Your EQ holding you back?

Facilitated by:
Frank Ciecierski and Jerry Walsh

“He’s one of the most intelligent people I know, but he can’t seem to get ahead.”
“Her IQ is out of sight, but she doesn’t get along with anybody.”
“That client brings in a lot of dollars, but I sometimes wonder if it is worth all the aggravation.”

Do any of these sound familiar? If you are using these types of statements to describe people you know, the “but” is an indicator that there is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) issue at hand. Emotional Intelligence, not IQ, is the most common element among successful people. EI is the ability to make rational decisions even in highly emotional and stress producing situations.

Consider this example. Alex, a prominent attorney with a well known law firm, walks into Mary’s office as he does on an almost weekly basis, and says, “I don’t understand why people can’t simply do what I ask them to do. When I left last night, I wrote specific instructions to have three copies of this brief made and on my desk by ten o’clock this morning. It’s now ten thirty and I still don’t have them. What’s wrong with your office staff? Can’t they read English?” Mary, who has been the administrator with the firm for eight years, replies, “Alex, you seem upset. I know it’s frustrating to you when your instructions aren’t followed. I will have copies made for you immediately, and I will find out why you didn’t have them by ten. Is there any other way I can help you right now?”

Alex is angry and takes his anger out on Mary. Mary recognizes Alex’s anger and effectively handles the situation, diffusing the emotion and solving the problem. Mary is demonstrating a high level of Emotional Intelligence. Alex is not. Alex is being controlled by his emotions, and as a result, his behavior is reactive and explosive. Mary, caught off guard, is still in control of her emotions. Her behavior, therefore, is contemplative and calm. It is Mary’s actions that insure the working relationship with Alex will remain productive.

Mary was in a potentially explosive situation. She could easily have gotten defensive and returned Alex’s attack. Their anger would have revealed itself in many other situations throughout the day – not only with each other, but also with peers and clients. Mary, in an instant, was able to recognize and control her emotion, move to action, and manage the interaction with Alex in a way that calmed Alex as well.

According to Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Working With Emotional Intelligence, there are five basic competencies of EI: Self Awareness, Self Control, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills. Dr. Goleman defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”

The tasks and responsibilities of the job determine the degree of importance of any one of the five competencies. For example, the job of an Air Traffic Controller requires a significantly high degree of self-control, especially during emergency situations, while only a low degree of social skills. On the other hand, a social worker requires a significantly high degree of social skills.

The legal profession has a variety of jobs and responsibilities and therefore its own unique requirements for EI competencies. Within the legal profession, few other positions have such a wide range of responsibilities as Legal Administrators. They face stress prone situations regularly. They perform such diverse tasks as Human Resources (hiring, firing and performance reviews of employees and benefits administration), Office Management (budgets, payrolls, property and equipment, technology, negotiation of leases) and workflow (scheduling, assignment, tracking, record retention). Their position requires daily interaction with lawyers, secretaries, office personnel, clients, vendors, government agencies, and others.

In fact, if you interviewed the most successful legal administrators and attorneys, you would find that they all have high Emotional Intelligence competence in all five basic areas; and they have the ability to translate these competencies to the job.

There is good and bad news about EI. The good news is that it can be learned. The bad news is that the more entrenched our habits are, the longer it takes to change.

Legal professionals regularly deal with people who are often in an emotional state – whether a client, lawyer, administrator or other. Emotional Intelligence is recognizing and controlling that emotional state in a way that decisions will be maximized.

Here are some steps you can take to begin to increase your Emotional IQ:

  • Monitor yourself and keep track of what gets your temper flaring. Identify your emotional “triggers.”
  • Find someone who handles the same kind of situations better than you do. Talk with them and find out how they do it.
  • Notice the signals in your body that let you know your trigger is being activated.
  • Take an immediate action to short circuit the emotion (use deep breathing, counting to 10, walking away for a short while, or other techniques).
  • Repeat these steps until you have mastered the particular kind of situation.

As you build your competencies, you will increase your ability to deal with everyday pressure situations with calmness and control. You will be able to better manage your own situational emotional response, and effectively manage it in others.

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