Emotional Intelligence - The Missing Piece to the Leadership Puzzle

Dr. Purushothaman
January 13, 2014


Peter's Story
Peter was on top of the world. His excellent organizational skills, hard work, and degree from a top school helped him land a challenging job as a new product manager.
Based on his impressive accomplishments, Peter was assigned the responsibility of locking in transactional and subscription revenue with content providers. Peter was in the final stages of negotiations with a vice president who verbally agreed to pay $250,000 for the number one position on Peter's telecom product.
Landing this deal was important for Peter's career - the boss would be impressed, and it would help him meet one of his financial targets for the year. Feeling confident, Peter assured his boss and the company president that the deal was locked.
The Unexpected
But when Peter met with the VP to get the agreement signed, things took an unexpected turn.
"We're excited about being positioned as the number one slot," the VP told Peter. "But instead of our paying you $250,000, we would like to put your product brand name on our web site. We have literally millions of hits a day. It could be great exposure for you."
In a nanosecond, thoughts of failure blistered through Peter's mind: "What's the President going to think? I promised him this was in the bag! What's this going to do to the product launch date? The president blew up the last time one was delayed! I'm not going to meet my financial goal! I'm going to be fired if I don't get this deal closed!"
Peter panicked, and before he even had time to consider his words, his angry thoughts and emotions burst forth, unfiltered.
"What? You agreed to $250,000. Now you want to back out after I told the President you had agreed? We don't need exposure on your web site! I can't believe you're pulling this on me!"
After he spewed out his anger, Peter got up and walked out.
The Missing Piece
Whether he realizes it or not, Peter has just highlighted the one skill he's lacking. For all his apparent competence, his lack of "emotional intelligence" just cost his company money. The new product launch will be delayed, which will negatively impact the company's income, as well as erode their market share. His harsh emotional reaction effectively shut down communications, making it impossible to even talk about compromise.
Unfortunately, what happened to Peter is not unusual. The skills that most people think are critical for success (vision, organization, aggressiveness, etc.) couldn't help him when he faced what he perceived as a threatening situation.
What key skills and abilities separate outstanding leaders from mediocre ones? How they handle the emotionally charged situations that they face daily distinguishes star performers from good ones. Developing emotional intelligence skills is critical for business leaders who want to succeed.
I Was So Mad...
Emotional situations do more than just make people feel "stressed." Emotional responses often are triggered in a part of the brain called the amygdala. One important function of this part of your brain is to compare incoming sensory information, what we see, hear, feel, taste, or smell with emotional memories, to determine if what's coming in is a threat.
The amygdala links our emotions to our nervous system in a powerful way. If you feel threatened, that power allows this little part of your brain to "hijack" the neural pathways, triggering an emotional response before the higher brain centers even receive the sensory information. And emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety and fear are triggered by the feeling of being threatened.
Simply put, because the rational parts of your brain have not received the sensory information before you act, you literally can't think straight.
It also affects your ability to perform physical acts. Have you ever hit a bad golf shot and gotten mad at yourself? What typically happens on the next shot? Another bad shot!
Beyond that, what we perceive causes biochemical reactions that affect our physical energy, our mental clarity, our emotional balance and personal effectiveness. All of which play a part in rational thought, communication and problem solving.
So how can you avoid a "hijacking?" By improving your emotional intelligence skills.
Let's go back to our earlier example. What would the situation have looked like if Peter had been given the opportunity to enhance his EI skills? What if he came into that difficult meeting armed with the ability to manage his emotional reactions?
Peter would strengthen, rather than weaken, the business relationship and communications by managing (that is, choosing) his emotions and handling a difficult situation smoothly. This would increase the likelihood of the product being launched on time, positively impacting income and market place perception. As an added bonus, Peter's reputation and career potential would be greatly enhanced.

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