In my first formal leadership role, I fell into a common trap…valuing accomplishing the task at hand over the people who would help me accomplish it. Driven by my desire to “get things done!” I would run meetings with a focus on action items and accountability rather than on how others were responding to the work and the issues that invariably arose.
While this approach seemed to work at first, after a while I noticed that people were not putting as much energy into their work and they seemed to be somewhat ambivalent about the success of the projects they were working on. Eventually, I started to clue into the fact that people work best when you take the time and effort to understand how they are feeling and what is going on from their perspective.
What I’m talking about is Social Awareness. It’s the third of four elements of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
You may well be more wise about people than I was back then – and you realize that a key leadership skill is to take the time to listen and observe other people so you can get a sense of what’s going on with them in their lives.
However – Just as is the case with leadership, there is an infinite amount of opportunity to continue to improve your awareness of and competence in Social Awareness skills. When I conduct “360 degree interviews” for my clients with their manager, peers and direct reports, they are often surprised to discover that they’re not giving everyone around them the “deluxe treatment” they thought they were. In short, there is often a gap between the intention (to treat people well) and the reality.
Why make the effort to tune in better to the people around you, you may ask?
The benefits are huge…Increasing Social Awareness…
- Helps to build loyalty and garner support from those around you
- Increases your ability to grow powerful and positive relationships
- Motivates and inspires the people you work with to contribute to their full potential
- Creates a trusting environment to grow a cohesive team.
So, in keeping with this EQ series, it’s time for the quiz so you can see how your Social Awareness skills stack up…
EQ – Part 3 – Social Awareness Mini-quiz:
Please rate how true the following statements are for you (True, Somewhat true, or False) (and if you’re brave, ask a couple of trusted people around you to rate you!):
- I’m able to build relationships with almost anyone (even if we have radically different viewpoints)
- I often find it easy to read other people’s feelings
- I tend to put people at ease even during tense times
- I’m usually good at picking up on the mood in the room
- I consistently make an effort to consider issues from others’ point of view
- People choose to work with me in preference to equally talented colleagues
- I usually listen attentively to others, even if it takes a long time for them to get to their point
The more true these statements are for you – the better your Self Awareness EQ skills are supporting your leadership capability.
And now some ideas for you to try out to increase your Social Awareness…
(1) Commit to Focusing on Those Around You
Sounds a bit obvious, but if you’re only going to do one thing, this is it…intentionally take your attention away from yourself and check out what’s going on with the other person. This is about really making the effort to assess the other person’s tone, read their facial expressions and interpret their body language. Are they engaged, interested, relaxed, attentive? Or are they frustrated, withdrawn or bored? Cluing in will help you adjust both the timing and delivery of the message you’re trying to impart. Stating it out loud is permissible as well – as long as you are not concerned about being correct. “You seem a bit down today, is there something going on?” can be one of the best questions you ever ask…
(2) Listen Attentively
Often we get caught up in our own thoughts and fail to pay attention to our coworkers, children, or anyone else we engage with over the course of the day. Simply noticing that you have become distracted or are thinking of your next insightful comment can be a trigger to slow down and refocus on the person and their words. Clarifying and acknowledging what you hear will further confirm that you’re an engaged listener.
(3) Consider the Other Person’s Point of View
There are times when we’re so convinced of our own brilliance that it can feel like a waste of time listening to someone else’s input on an idea. The degree to which you can catch yourself noticing this “unquestionable brilliance” is the degree to which you will endear yourself much more to those around you. Stopping and taking the time to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is another key skill of the socially aware.
(4) Catch the Mood of the Room
You’ve likely walked into a room and gotten an immediate sense of the mood, whether it be excitement, bitter conflict or something in between. Intentionally staying aware of the mood of the room while you’re in a meeting can make the difference between you having the impact you want and things falling apart. And if you’re a serious note-taker like me, it’s important to look up from our notes on a regular basis to stay tuned in and connected!
Whether Social Awareness is new territory for you or a personal strength you want to keep well-honed, I wish you all the best in staying aware of the emotions around you in the interest of your impactful leadership!
Let me know how you do… and I look forward to connecting with you soon with the final article of this EQ series, “Relationship Management.”
This article references ideas from “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves