Personally speaking, I’m one of those people who walk into a room and sense the vibe. I notice the subtle nuances of body language. The sideways glances; the folding of the arms; the disinterested, darting eyes; the words that fade away mid sentence when a better dressed offer comes along. If you’re having a bit of a nod here (agreeing that is, not dozing off), chances are you’re one of those people who is, as Daniel Goleman popularised over 20 years ago, emotionally intelligent. You have what many people like to call EQ.
I used to think that maybe I was just a bit of a paranoid petal with some sort of inferiority complex. Being intuitive like that can make you feel you’re not good enough much of the time, for pretty much no good reason. But turns out, being able to tune into people and their emotions (including your own) is not a curse, it’s a blessing and a skill. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an emotional cot case (well not overtly anyway). I play my cards pretty close to my chest in this poker game of life. But, just between you and me, I like to think of my ability to read people and moods as my own little superpower (and we’re not talking about international relations here).
As someone who is easily affected by individual and collective moods, it’s easy to let a negative vibe really affect you and bring you down down, prices are down (apologies to Status Quo). But here’s the flipside. In fact, it’s really the A-side for those of us who possess this 45RPM superpower.
What those of us who can’t seem to stop spinning our EQ turntables need to do is use this superpower for good. Harness it to seek out individuals who are brimming with positive energy. You know who they are because you can feel it. They make you feel great, and they are a joy to be around. They lift you up and make you realise your self-worth. They appreciate the contribution you make and they let you know it. Repel those other spirit-sapping leeches, and just follow that intuition of yours. Your intuition, your gut, your sensitivity, and your empathy: these are the innate skills you have that make you an emotionally intelligent being. Gravitate to--and literally s-u-r-r-o-u-n-d yourself with--people and groups who make you feel fantastic; who you want to be with, work with, and collaborate with.
So back to leadership, work, and productivity for a moment. It’s easy to see work as being about products and deliverables. After all, these are things we can measure the f*ck out of and make impressive infographics from for the annual report.
But is there anyone worth their salt who seriously believes you can reach business goals in isolation from the human relationships that are woven through the fabric of any organisation? You can care not so much for your job, but still keep turning up if the people you spend every waking hour with are great to be around. The camaraderie with your colleagues is what keeps you going back. If you work with a*holes day in and day out, chances are it doesn’t matter if you’re doing something you enjoy, it will be largely intolerable where toxic relationships exist and multiply. And as we all know from experience, bad moods are contagious. You catch that toxic cough and you’re off to workplace triage baby.
At the end of the day, work is largely about relationships and how you handle them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re flying solo, working in a big corporate, or running your own business. If you get relationships right, you’re winning. Even recognising the fact that you need to manage relationships means you’re running the race in the right direction.
As Homer Simpson said, “...if adults don’t like their jobs, they don’t quit. They just go in everyday and do it half-assed.” So if you work with real people who have real emotions, this is what you need to do. It’s not rocket science. Learn to harness your emotional intelligence and manage your relationships so that everyone brings their whole ass instead. If you don’t, there’s always alcohol. (Let’s quote Homer again: “To alcohol! The cause of--and solution to--all of life’s problems.”)