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Yes, while some are naturally inclined to be placed in positions of power (where my Enneagram 8’s at), no one is born knowing how to lead well. It takes time, intention, and what we’re about to touch on → Emotional Intelligence. You heard me right, the best leaders out there aren’t great because of the strategies they know or their delegation techniques (although those definitely help) – they’re damn good leaders because they’ve developed their EQ, alongside their hard skills..
AKA EQ is the non-negotiable for good leadership.
For so long, leadership wasn’t something I had to think about in my business. It was me, myself, and I (De La Soul playing in your head now, or just me?). Obviously, as a solopreneur, scaling and acquiring a team is the dream, but when it happens…it HAPPENS. And there you are, excited about the expansion, but questioning your ability to keep the plants in your kitchen alive, much less nurturing and leading an entire team.
Maybe, like me, you’re thinking about scheduling, financial allowance, task allocation, and oh god the entire hiring ordeal. Sweating just reading that? Yeah, me too. And hear me out, all of those things are incredibly important, but they just might not be the key to quality leadership.
Follow me in a lil journey, so I can explain.
I want to take you back in time. Consider me your Doc Brown, lightning struck hair and lab coat clad. Now think of that one teacher who made you fall in love with Math, or try out for the Volleyball team even though you didn’t know anyone on it. Or the manager who empowered you to truly own your role. Every leader that changed the trajectory of your career by the very way they led.
What did that look like? How did it make you feel?
Now, flash forward, the tape is rolling, here we are, you are in a position of leadership, wondering how the hell they did it.
Let’s dig into that.
In essence, that teacher/manager/(insert person who told you what to do), created a space of engagement. An environment of co-creation, if you will. The subject or role itself was no longer a box to be checked, but something to approach with curiosity, openness, and authority.
Now, how do you create this type of environment for your own team?
Let’s start with the big question, what is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the awareness of, and ability to express and communicate your thoughts and emotions. Essentially, in the words of my friend Mariela De Le Mora (who I talk to about this with here), “IQ is what you know, EQ is how you apply it.”
Cool, got it. How does that actualize in a work environment? Let’s go over a couple examples.
One of your team members has been missing a lot of deadlines lately and it’s starting to impact others. You know in your gut a conversation needs to take place but you’re dreading it. It’s natural to have opinions that mix together with emotions in a situation like this – whether you’re frustrated or disappointed or even angry – but the first thing you need to do is table those emotions.
When we step into a conversation with our frustrations leading the charge, there is no longer room for problem solving, or even for the other person to tell you why they did what they did (and more often than not, there’s something bigger at play that we, as leaders, don’t know about).
Instead, enter the conversation with questions. Openness.
“What was the reasoning for this?”
“What do you need from me?”
“How can I support you in this area? “
With an open approach, you’ve fostered a space of co-creation where the issue is the problem to be solved, not your relationship with your teammate. This both empowers them to be honest with you about their motives, as well as work through more productive approaches for the future. Then, you can better understand their mindset, which is crucial for a connected team.
You started your business with a vision in mind, and that vision is worth protecting at all costs. It keeps you up at night, fuels your days, sometimes drives you completely mad, but you still love it.
So when those late nights and long days turn into the next big idea (that turns into the next big project), you have timelines and sleep patterns and opinions that now factor in, not just your own.
And I know, like a helicopter mother, it’s natural for your good intentions to turn into a micromanaging nightmare, but that doesn’t help anyone (especially not your blood pressure).
Another recommendation from Mariela to consider is focusing on your why when approaching both strategy and growth within your team. Why did you want them on your team in the first place?
The individuals you hire are here for a reason, to guard AND grow the vision, alongside you.
Their perspectives are as important as yours. Read that again.
Remember, you hired them for how they think, not just what they do.
How are you crafting a space where those thoughts have both a platform and impact?
How are you factoring in their unique and valuable experience and perspectives when the delegation and deadlines come into play?
What can they see from where they sit that you can’t? You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
EQ leadership isn’t just key when working with an in-house team, it is also crucial in facilitating the hiring processes. Emotional Intelligence will directly impact the types of candidates you find that may (or may not) suit your company culture – and even add to it. When hiring, it all comes back to questions. The questions we ask determine the quality of connections we create. They also give us a window into perception and approach.
Instead of asking for resume recitations, try more story-eliciting inquiries;
“Tell me about a time you were faced with a difficult scenario that you hadn’t encountered before and how you handled it.””
“Tell me about a time you saw something that needed to be improved, but it was outside of your role. How did you approach that?”
“Tell me about a perfect day at work? What aspects contributed to that?”
“What are you looking for in your next role and what do you want less of??”
Facilitating more open-ended answers during the interview process will help you better understand if your leadership style and their values will be a good match – for example, if in Question 1 the candidate shares about a time they creatively solved a problem independently that was outside of their normal scope and handled the pressure well, you can gather they value independence and going above and beyond for their team.
Choosing your team will affect the environment you are working so hard to craft.
How you lead that team will determine the effectiveness and reach of your brand, which also impacts your legacy. Yeah, it’s that big of a deal. And it doesn’t stop at you and your brand, either. Remember our little time travel moment? How good leadership, directly and indirectly, brought us here today?
Be that teacher, manager, coach, that positively impacts the trajectory of your team’s careers (and lives) by the way you lead.
As a prompt, I’d encourage you to write down some of the ways you can incorporate Emotional Intelligence into your hiring and onboarding process, project autonomy and delegation, meetings, or even just your approach to leadership in general.
Warning: Human emotions and empathy may arise.
If you want to hear more of my enlightening conversation on this topic with Mariela, an expert on the subject, listen here to Episode 13 of The Freedom Found Podcast.
And if you’re trying to figure out how to grow your business into team territory, check out the Freedom Found Collective Mastermind that opens up just once per year. I would love to come alongside you on that journey.
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