Cara Silletto

DISC and other behavioral style assessments have results that typically remain unchanged over time because they gauge how a person is hard-wired. Emotional Intelligence (EQ), on the other hand, increases and decreases throughout one’s career based on interactions with others.

According to Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, those who go from front-line contributor roles to supervisor and manager tend to increase their EQ as they realize their direct reports have different communication and work styles. Leaders at that level learn to adapt their approach to successfully lead, mentor, and retain others. However, once leaders reach director or executive status, they tend to lead initiatives from behind their desks, spend far more time in meetings, and often focus primarily on business metrics rather than interacting with their workforce. 

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This shift in focus causes a growing disconnect between senior leaders and front-line workers. As senior leaders less consistently see and hear the workforce on a daily basis as staff needs and concerns evolve over time, those leaders make more assumptions about the way things used to be on the front line and do not keep up with current situations.

For example, long-time CNAs I speak to tell me how much more difficult the job is today than it used to be due to the increased acuity in long-term care residents. That evolution happened slowly, but if a senior care leader hasn’t worked on the front line in ten years, they likely remember “how it used to be” when making staffing decisions instead of the reality of the more difficult job expected from their team today.

What’s EQ exactly?

When we teach EQ classes for leaders, we often start by brainstorming an expanded language bank around emotions in the office because we typically aren’t taught how to identify and adapt to various emotional responses at work. Then, we dive into the five dimensions of EQ, which are:

  • SELF-AWARENESS – The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.
  • SELF-REGULATION – The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment and think before acting.
  • MOTIVATION – A passion to work for reasons that go beyond the external drive for knowledge, utility, surroundings, others, power or methodology and are based on an internal drive or propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.
  • SOCIAL AWARENESS – The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and how your words and actions affect others.
  • SOCIAL REGULATION – The ability to influence the emotional clarity of others through proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.

Finally, the training focuses how to improve or regain lost EQ moving forward for leaders who need to build a stronger connection with their team members. This helps them build trust, communicate more effectively, and reduce unnecessary employee turnover caused by misunderstandings and/or a lack of empathy from the managers when their staff needs them most.

So, how do I (re)improve my score?

  1. Keep your emotions in check. First, be sure you’re regulating your own emotional responses and think before you take action. Avoid knee-jerk reactions when you hear bad (or good) news that can hijack your emotional state. 
  2. When you are emotionally triggered, visualize your happy place. (No joke!) It takes, on average, four hours to stabilize one’s mood after an emotional hijacking, but you can expedite getting back to a clear head by proactively calming yourself down through happy thoughts and deep breathing. Do NOT attempt to make decisions when you’re in a heightened emotional state.
  3. Observe your surroundings. Notice others’ emotional states by paying attention to how those around you react to good and bad situations. Great leaders pick up on the nuances of slight behavior or attitude changes of their team members and address any concerns in real-time.
  1. Prepare more before delivering bad news. In any situation where it is possible, if you know your team is not going to like the bad news you have to share, prepare your remarks more carefully. While some staff can handle a direct “it is what it is” approach, others will benefit greatly from a more sensitive delivery style that acknowledges their concerns up front and that explains the benefits and/or support they will ultimately receive. We, as leaders, often have more control over our team’s reactions than we realize, and when we craft a more effective message with the best possible tone, we can avoid a lot of future push-back, gossip, and venting.

Workforce thought leader Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP, works with organizations of all sizes to reduce unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers more effective in their roles. She is the author of the book, Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave & How to Keep Them Longer.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.