to the stakeholders that you know are growing more uncomfortable as time passes. If they need to share how they’re feeling, you make time to listen and do what you can to acknowledge their concerns, and share any information you can about where you are in terms of being ready for the next phase.
You try to schedule a meeting with your boss, but their schedule is full until 2:30pm. Ugh. That’s past their Big Think time. You take a 3:00pm appointment and hope for the best. You grab one of their favorite energy drinks from the break room and set up the conference room. They get there a few minutes late, as expected, so you sent a couple emails while you waited. You make small talk because they enjoy that, and you acknowledge that you know this isn’t the ideal time to do this, but it was the only time you could find on his calendar. Together you hash out the remaining pieces of information you need, and solidify the final steps, making sure the math adds up. You send it out to the stakeholders by 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, a week ahead of the Last Possible Minute.
Then, you set a calendar reminder 10 months from now to start working on it for the following year, before logging off for the weekend.
Emotional intelligence isn’t just about spreading warm fuzzies in the office. It’s using what you know about the task at hand, what you know about yourself, and what you know about your teammates, to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone. You’ve officially been introduced to each component of Emotional Intelligence, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’re done! Growing your EI is all about intentional and consistent effort to stay in tune with yourself and your surroundings, as well as managing your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to achieve positive outcomes for yourself and your team. As with any other capacity or competency we share with you, it’s not a once-and-done or one-size-fits all approach or action item.
Stay tuned next month for more targeted tips on how to grow and apply your emotional intelligence skills!
What about you? How do you put your emotional intelligence to work for you? Let us know in the comments or on social media!