How Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Create Trust

September 18, 2019

Improving your empathy and emotional control can help your team succeed

The kickoff of football season started me thinking about teams (Go Eagles!), and reminded me of an article friends sent me last year about former Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles. (Side note: I wish him well with the Jaguars – but not too well – and hope he is on the mend after his clavicle surgery.)

The article highlighted Foles’s emotional intelligence during a playoff game way back at the end of last season, and it stuck in my memory that he used his high “EQ” (emotional quotient) to help his team come from behind and win.

Emotional intelligence starts with awareness PB-US-Blog-Inline-emotional-intelligence

I’ve been trying to teach the importance of emotional intelligence to my kids because I believe it’s such an important skill, one that can be used to build trust on any team at school, work or even in the NFL. While some people may naturally be more emotionally tuned-in than others, we can all improve our emotional intelligence. It starts with building awareness of our own emotions and working to understand:

  • What am I feeling?
  • Why am I feeling that way?
  • What triggered my reaction?

We can then use our improved self-awareness to help us read the emotions of others. We can use empathy to guide our thinking and problem solving.

Another important component of emotional intelligence, one that often gets overlooked, is emotional control. Foles displayed excellent awareness and control of his emotions in that high-pressure playoff game. Here’s what he told reporters at the time:

“What I learned on those stages is just how to calm myself in a chaotic moment, when there’s … a ton of pressure. And just really simplifying in my head. Getting in the huddle, looking at the guys that I trust. Know that it’s all on the line for us and we’re just going to get the job done. It’s just belief in one another.”

Belief in one another -- that is, trust – is a key element teams need to thrive.

The book The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson calls this culture of trust “psychological safety.” In teams with a high level of trust, people feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident. They feel secure that they won’t be embarrassed or punished for admitting a mistake.

A trusting dynamic empowers people to have the confidence to try again after a failure, to speak up when they see a problem or to pursue a new idea that may not work out. Research has found that teams with a high level of trust are more successful than teams without that trust.

Trust helps teams succeed

A key way to build teams of people who trust one another other is through respect and engagement. To do that, you’ll need to exercise your emotional intelligence. Understand that people behave at work based on the example you set and the way you treat them. Ask yourself:

  • Do my actions match my values? Do I respond productively when team members admit mistakes and look for learning opportunities in each failure?
  • Do I admit my own mistakes to my team? By showing you can make mistakes, you set the example that admitting them is woven into the company culture.
  • Do I show that I am worthy of trust, and do I empower my team members by trusting them, too?
  • Do I ask good questions of my team members and listen carefully to their answers? Seeking input from your people demonstrates that you believe everyone’s voice matters.

By showing empathy and respect for your team member’s emotions – and flexing your EQ -- you enable a culture of trust.

Welcoming new players

Even though Foles has moved on to lead a new team, he’ll still have a special place in my heart as the guy who led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl.  As you welcome new members and say goodbye to key players on your own teams, remember that trust is a key element to foster if you want to build your team’s productivity and effectiveness.

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