Five Bullet-Proof Steps to Beef up Your Emotional Intelligence to Drive Innovation

Step 1: Increase your emotional vocabulary. It’s not just important to know that there are negative or “bad” feelings or emotions within yourself or others. You must be able to determine what those emotions are and descriptively label them. Are they frustrated, angry or irritated? What is the real source of these emotions and what can you do to manage them? Awareness of these emotions is step one, and then constructively labeling them and investigating their cause is the only way to manage.

Step 2: Be actively curious. Curiosity of people, their motivations, reactions, and goals is imperative to drive progress. Seek out new interactions with a diverse set of people, not just ones on your team, in your country, or within your business ecosystem. Go to an event that has nothing to do with your normal interests or interactions. Seek out new adventures to meet and get to know different people and their stories. There are plenty of diverse experiences on sites like Pick one new event a quarter to attend. The next time you are at a conference, instead of connecting with your same crew, challenge yourself to sit at a table or row where you do not know anyone. Set a goal to meet a new person at each session and get to know them — why are they here, what interests them, and who they are. Curiosity is the pathway to knowledge, and application of that knowledge is power.

Step 3: Know yourself — emotional strengths and weaknesses inventory. We’ve heard this from every career advisor on the planet — discover your strengths and weaknesses. But this step has a bit of nuance. It’s not just strengths and weaknesses on a skill level, but on an emotional level and how you interact with others. What are your own emotional hot buttons? In what situations do you shine? Are you a masterful networker or do you dive deep to get to know people beyond the LinkedIn contact level? Knowing your own emotional strengths and weaknesses is the only way to manage your interaction with others.

Step 4: Stop avalanching and learn to let go. Have you ever just piled on? When something bad happens at work or home, instead of just dealing with that incident in isolation, you add up everything that has gone wrong within the week, month or year? That is what I call avalanching, where we pile on all the negative or unexpected things happening in our lives, both at work and play. If you pile on too high, you are headed for a crash. STOP. Deal with one situation at a time and then let it go. Keeping an inventory of the injustices or bad incidents in your life doesn’t do anything for you. You end up transferring all that negativity to the people around you and that is no way to lead teams into greatness. It is a sunk cost. Nothing can change it and wallowing in it will only suck up your energy meant for something else. Recognize the avalanche. Stop piling on. Breathe. Lead on with wisdom. Simple actions to a more powerful you.

Step 5: Lead with gratitude. A recent study from University of California, Davis, discovered that people who have an attitude of gratitude reduced the stress hormone cortisol by 23% in some cases.40 The science doesn’t lie, but more important than less stress is its effect on our mood and overall physical well-being. It takes more than mental prowess to lead change and innovation. It takes physical and energetic fortitude.

Leading with gratitude is a contagious mindset and spreads like Kudzu (In case you have never heard that one, Kudzu is a plant that grows a foot a day in the southern United States). It boosts positivity and creativity. Gratitude is the antidote to the toxic. It diffuses people and escalating situations. It provides much needed perspective when things are so close. Being thankful isn’t just a nice to do, it is imperative to withstand the barrage of complex warp speed challenges faced every day. Leading with gratitude sounds simple enough. Just be thankful for what you have and who you are, right? Sometimes that simple truth fades. Cultivating a habit to be grateful takes routine and discipline.

Every morning while you are in shower, say out loud what you are grateful for. It can be as simple as, “I am grateful for this warm, clean shower.”

Incorporate this exercise within your team, by starting or closing each staff meeting with the team sharing something they are grateful for. It sounds hokey, but if you don’t practice, it won’t stick.

Take these five steps to be more emotionally intelligent and observe the tone, energy, and environment transform. It’s easy to get busy and dismiss the feelings and emotions of others, but those others are the powerful force you need to launch new innovative initiatives consistently, and at Smart Speed.

Enjoyed these innovative leadership tips? Find more in my bestselling book The Innovation Revolution: Discover the Genius Hiding in Plain Sight – a practical guide to leading in the 21st century and creating a successful innovative culture in the enterprise.

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K. Melissa Kennedy

Chief Innovation Officer, Founder, Intrapreneur. Entrepreneur. Enthusiastic leader and speaker. Teller of truths at 48 Innovate
I spent many years working for and building successful companies. I parlayed that experience into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: it’s the people.) I'm an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secrets that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Working with companies like Cisco, Lancope, Arby's, Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media - WRAL, PRSONAS, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog, REVO Communications, Erno Group, Focus Carolina, Madan Global, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, INZONE Brands, Albright Digital, Spring Metrics and NC State Kenan Fellows.

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