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Using Emotional Intelligence to Manage Criticism: 4 Actions You Can Take


By Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting

{#/pub/images/EmotionalIntelligencefortheNewLeader.jpg}The concept of Emotional Intelligence was popularized in 1996 by author Daniel Goleman in his bestselling book entitled Emotional Intelligence.  Through both brain and behavioral research, Goleman makes the case that rather than IQ or technical skills, Emotional Intelligence is a better predictor for success especially in leadership.  What does that mean for you?  It means that how you approach life and handle life’s challenges dictates how successful you can be versus how book-smart you are. 


Choosing to lead with Emotional Intelligence is possible, but it takes practice.  Every day we are given many opportunities to exercise our Emotional Intelligence.  Each time there is a moment that presents a challenge and demands a response, you can improve your skills.  Consciously or unconsciously, we respond to that event in a way that moves us towards learning or resisting.


Typical challenges in your day:

  • Your boss announces at a meeting that a new, detailed report is due by the end of the day.
  • Someone gives you negative feedback on your big project at work.
  • There is road construction on the way to work and you are now late.
  • Two out of your five team members called in sick today leaving you short-handed.


A positive response to the challenge means that you are focused and in-tune with what is going on, you take ownership of the situation at hand, you show empathy to others in the moment, and you take a proactive approach to a solution.


When you handle these events poorly, you choose to resist.  Therefore, you are not focused on what is going on, you blame others for the situation at hand, you don’t take others’ emotions into account, and you just react.


Consider this story as a new leader:

Recently, I was running a meeting of a group of business leaders that meets monthly.  After the meeting, I send out action items for each of the members based on the progress made in the meetings.  All action items are decided upon within the group before the meeting dismisses. 


The last few meetings have generated some great conversation, skill development, and brainstorming amongst the members.  The topics have been exciting and it’s easy to go too deep into one area and lose track of time.  We have gone over by about 15 minutes the last few meetings.


One of the members sent me an email asking that I request the group be more conscious of everyone else’s time, stay on task, and dismiss on time.  As the leader, this is a tough situation.  The progress made when people are diving deep, has been great, so I hate to stop the conversation.  On the other hand, some of it could and should be taken outside of the meeting, and I see that.


As tempting as it was to resist and be defensive, I chose to learn from this.


Using Emotional Intelligence to Manage Criticism:

4 Actions You Can Take

  • Stay Focused – I had to separate the emotions I was feeling from the facts.  It wasn’t that I was a bad person, or a bad leader.  We were running over on time and that was hurting some of the members.
  • Take Ownership – it is very easy to blame the group I lead on the problem, but that is not going to change anything.  Every team needs a leader; I need to not worry about being nice and not interrupting discussions. 
  • Show Empathy – although the comment felt like an attack on me, I have to empathize with the member who brought it up.  He feels rude if he leaves before the discussion is over, but has another commitment right after our meeting.
  • Be Proactive – I have sent an email to the group to be aware that we need to continue the great conversation, but be conscious of our time for our next meeting.  Giving them the heads up that I might interrupt them out of respect for everyone will enable me to not feel guilty.  In the meetings I will be setting timers on topics so we do not run over.


It was very tempting for me to take the path of resistance.  In fact, I did take the path of resistance for a few hours, but then I realized that wasn’t going to help the team in the long run.  Choosing to learn was extremely satisfying. 


As a new leader, it is easy to be too overpowering or too laid back.  In this case, I wasn’t taking an active role in leading the team.  Learning from it not only improves my leadership, but my Emotional Intelligence as a new leader.


When have you been in a similar situation?  What did you do?


{#/pub/images/20120913174147_DSC_14831small.jpg}Written by Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting A sought after Coach, Mompreneur, Strategist, Mentor, Speaker, Author, Trainer & Business Consultant, Emilie works with people who are ready for that next level of success, and realize how they work with people is KEY.  Her coaching will help you lead, delegate, sell, collaborate, perform, influence, and relate with people to launch your success to the next level. She provides clients, teams and organizations the skills and tools for leadership and professional excellence.


Do you have a management question for Emilie?  Post it in our First Time Manager/Supervisor Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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Here are some related articles you may be interested in: 

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: How to Develop Yourself & Your Team

What First Time Managers Need to Know to be Successful

Your Facial Expression Can Make or Break You

A Model for Active Listening: Master a Skill That Can Boost Your Career


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