Toby Ingham Reveals How To Use Emotional Intelligence Hacks To Lead And Innovate

Being emotionally literate is about more than remembering your Mum’s birthday – being aware of your own emotions can help you to unlock innovation and be a better leader, writes Toby Ingham for RSNG…

See Your Emotions As Data ‘Our emotions are our own personal data source. If we can pay attention to them and work with them, they’ll tell us all kinds of vital things about ourselves, and the environments we operate in. To understand our moods and emotions better we need to work at it. We need to become more interested in listening to, and noticing how, we emotionally respond to ourselves and to other people.’

Clock Your Own Inputs ‘The first step is to become more aware of your emotional reactions; the way your body responds to different emotions. What’s your body language like – do you feel tight, or relaxed? Are you arms and hands moving smoothly, or jerkily? If you’re feeling tight then take some deep breaths to help settle your body and your emotions.’

‘Some people feel anxiety in their stomach or their bowels, some in their chest. Some people feel energised by exciting feelings. Take a moment right now; what do you notice? Are you feeling: interested; excited; worried; anxious; optimistic? Start to pay more attention to your emotional responses in the workplace.’

Feeling Emotional Isn’t Always Unprofessional ‘We don’t want to become overly critical of ourselves for having emotions. We want to become better at identifying and thinking about the feelings we have. As we become more aware of them we become freer, we can see that we have certain feelings at certain times, but we are more than our feelings.’

‘For example, you can notice the way disappointment can lower your capacity to deliver a high-quality performance. Once you’ve noticed that you are feeling disappointed you can think about what you can do to lift the feeling, and so lift your performance.’

Our feelings operate much faster than our capacity to rationally solve problems

Leave Your Preconceptions At The Door ‘The biggest misconception about emotional intelligence is that emotions are for wimps and of no value compared with hard, scientific facts. In reality our feelings enable us to rapidly intuit things about the environment we work in. Our feelings operate much faster than our capacity to rationally solve problems. We need to learn how to recognise them, trust them, learn from them and work with them.’

Start To Read Emotions In Others ‘Becoming better at reading your own emotions is the basis of becoming better at reading other peoples’. We naturally respond to the emotions of others. It’s how mothers know intuitively when their babies are unhappy or hungry. We’re the same with people around us, we just need to give ourselves the chance to recognise the kind of feelings a boss or colleague produces in us.’

‘Try to notice other people’s emotional responses as neutrally as you can. Pay attention to your colleague’s body language; what do you notice? Listen to them as objectively as you can; what moods do you identify?’

Working With Big Egos? Know How To Handle Them ‘We don’t want to encourage a big ego to feel they have to prove their power and strength – we don’t want to waste the energy. We want them to use their energy constructively on solving difficult challenges, not on starting an argument.’

‘Make it clear you are not there for a fight, but that you have come to work with them. Be professional, be polite, make sure your body language is as relaxed as possible. Be clear that you’re here to help contribute to the team delivering the best possible outcome.’

Learn How To Let Innovation Flow ‘Our good ideas often come to us out of the blue, just like our feelings do. Look at how Magnus Carlsen became the world chess champion. His success is based on his extraordinary ability to intuitively see patterns on chessboards that others simply cannot see. His success is all to do with how he trusts his feelings about how the chess positions will unfold.’

‘Like an athlete noticing they have tight hamstrings and taking care not to cause any harm, we need to learn to work with our emotions. They are a vital source of data about our performance potential. Learn how your emotions impact upon your performance.’

As a leader, you should try to be like an orchestra conductor making sure you hear from everyone

You Can Seed Inspiration ‘Try to encourage open environments in which the various team members can feel able to contribute. Aim for an attitude of inclusivity and don’t close things down too quickly. If people relax they become more able to play and create, and the good ideas start to flow. A team that can play together can produce record-breaking results.’

‘One technique is to start a group session by getting each person to say something – ask to hear from people who have not contributed, before letting more dominant people take over. If people have the chance to join in they generally feel more included, more relaxed and confident. As leader, you can try to be like an orchestra conductor making sure you hear from everyone. When everyone participates the atmosphere becomes better and more creative, and there is more enthusiasm all around.’

Train Emotional Literacy In Your Mind Gym ‘Try to develop an open attitude to your feelings and imagination. Notice how your feelings about a situation affect how you approach things. It’s like any kind of training, the more work you do, the better you get at it. The more you focus your mind to notice your feelings, the better able you will be to learn from them, understand how to trust them and use them to help you make good decisions.’

WHAT NEXT? Need some ideas on how to run a group workshop? Tom Wujec helps firms solve their ‘wicked problems’ by first making toast…

Toby Ingham is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, member of The Guild of Psychotherapists and The Association of Psychotherapists

Comments are for information only and should not replace psychological care or recommendations.