MLT Blog

Part 2 – Emotional Intelligence in the Workforce Q & A with Coach Andrea M. O’Neal

Interview with Andrea M. O’Neal, Career Prep Coach

In part one of this series, we spoke with Coach Andrea M. O’Neal on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as it relates to understanding the self and focusing emotions, strengths, and weaknesses to make sound decisions. In part two, Andrea provides guidance on using EQ as a social competence strategy to better empathize with others and create accountability and motivation in the workplace.

What are ways to establish open lines of communication with others from the start? How do we adjust our communication style with different audiences in a genuine way?

Andrea: Develop a personal rapport with people. This means showing that you have a genuine interest in hearing their stories and allowing them to understand who you are and the goals you have. This general, mutual respect is a great baseline to have as the work gets harder, or the hours get longer, or as the tensions start to rise – it’s the first building block in a workplace. Know your coworkers from an organizational leverage standpoint. Who is this person? Where do they sit and what do they care about within the organization? What motivates their interest? Your communication style should change based on the objectives of the people you’re talking to. For instance, if one person is data or metrics-driven, it would be a good idea to include quantitative information if you’re trying to influence a conversation with them. Others may be focused on the ecosystem of the organization: how people feel, how people will interact or be affected, or how people are invested in ideas. When communicating with that kind of person, numbers may be important, but may not be what causes them to tune in. Learning someone’s emotional orientation to the subject matter should inform how we are communicating a message.

How can we demonstrate leadership while maintaining a team environment? How do we know when taking a leadership role is appropriate?

Andrea: Emotional intelligence is about reading the room appropriately. Understand the level of experience, the tenure for a type of position, and the dynamic of a team itself. If you’re new to a job on a very experienced team, chances are that your leadership may manifest itself differently. Our strengths should become part of the brand that people know us for in a work environment. If we give thoughtful public presentations, someone may naturally come to us and say: “We’re doing another presentation, we liked your format, would you be willing to consult with us on this project?” The best type of leadership is organic: it’s earned through performing highly by cultivating strengths. People align themselves with you because of the great qualities you have and provide you with opportunities to shine further.

In situations where we are acting more proactive within team environments, for instance, if there is a particular part of a project that is underserved, leadership may take form in trying to galvanize people to pay more attention to it. However, trouble begins when we try to usurp other folk’s positions or go beyond the scope of our own role before getting a green light. Assessing when it’s appropriate for us to speak or become more upfront in a leadership capacity is crucial. Once we have assessed ourselves, the environment, cultivated relationships with stakeholders, and learned how to strategically communicate with them, we should have a foundation of what we can achieve within our leadership capacity.

How can a team capitalize on personality or ideological differences amongst members?

Andrea: If you’re working with people that are very different in terms of personality or ideology, it’s about finding cohesion in the team so people feel that they’re working in their wheelhouse. If you know that someone is very adept at cultivating relationships within a team, it may make sense to put that person in a role that naturally facilitates interaction. If you put that person on the numbers, and they don’t care about numbers, then they’re not as emotionally invested or using their strengths in the right way. In some cases, if you’re putting people in a position that amplifies their weaknesses, you may be creating a situation where they’re on the lower end of the emotional wheel – the fear, the anger, and all that manifests itself in not living out their strengths. Leaders that are emotionally intelligent are sensitive to people’s skillsets and position them so they’re doing their best work and carrying out their natural service to the team. This creates harmony because everyone is fulfilled doing what is more emotionally satisfying to them. Then, as the team comes together to share ideas, they become invested in a shared goal.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, read it here.