Have you ever noticed the similarity between fitness statistics and employee engagement in the US? According to the CDC, 69% of US adults over 20 are overweight and 35% are obese. Similarly, over 70% of US workers are disengaged and over 30% are actively disengaged. The primary reason for obesity stems from poor diet and lack of exercise, and the key cause for disengagement is poor leadership. While we are all born with physical and mental characteristics that affect both our health and leadership abilities, the commonalities of these fundamental problems are self-awareness and self-management.
A popular tool for monitoring activity, heart rate, etc. has emerged over the past year called the Fitbit®. The Fitbit® is worn on the wrist and tracks a person’s activity level throughout the day to provide feedback on their personal fitness goals. This device has become hugely popular and has helped many people increase their activity level and improve their overall fitness. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Fitbit® for leadership - a device to track our activity as a leader and make us aware of how we are doing? Actually, there is… it’s called Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) is the ability to monitor our own and other people's emotions, recognize them and use the information to guide our thinking and behavior – just like a Fitbit®. What does behavior have to do with leadership? EVERYTHING. Unlike common thinking, studies show that the majority of leadership issues stem from poor behaviors – not a lack of skills. Most leaders know the most effective behaviors; they just don’t always practice them to get the maximum results (just like fitness). Emotional Intelligence was made widely popular by Dr. Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence - Why it can matter more than IQ (1995). Today the concept is common among leaders and is the framework for the Performex® Leadership Excellence programs.
How is Emotional Intelligence used to improve leadership? First, the leader must gain awareness of their emotional and behavioral habits through feedback and understanding of his/her personality. Then the leader must accept their challenges and actively work with a coach to replace the poor habits with positive ones by actively monitoring and managing their behaviors and emotions during interactions with others. Just as there is no “magic diet pill” to overcome obesity, there is no “Magic Elixir” for increasing EI. It takes time, patience and hard work, which is why a coach is needed to provide accountability and support.
Unfortunately Emotional Intelligence cannot be worn on the wrist to provide instant feedback like the Fitbit®, but it can provide the awareness needed to become an effective, engaging and inspirational leader.