Tag Archives: emotional intelligence

Reading your environment

How confident are you in reading your environment? Most days I feel pretty confident in my abilities to read the environment….that is until something happens to tell me otherwise.

Just last week I was surprised by a very negative response to an email  I had sent out. My email was meant to address some problem issues that were raised by a group of leaders in our colleges. My boss and I had agreed that I should respond directly to the leaders who had expressed the concern and copy key stakeholders who were impacted most by the issues. The leaders seemed fine with the response, but the stakeholders felt disrespected because they were not consulted first. We misread the environment.

According to The EQ Edge authors Steven Stein and Howard Book,  an “unblinkered reading” of your environment leads to success because it helps you accurately identify and address problems and recognize opportunities. A key emotional intelligence competency, reading your environment, is also called reality testing.

Stein and Book say that “finely honed reality testing allows you to read a group’s emotional climate and the power relationships at work.” It is an important complement to self awareness. While self awareness allows you to, in a sense, take your “internal temperature,” reality testing allows you to measure the “external temperature.”

How is your reality testing ability?  To help you reflect, here are some self-assessment questions that are included in The EQ Edge:

  1. Does feedback from others consistently tell you that your reading of various situations is:
    1. Objective?
    2. Realistic?
    3. Sound?
    4. Seasonable?
    5. In perspective?
    6. On target?
  2. Do others indicate that you tend to:
    1. Overlook difficulties?
    2. Minimize problems?
    3. Make mountains out of molehills?
    4. Sweat the small stuff?
    5. Catastrophize?
  3. Are you often told that you are:
    1. Whistling in the dark?
    2. Dreaming in technicolor?

For question 1) give yourself a score of -2 for rarely, -1 for sometimes, +1 for usually, and +2 for frequently

For questions 2 and 3, give yourself a score of +2 for rarely, +1 for sometimes, -1 for usually, and -2 for frequently.

Total your score. A positive score indicates that your reality testing is headed in the right direction, while a negative score suggests that your judgment may be clouded by fears or wishful thinking.

Reality testing is an important emotional intelligence skill for leaders. Stein and Book say it can help you accurately size up a situation, rather than turn a blind eye or rationalize real problems. It also curtails a tendency to catastrophize problems.

Thinking back to my email, my boss and I were attempting to respond in a timely way and not magnify the issues. Unfortunately, we created a bigger problem by not considering the emotional climate of the stakeholders affected. As we move forward to re-establish trust with those stakeholders, reality testing will be even more critical in our conversations and consultations.

What recent situations have challenged your reality testing abilities?

Anita Rios






Emotional intelligence matters!

Last week, in my blog post “Nature or nurture?,”  I talked about the personality traits that are often predictive of an individual’s ability to become a transformational leader. Among my colleagues, this research is bothersome, and causes quite a bit of consternation, especially where their natural tendencies do not align perfectly with the “Big Five” personality traits. For those of you who experience the same angst about scoring high on extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, and low on neuroticism, there is good news.  Nurture counts too!

Increasingly, there is research that supports the strong links of emotional intelligence to transformational leadership. As you may know, emotional intelligence can be developed over time, and nurtured if you will, unlike personality traits that are something you are born with and are usually stable over time. Emotional intelligence, as developed by Daniel Goleman, is measured by five different constructs:

  1. Self Awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others
  2. Self Regulation – controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances
  3. Social Skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
  4. Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions
  5. Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement

There are quite a few emotional intelligence tests available online. For a free introduction to one, click here.

In his Industrial Psychology journal article, Sanjay Kumar makes a case for the strong linkages between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership. Dr. Kumar argues that emotional intelligence attributes of self-awareness, empathy, and motivation have a direct correlation to transformational leadership traits of individual influence, individualized consideration, and inspirational motivation. Simply translated, leaders who have worked to increase their emotional intelligence are more able to influence their followers, motivate them, and give individualized consideration to their followers.

Below is Kumar’s chart outlining the links between emotional intelligence and transformational leadership.


So to end our month of discourse on Transformational Leadership, nurture does count! As witnessed by the multiple posts Dee Anne, Todd, and I have written, there are many strategies to up your game as a transformational leader.

Anita Rios

Stressed out?

stressedLast weekend I had the luxury of spending time with my daughter who is a sophomore in college. She had come home for the weekend to de-stress. Between having second thoughts about her declared major, the usual roommate issues that crop up when you live with four other college-aged women, and juggling her campus job and her role as social coordinator for her sorority, she was what we call a “stress ball.” For her, the weekend at home was a perfect solution to manage her stress. We talked through many of the challenges she is facing, spent lots of fun family time together, and even indulged in a little shopping therapy.

Reflecting on the weekend, I thought about how we never outgrow the need to manage stress in our lives. As leaders, with multiple demands on our time and attention, it’s normal to experience stress. The key is how can you manage it effectively, without your stress negatively impacting your decisions or those you lead?

As you may recall from our blog last Monday, stress management is actually an important part of our emotional intelligence. Last week we briefly talked about three behaviors that can help you manage stress. I thought it might be helpful to explore them a little more fully today.

Flexibility: This  has to do with how easily can we adapt to change. Do you get annoyed when something doesn’t go according to your plan? Or are you able to quickly respond to changing circumstances and adapt your approach? Some of us are by nature more flexible than others. After taking multiple personality assessments, I know that I tend to be more pre-planned than some of my colleagues who naturally have a “go with the flow” approach. I’ve had to work on my ability to flex where I need to compromise with others or quickly adapt to changing circumstances.  In those moments, it can be helpful to stop and ask, “How can I flex my attitude, my behaviors, or my approach?”

Stress Tolerance: This has to do with our ability to cope with stressful situations. Do you have healthy ways to cope with stress? For me, ways to improve my stress tolerance include regular exercise, eating healthy foods, and getting enough sleep. (I won’t go into detail about some of my less healthy ways of coping which include wine and copious amounts of chocolate.) Sometimes in stressful situations, just taking a quick moment to reflect and “breathe in, breathe out” helps me to not over-react. For my daughter, taking time away with her family was an excellent coping strategy.

Optimism: This is all about having a positive outlook. While the expression, “Is your glass half empty, or half full?” seems trite, it is really true. If you’re seeing something in a negative light, can you reframe it? Is there a positive perspective you can bring to the situation? For me, it helps to think about someone else’s viewpoint other than my own. If I’m having trouble seeing a clear positive viewpoint, I seek out other’s perspectives and ask lots of questions. Just reframing the situation as a learning opportunity or a chance to grow, I’ve found can be very helpful.

What are some of your strategies to manage stress?

Anita Rios


No matter how smart you are…

emotional intelligenceLast Friday, we talked about some common blindspots leaders have. Another good way to increase your self awareness is to take advantage of the myriad of self assessments that exist to help people both assess their strengths and potential blindspots. One such assessment tool that I’ve found helpful is the EQi. It assesses emotional intelligence.

Above and beyond cognitive intelligence (IQ), we’ve all heard how important emotional intelligence is for both personal and professional success.  As Daniel Goleman says,

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

But what does emotional intelligence really mean? In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that establish how well we:

  • Perceive and express ourselves
  • Develop and maintain social relationships
  • Cope with challenges
  • Use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way

The EQi assessment can help you understand how well developed your skills are in the following areas:

Self-perception includes elements such as: self-regard, self-actualization, and emotional self awareness. Questions that might help you further explore your self perception, might be:  Do I feel self-confident? Do I consistently focus on my own continuous development? Do I fully understand my emotions? Are there times when I don’t understand my emotions? Interestingly enough, in their book on emotional intelligence, Bradberry and Greaves reported that in a test of 500,000 people, only 36% of people were able to accurately identify their emotions as they happened.

Self-expression consists of emotional expression, assertiveness, and independence. Questions that can help you explore your self-expression skills might include: How often do I actually say how I feel? Do I feel comfortable standing up for myself? How well do I stand on my own two feet?

Interpersonal Skills is the part of emotional intelligence that delves into your social skills and includes: interpersonal relationships, empathy, and social responsibilities. You might ask yourself: How easily do I develop and maintain good relationships? Do I recognize and appreciate how others feel? Am I actively following up on commitments I make with others and contributing to society?

Decision Making consists of problem solving, reality testing and impulse control. Questions to ask yourself include: Am I effectively managing my emotions when I solve problems? Am I seeing things as they really are or is my perception clouded by my emotions? Am I able to resist or delay impulses?

Stress Management includes flexibility, stress tolerance and optimism. For this part of emotional intelligence, you might explore the following questions: Am I able to adapt to change effectively? How am I coping with stressful situations? Do I tend to have a positive or negative outlook?

The good news about emotional intelligence is that you can become more skilled at it. You can actually identify areas of weakness or potential blindspots and improve them.

Anita Rios