Are you failing to connect with your employees to motivate and inspire them? Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., is a renowned expert on emotional intelligence and psychology’s applications in the workplace. He is the author of several books and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twice for his work with the New York Times. He was named an AMA Top 30 Leader in Business for 2014, and received the American Psychological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his media writing. Dr. Goleman recently sat down with AMA to talk about how leaders can develop emotional intelligence.
AMA: How can a leader build up emotional intelligence and empathy? What exercises you would recommend?
DG: The good news about emotional intelligence is that it is not a fixed ability like IQ. Your IQ pretty much stays the same throughout life. Emotional intelligence is fluid. It takes form in the early years when the emotional and social circuits of the brain are forming into the mid-20s. There are now curricula in schools called social-emotional learning to help kids get this right. If you get it right in the first place, then you are in a very good position for leadership later in life. If you find as a leader that you need to build some of these skills, empathy is one in particular that often people complain a leader is short on. It is still possible, but you need to make more effort.
So, for example, one of the signs of not having a good capacity for empathy is simply not listening, and I think it is becoming more and more common among leaders, because people are so pressured. We have so much information coming. We actually process about five times more information today than we did twenty years ago, and there is a maxim in cognitive science that what information consumes is attention. An overwhelm of information creates a poverty of attention. I think many leaders today feel burdened. So, the way that shows up in terms of empathy is someone comes up to talk to you, you cut them off, and you just impose your agenda, rather than really hearing what it is they came to talk to you about.
A learning plan for someone like that might be first asking yourself, “Do I care? Am I motivated?” Yes, I am. Get some feedback about what you need to do. I need to listen better. Think of someone who’s a model. Someone you know who does it well. Keep that in mind and practice it at every opportunity. Stopping what you are doing, paying full attention to the person, putting aside your phone, your distracting thoughts, and just be present to the person while you listen. That’s the new habit. And finally, practice that at every opportunity. If you can do that for three to six months, you will strengthen the circuitry in the brain for doing that automatically, and one day will come and you won’t have to think about it. You will do it, which means that you now have a new default circuitry in the brain for that new emotional intelligence habit.
For more insights on emotional intelligence, check out Daniel Goleman’s course: Developing Your Emotional Intelligence.
An emotionally intelligent leader can manage their team to success. Learn the best management tips and tools with these AMA resources and seminars: