The Business School Alumni Network (BSAN) recently hosted the Summer Alumni Workshop: Averting (or Addressing) Burnout, facilitated by Maggie Graham, Assistant Director of Career and Professional Development for Business Career Connections (BCC).
The event was a small, casual workshop for alumni over lunch, and participants were able to take an emotional intelligence (EQ) assessment and leave with knowledge and tools to protect against professional burnout.
What is EQ and why should I care?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to be aware of, understand, and manage your emotions. While intelligence (IQ) is important, success in life depends more on EQ.
EQ represents a core dimension of our professional success. Some research data from TalentSmart outlines its impact:
- If top performers are clustered into a group, 90% of them are high in EQ while just 20% of low performers have a high EQ.
- People with high EQ earn $29k more each year than people with a low degree of EQ – in fact, every point increase in EQ correlates to $1,300 more in annual income.
EQ influences our work in critical areas, including:
- Change management
- Decision making
- Relationships in the workplace
- Conflict resolution
- Professional development
Step 1: Emotional Awareness
Basically, emotional awareness boils down to recognizing and understanding your own emotions. Although it sounds simple – and it is – there are some nuances to emotional awareness, including:
- Labeling your emotions with precision
- Identifying and being attentive to your emotional triggers
- Understanding your own boundaries, resources, strengths, and challenges
- Welcoming and navigating feedback, even when it’s difficult
- Knowing the forces that motivate you, and how to cultivate and foster them
- Recognizing your impact on those around you
Building Blocks to Emotional Awareness
- Be attentive to physical manifestations of emotions in your body. Examples of shifts you might notice include elevated heart rate, the tension in shoulders, neck, and jaw, queasiness in the stomach or other digestive distress, blushing, etc.
- Journal for at least five minutes a day. Write in a stream-of-consciousness voice, which means record the exact chatter in your mind without regard to logic or coherence. At the end of the five minutes, spend a few minutes looking for patterns and connecting those patterns to emotions.
- Seek feedback from people who know you well. Ask family members, friends, and colleagues about patterns they’ve noticed regarding your emotions and behavior.
- Articulate your core values. When you know your top values, you’ll be able to understand your emotional triggers.
Step 2: Emotional Management
This dimension of EQ shifts us from understanding to action, from recognition to behavior, and from introspection to observable acts. It’s important to realize that proficiency in this arena extends from a solid base of self-awareness.
Since we’re focusing on action and behavior right now, know that emotional management doesn’t necessarily look like charging into action. It can also look like pausing or interrupting a behavior that doesn’t serve you or your professional situation.
There are several dimensions to Emotional Management:
- Innovation and creativity
- Emotional self-regulation
- Positive outlook
Building Blocks to Emotional Management
Attend to your self-talk. If your inner critic is having a field day every time you don’t adhere to (usually self-imposed) high expectations, scolding yourself can drive those behaviors even deeper. Whereas if you speak with compassion (not placating but with gentle support), your results will likely shift.
- Focus on the basics. How is your sleep hygiene? What about exercise? Eating? Do you have time built into your schedule to replenish your energy?
- Share your big-picture goals. When we know that we need to report our progress to someone, we tend to follow through with more consistency and longevity than we might if those goals had been left private.
- Extend the space between your stimulus and response. Viktor Frankl, a famous psychologist, stated, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Count to 10. Breathe deeply. Say, “Let me get back to you.”
Step 3: Social Emotional Awareness
With this element of EQ, we are shifting from personal competence to social competence. Are you inclined to consider others’ perspectives? Guess accurately about their motivations and emotions? Not impose your own filters onto others? If so, you’re likely skilled in this domain of EQ.
Building Blocks to Social Emotional Awareness
- Watch others’ body language. Facial expressions, posture, tone/speed of voice, gestures, and carriage all offer clues to others’ emotional states. Without staring, look for evidence of people’s moods. Are their arms crossed? Do their eyes crinkle at the corner when they smile (if not, their smile may be forced)? Do they make eye contact (too much, too little)?
- Try on others’ point of view. Step into other people’s perspectives by imagining yourself in their shoes. Ask questions to test your assumptions to see if your conjecture is on target or not.
- Map the social structure of your organization. Instead of the traditional organizational chart that shows who is in charge of specific initiatives and who supervises whom, draw an informal chart that plots the power structures in your organization.
Step 4: Relationship Management
Built upon the foundation of the other three dimensions of EQ, relationship management boils down to being purposeful with your interactions at every professional level: peers, those you report to, those you lead, and those you serve. The main ingredients of relationship management include:
- Conflict resolution
- Leadership and influence
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Building bonds and trust
Under stress, relationship management tends to erode, which is why success in this area hinges on skill in the other three EQ arenas. When you’re self-aware, you recognize signs of stress and manage your stress appropriately to help ward off a stumble in your relationships. Managed stress also makes you attuned to external cues regarding the people who matter to you, thereby helping you avert missteps around relationship management.
Building Blocks to Relationship Management
- Develop a conflict toolbox. The book Crucial Conversations offers useful strategies for navigating conflict, including:
- Establishing emotional safety
- Creating mutual purpose
- Speaking persuasively, not abrasively
- Exploring others’ paths
- Cultivate curiosity. Use open-ended, neutral questions that invite others to share at a high level.
- Deliver effective feedback. Ensure the timing is useful (immediate is best, but be sure that you have permission). Be positive and specific. Focus on the behavior rather than the person.
- Seek feedback. Cultivate opportunities to learn about your impact on others, both in terms of your strengths and your challenges.
- Explore mentoring or coaching. Look for role models and observe, consult, and ask for guidance on an informal basis.
- Act with transparency. Offer insight into your approaches and your strategies and invite others to see not just the output but the pathway you use to produce your results.
- Avoid blame and focus on solutions. Dissecting the pathway to an unexpected and unwelcome destination is useful after you’ve arrived. When you’re in the midst of a struggle, look for repairs and pathways forward.
The Summer Alumni Workshop on EQ and its impact on burnout was offered through BSAN and BCC. We work together to offer exclusive programs and opportunities for our alumni to keep learning, growing, and creating meaningful connections long after graduation.
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