• Emotional Intelligence; The Holy Grail for Successful People

    Author(s): By Thomas Davis, DNAP, MAE, CRNA

    Imagine that you are the coach of an NBA team and it’s your job to turn great players into a championship team.  Because only the best of the best are drafted into the league, you know without question, that each person on the team is a super star in his own right.  Leading a team of super stars should be easy, right? You learn very quickly that while individual talents are important, it is converting unique skills into collective teamwork that wins the game.

    Now imagine that you are a program director for a nurse anesthesiology program, and you are selecting the students for the upcoming class.  Like the basketball coach, your applicants are the super stars from ICU, and you select those with the strongest credentials.  Teaching a group of super stars should be easy, right? Like the coach, you learn that the most successful students aren’t necessarily those with the best credentials, rather, those who have a positive attitude and the capacity to connect, and work collaboratively with classmates and instructors.

    In both scenarios emotional intelligence trumps talent.  It is the receptiveness to learning/coaching, networking with others, and the desire to work collaboratively that creates the best results.

    Emotional intelligence; Buzz word or formula for success?

    In 1990, Psychology professors John D Mayer and Peter Salovey coined the term emotional intelligence and noted the following:

    “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

    What does emotional intelligence look like and how can it be developed?

    Simply stated, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and to sense the emotions of others.  Those with high emotional intelligence have better mental health, job performance and leadership ability as evidenced by their ability to build relationships, reduce stress, and defuse conflict.

    Professors Mayer and Salovey outlined 5 basic components characteristic of those who have high emotional intelligence:

    • Self-awareness
    • Self-regulation
    • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
    • Empathy for others
    • Social skills, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks
    • Tools for improving emotional intelligence

    Writing for leaders.com, author Colin Baker offers tips for expanding one’s capacity for emotional intelligence:

    Improve self-awareness by talking with colleagues and actively listening with an open mind.  Be mindful of your mood and develop a morning routine that puts you in the right frame of mind before going to work and be aware of events that change your mood during the day.

    Improve self-regulation by becoming aware of what you can and cannot change.   Plan to pause when confronted with an emotional situation and never make a decision when you are emotionally stressed.  Refuse to participate in gossip or other toxic behavior.

    Improve your capacity for empathy by assuming that there is more than one side to every story and open your mind to understand the other point of view.  Set aside your knee jerk response and list all possible options for resolving a problem.  Get to know your teammates and thank them for their opinions and completed work.

    Improve motivation by being passionate about the job while keeping an optimistic attitude and instilling the belief that goals can be achieved.

    Improve social skills by being an active listener and enhance your skill at reading non-verbal cues given by the other person.  When in a conversation, strive to be interested rather than interesting.

    The bond that fuses your work team does not arise from having the same employer, rather it grows from mutual respect and encouraging the advancement of one another

    What you say and do affects those around you in either a positive or negative way.  Author Michele Borba emphasizes the importance of developing an emotionally intelligent vocabulary and suggests the following:

    • Label emotions:  Intentionally name the emotions that you feel and those that you observe in others.  “I am happy.” “I am nervous.” “You seem angry.”    Share your observation with the other person, “you seem tense”, then listen attentively while they either validate your observation or explain how they really feel.
    • Ask questions:  When a person lodges a complaint, ask “how did that make you feel?”   Listen attentively, validate their feelings, and let them know that it’s OK to have emotions.
    • Share your feelings:  Stating “I’m frustrated with this new policy” validates that you have emotions too.   The goal is not to eliminate emotions, rather to understand and control them.
    • Notice others:  Pay attention to facial expression and body language.  Enhance your awareness by looking at another person and questioning yourself, “how does that person feel?”

    If it’s important, make personal contact

    Every tip in this article is based on personal interaction with another individual.  Face to face contact reveals facial expressions, tone of voice and body language.   Delivering an important message via text, email or social media make it impossible to perceive non-verbal cues and creates a barrier to using emotional intelligence to connect with the other person.  When face to face is not possible, a video connection is next best followed by a phone call.  Never text or email an emotionally charged message.

    Like learning to shoot a three pointer, emotional intelligence is a learned skill that takes practice.  Begin by being a better listener and asking follow-up questions when you are engaged in conversation.  Dare to have and share emotions without becoming emotional.  Label and validate the emotions that you perceive in others and use them for mutual benefit.  With a little preparation you can become the leader that you have always wanted to work with.

    Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center. Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.


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