Emotional intelligence is just as important to professional success as your management ability.
When I first became interested in the CEO position I now have, I sought advice about traits that members look for in their AE. I talked at length with my predecessor and had the great fortune to count her as a mentor. I also had been observing her for many years, especially how she managed her facial expressions and body language in meetings. No matter how difficult or contentious a debate became, she was unflappable, and one never knew from the outside what she was thinking. I, on the other hand, wore my emotions on my sleeve and members could tell when I was not happy. It became obvious that to take the next step in my career, I needed to take control of my emotions and become the professional facilitator of our members’ decision-making.
A book I turned to at the time and have relied on ever since is Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. Emotional intelligence, as you may know, is the ability to identify, consider, and control your own emotions and to recognize emotions in others. Your emotional intelligence grows as your self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management matures. Some say emotional intelligence is more important than IQ in determining success.
One part of the book that resonates with me still is the description of how our brains process feelings. We are hardwired for emotions to control us. Our brain cannot stop them from forming. Emotional intelligence lies at the intersection of our rational and emotional selves. The communication between the emotional part of our brain and the rational part of our brain will determine our level of emotional intelligence. Applying the techniques in the book helped me develop the ability to choose the right action and response despite my emotions.
The book contains specific strategies you can use immediately, including breathing right, taking time to process information, staying positive, and being conscious of your body language. My goal was to get to the place where members did not know what I was thinking or what my opinion was about the issue being discussed. It’s their association. I see my job as a facilitator of member decision-making without influencing. Acquiring emotional intelligence was truly a life-changing journey.
Bradberry and Greaves detail the four realms of emotional intelligence as:
- Self-awareness: being aware of your own emotions and managing your own behavior
- Social awareness: tuning into other people’s feelings, moods, and behavior
- Self-management: being able to adjust and direct your thoughts and actions
- Relationship management: the ability to effectively manage interactions and relationships
The relationship between staff and volunteer leaders recently has become something of a cause célèbre within the AE community. Whether it’s not feeling the love on AE Appreciation Day or wondering how to keep members in their “lane,” this issue has gotten our attention. To the extent that AEs can control how we deal with difficult situations, I believe we should, and becoming more emotionally intelligent may help.
Being in control of your emotions and in tune to others’ is particularly applicable to working through conflict. This component enables you to combine awareness of self and others, along with management of emotions, to carefully craft and mold interactions. For example, I avoid expressing a negative assessment of any idea. Instead, I focus attention on an alternative that achieves the same result.
There are a lot of emotions in REALTOR® association management, so it’s a good idea to know the volunteer leaders whose personalities determine how successful the year will be. I spend a lot of time observing others and learn as much as I can. That allows me to adapt to the proclivities of the new leaders.
Emotional intelligence is key to workplace success. With it, we can build strong relationships, maintain positive team dynamics, manage reactions appropriately, and be aware of when these are not taking place. Increased emotional intelligence can improve our ability to serve as examples for others and give us tools to deal with difficult people and situations.
Chuck Kasky, RCE, is the Chief Executive Officer of Maryland REALTORS®.