Connect the Cord: How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Lead and Adapt to Change with Christopher Connors
Mursion’s weekly Future of Work Virtual Roundtable Series recently hosted Christopher D. Connors, a best-selling author of works devoted to emotional intelligence for leaders, for a thought-provoking session entitled “Connect the Cord: How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Lead and Adapt to Change.” Christopher is an executive coach and keynote speaker who helps to increase emotional intelligence and prioritize results and build thriving organizations.
Below is an excerpt of Christopher’s presentation with some key takeaways about how placing emphasis on emotional intelligence must be an essential part of our organizations’ leadership development across industries. You can also watch the full session, including a participant experiencing a live Mursion demo, on our YouTube channel.
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“Ultimately, the reason that I love to do the work that I do around emotional intelligence is that all I care about is how do you make it practical in the end? How do we take a concept that for some people, people who are maybe less familiar with it think of it in some instances as a buzzword, but what you’ll see today is that there’s a lot of layers to what EQ really is. Again, how do we take this concept of what emotional intelligence is and use it to our advantage as leaders in terms of how we adapt and how we lead in the workplace?
How do we take this concept of what emotional intelligence is and use it to our advantage as leaders in terms of how we adapt and how we lead in the workplace?
I’ll preface that by saying that I use an acronym I call it “Connect the Cord.” As you’ll see, the CORD being: Communications, Opportunities, Relationships, and Decision-making, and EQ is really what powers all of that. Self-awareness and empathy. I also like to talk about having a passion and having optimism, which falls a lot under the motivation pillar of EQ.
Adaptability being another cornerstone piece of what emotional intelligence is about. Understanding and identifying your needs and wants, having a self-belief that informs self-awareness, and also that altruistic mindset. A desire to help others succeed and, of course, the desire to succeed for yourself, but an emotionally intelligent leader is someone who leads with empathy but has a really driving passion and I would even say, a fire, an enthusiasm to see the people in their organization succeed.
An emotionally intelligent leader is someone who leads with empathy but has a driving passion and a fire, an enthusiasm to see the people in their organization succeed.
Working Toward the 5 Pillars of Emotional Intelligence
The five pillars of emotional intelligence were largely defined by Daniel Goleman’s work, Emotional Intelligence, which came out about 25 years ago. Self-management, social skill, self-awareness, motivation, and empathy being those five pillars. I’ll talk about again, how communications, opportunities, relationships, and decisions really fall under those pillars.
As I talked about, for me, I think the real value is how do you make it actionable, and so my goal here today is to be able to describe a number of ways that we can make EQ actionable and to demonstrate examples of what that looks like.
The other important thing to really drill home about what emotional intelligence is about is that this is a skill set that all of us can acquire and that all of us can improve.
EQ, think of it as a muscle that you can exercise literally every day and continue to make improvements upon. Every one of us can exercise empathy, and if you think about what that would look like and picture yourself in the workplace, getting to identify and put yourself in the shoes to take the position of another individual and really listen to that person with care and with joy in your heart and to understand where they’re coming from. Every one of us has the ability to do that. We can all be self-aware, we can understand what drives us, our passion, our values, things like purpose, and how we want to define success for ourselves.
Think of EQ as a muscle that you can exercise literally every day and continue to make improvements upon.
In difficult times, we can understand and assess the current situation for what it is, and do a basic gap analysis and understand what we need to do to adapt and make smarter decisions and move forward and still try to find success as much as we possibly can, given the circumstances around us.
Because self-awareness is such a key component of what EQ is all about, I always like to dedicate a little bit of time to talking about exactly what self-awareness is. It’s understanding yourself, it’s recognizing your own emotions and how you can then go about putting together a plan of how you manage them.
This is why I think that EQ is so important is that it’s how we perceive others to see us. It’s picking up on things like body language, how our tone or posture or the message that we’re delivering, how we communicate, how that’s being perceived by other people, really in an effort to gain clarity, to drive a relationship, to help ourselves and of course, the people that we’re with to be more successful.
Emotional intelligence between how we understand ourselves, how we manage and comport ourselves, how we plan, go about exercising ways that we can take better care of ourselves through our own self-care, how we motivate and find that passion and desire every day to bring out the best in others, as well as ourselves.
All of these things, in terms of empathy, and social skill, the art, and the nuance of how we go about communicating, crafting relationships, making smart decisions. All of these things are possible with emotional intelligence.
Listening to the Voice of the Employee
I think a lot of what we hear in business is the voice of the customer. What about the voice of the employee? I’ll actually answer that in some ways with the use of an example or two examples of leaders that I’ve seen that are absolute experts. Sara Blakely, one of the most successful business leaders in the world, the CEO of Spanx. Literally was able to build that company by soliciting the input not just of prospective customers, but of the people that she leads.
She’s a very emotionally intelligent leader. One of the people that I profile in the first part of my book is that she’s always going throughout the organization to understand and get feedback from others. I’ll answer it in reverse by saying, ‘As a leader, encourage employees to provide you with feedback.’ Encourage your employees to speak up and share success stories, share challenges, promote ideas, and open discussion. I think as a leader, it’s a reciprocal relationship. If we’re going to expect that from the people that we lead, we need to empower them and create a culture of openness.
I think to take a page from Dr. Brene Brown, to be vulnerable. To actually have that humility first as a leader, to empower the people that we lead to be able to speak up. I think that once we create that environment, it really empowers the people that we lead to be open and to be honest, to give very, very transparent ideas, guidance, feedback, and in some instances, maybe even criticisms that are all going to be in an effort to create a competitive and bettering environment.
How to Build Authentic Team Camaraderie (Even from Afar)
I always like to say that for me, it’s camaraderie. It’s that camaraderie being a mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.
We’re in an interesting time, of course, that for many of us, we’re no longer co-located. If you weren’t previously working remotely, you’re now more than likely in that situation. How do you go about building trust and building that friendship among others?
What do employees want most from their leaders? They want someone who is invested in them personally, not just professionally. Not just someone who’s only there to check in on business results.
Camaraderie is built from a leadership standpoint and think of it in terms of friendship. That friendship helps to establish trust, when you take the time to get to know someone to ask them how they’re doing, maybe to ask them how the different challenges are, that are going on. I know for me, as someone who’s an entrepreneur, a little bit different times to be in an environment where the kids are around and jumping in on Zoom calls. We’re all dealing with competing challenges and priorities.
Camaraderie is built from a leadership standpoint and think of it in terms of friendship.
Camaraderie, when we take the time to really build friendship and to show a personal interest that is very genuine, authentic, and leading with empathy. That’s how a lot of the way that we go about establishing trust and that feedback, I’ve typically found across the board, both in my research and with organizations that I’ve worked with, that employees want to know that the people that lead them, they want to know that they care, not just on a professional development level, but on a personal level, as well. Focus and commitment toward the goal. Some of that was echoed in terms of shared vision purpose, but successful team, successful organization organizations define success. We often see that in a mission statement on the website.
They’re very mission-oriented. Independent in the thought and in the strategy that they bring to the table, but they’re able to come together to reach consensus, to make smart decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. Talk a lot about the little things.
Talk a lot about the little things.
Why Adaptability Is Invaluable to an Organization’s Success
Adaptability is really simple. It’s knowing when to stay the course and knowing when to change. Goodness knows we’ve all had to modify and change our strategic approach. In many ways, the cultures of organizations have had to adapt to a remote environment over the last several months.
We’ve seen certain organizations, for example, Amazon, Twitter, some of the bigger tech companies, allowing people to work from home and recognizing that in some of the instances results have been there across the board. As a leader, understanding and recognizing change, and in many ways I talk about embracing change.
It’s inevitable, it’s going to happen, so how do you embrace it? How do you identify it and have that self-awareness to know when it’s occurring and then just solicit feedback from the people around you to understand how to manage yourself. There are two things that you can always control, your attitude and your effort. That to me, so much of that comes back to self-awareness and motivation.
There are two things that you can always control, your attitude and your effort.
When we talk about emotional intelligence, it’s coming in with a positive attitude, but more even specifically, I like to talk about maintaining a positive outlook for the long-term. If you look at successful leaders in successful organizations, even on down days, they’re able to maintain a positive outlook for the future, both in terms of what their profitability would be, and of course what they want for their culture. Of course, all of us can always work hard.
One of my very favorite quotes: People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I’ve really tried to get that across today in terms of that humility, that getting to know people, and how much that matters.”