Frequent change in the workplace can result in high levels of unhealthy stress. Strong emotional intelligence is a critical skill for leading change initiatives - to build resilience, adopt a learning mindset and lead with compassion. Discover how you can effectively drive change in your workplace by cultivating the vital skills of EQ and adaptability.
Reading time: 8 minutes.
Never before has the workplace faced such sustained change. From new ways of working to the demand for new skills. L&D is at the epicentre of these changes and experiencing its own: transitioning to a strategic, revenue-linked focus.
In this increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, adaptability and emotional intelligence are in-demand skills to drive change success.
Just when change needs us to change, we don’t. Paradoxically, under stress we usually default to familiar thoughts and behaviours due to fear, rather than embrace new ways to learn and innovate. To avoid this so-called ‘adaptability paradox’, leaders must work on transforming their relationship with change and uncertainty.
If you don’t, there’s a lot at stake. Recent research found that organisations which cultivate their adaptability, a characteristic of EQ, thrive and perform better financially during change. Think of adaptability as a meta-skill. It makes us faster and better at learning and orients us to the opportunities change brings. EQ, too, helps us develop emotional flexibility, build resilience, enhance a learning mindset which sees change as opportunity. In difficult times, you can lead with compassion if you nurture your EQ.
Not more change, you say.
Well, the good news is, adaptability and emotional intelligence can be learnt, starting now. Read on to discover seven MINDSET strategies to cultivate your adaptability and emotional intelligence to lead your teams through change.
What we feel and think determines our actions. As a leader in times of constant change, it is vital you help others better understand and manage feelings and emotions to maintain performance and wellbeing. Follow the seven MINDSET strategies and questions to coach your teams or lead change initiatives. MINDSET helps teams adopt a resilient and proactive mindset and helps you be a more compassionate leader.
Strategy 1. Be mindful of your emotions and others' emotions
Change triggers a range of emotions. We can swing from denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, the five stages on the grief curve in any order, and back. The time needed to process these stages differs in everyone.
An emotionally intelligent leader is highly self-aware. They are able to recognise their emotional reactions to change and the reasons for them. This self-knowledge helps them to come to terms with change more easily. EQ helps leaders identify and let go of a belief, an old behaviour or a value that no longer serves us.
- How is this situation making you feel?
- What names would you give to these feelings?
- What reasons could there be for the way you’re feeling?
- How are past experiences affecting your emotions now?
- What might you be afraid of losing?
- How are you feeling about the skills and resources you have to help?
- And your gut and your head – how are they processing this need for change?
Strategy 2. Investigate beliefs and assumptions
Mind the gap.
When faced with change, we tell ourselves stories of why it might be good or bad, often based on partial information. We fill the gaps with our beliefs and assumptions. Consequently, we might rush to make a decision fuelled by resistance or blind optimism.
An emotionally intelligent leader takes time to question beliefs and assumptions before acting.
- What makes you think the way you do?
- Could there be another way of interpreting the way you think or feel?
- What do others think?
- What thoughts are you holding back?
- How can a previous situation be influencing how you feel now?
- What don’t you know about the situation that you would benefit from exploring?
Strategy 3. Identify needs and wants
Connect and express.
An emotionally intelligent leader is in touch with their and their team’s needs and wants. They have conversations about the feelings they desire and what they can do to feel that way. This helps them avoid getting blocked later with uncomfortable emotions.
- What would make the situation more acceptable for you?
- What do you need to do to feel differently?
Strategy 4. Draw on who you are to influence the situation
Play to your strengths.
An emotionally intelligent leader knows and leverages their strengths to control the situation. They also know what they can do to satisfy their needs and assess the situation for opportunities and benefits.
- What could be the opportunities here for you? For the team? For the organisation?
- Which of your values and strengths can you leverage to move you forward?
Strategy 5. Switch to an optimistic outlook
Grow your optimism.
An emotionally intelligent leader is one whose optimism about the process and future grows as they bring the situation under control. They can intentionally grow their optimism by reflecting on past wins and mapping potential support to move forward.
- What have you done in the past to help you successfully transition through a change?
- What actions could help see you through the current challenging situation?
- What is at least one new approach you’d like to try this time?
- What would you like to learn more about?
- How could you go about gaining more insight?
- Who could you ask to gain more insight?
Strategy 6. Empathise with others
Walk in their shoes.
An emotionally intelligent leader is one who understands themselves and others.
- Who else is affected by this change?
- How are they feeling?
- What are they doing and why might they be feeling that way?
- How could you support others the way they need to be treated?
Strategy 7. Team up with others
Connect the dots.
An emotionally intelligent leader seeks out others to help look for opportunities in the change.
- How can others help you transition through the change?
- Who could you go to for support?
- How could you support others through the change?
- These MINDSET strategies will help you lead your teams through change by practising and mastering a learning mindset. These emotionally intelligent strategies nurture a leader’s resilience and to see change, not as a threat, but as an opportunity.
Here are the handy questions as an aide memoire. As you practice, add your own.
|M||Be Mindful of your emotions||
|I||Investigate beliefs and assumptions||
|N||Identify Needs and wants||
|D||Draw on who you are to influence the situation||
|S||Switch to an optimistic outlook||
|Outer focus||E||Empathise with others||
|T||Team up with others||
Our Working with EQ and Intercultural Communication Skills courses and coaching develop skills to nurture your and your teams’ adaptability and emotional intelligence to better manage change.
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