CareTalk: Good Leadership Begins With Me

Q I’m a new manager in a fairly large organisation and I’ve taken on a team that seems to be in constant conflict. I am sure the members have the skills to communicate better with each other, but I feel I need to begin with myself and work out the skills I need as a manager in order to help them. Where do I start?

A You are starting in the right place – yourself. Improving a team culture requires some change at all levels of staff but culture change should start at the top – management. Your willingness firstly to reflect on your own skills indicates that you already possess an awareness of yourself and the needs of your staff. This awareness places you in a positive position to enhance your capabilities as an emotionally intelligent ‘leader’ – not just a ‘manager’ of a team.

Emotional intelligence has been a popular topic of research in the psychological field and the general conclusion seems to be that emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success (personal and work-related) than general intelligence (IQ). Possessing effective emotional intelligence skills means you are able to assess your own emotions and those of others, creating the potential for positive work and home environments. There are also increased physical and mental health benefits associated with strong emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is not fixed from a young age, as is general IQ or even some personality traits. This is good news, as the aspects of emotional intelligence can be learned at any time. The four main aspects are:

  • Self Awareness: the ability to recognise your own emotions and understand their impact on thoughts, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Self Management: the ability to manage your emotions and behaviours and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Social Awareness: the ability to understand others’ emotions and their impact on thoughts, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Relationship Management: the ability to foster positive relationships, communicate effectively, inspire and influence others. The idea is to ‘connect’ before you ‘correct’. Empathy for others lays the foundation for collaborative problem-solving and supportive workplace relationships.

To develop strong emotional intelligence:

  • Find ways to quickly calm yourself during times of intense stress. Having the ability to balance your emotions ensures you do not make hasty decisions or comments that may impact negatively.
  • Connect with your emotions. Develop an awareness of your inner experiences throughout your work day − notice what is happening emotionally for you at different times.
  • Pay attention to your non-verbal communication. People pay attention not only to what you say but also to how you say it. Good verbal and non-verbal communication helps to increase trust between you and your staff.
  • Use humour when appropriate to deal with challenges. A good laugh helps to relieve stress, lighten life’s difficulties and elevate mood.
  • Resolve conflict positively. A good leader seeks ways to solve the problem rather than lay blame. Once you feel more confident in the other aspects of emotional intelligence, resolving conflict will not be as difficult, as you have built trust and positive relationships with staff.

To develop further your leadership and emotional intelligence skills, a number of organisations now offer coaching for managers as well as Emotional Intelligence Leadership workshops. A Google search should point you in the right direction.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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