How to Be An Inspirational Manager Without Acting Like Someone You’re Not (Emotional Intelligence)

The core competencies of managing people may be described in different ways by universities, associations and companies but everyone’s list will contain elements from areas such as business and financial acumen, analytical analysis, strategic planning, negotiating, relationship building, communication, presentation, motivation, delegation, coaching and emotional intelligence.

The list of areas to develop skills and experience in as a manager is broad and may be daunting. Rest assured, however, that in order to be the kind of manager who inspires greatness in others and makes a lasting positive impact in an organization and others’ lives, you don’t need to be a genius in every area!

Start Where You Are

Start by understanding yourself better as a person. What are your values? What are your dreams in and out of your professional life? What keeps you awake at night?

The better you understand yourself, the better you will be able to understand another person. When you see what you stand for you can begin to see how others have different but equally powerful values and purposes in their lives. By recognizing others as different but valuable, you will find that defensiveness just falls away allowing mutual trust to take root.

And where trust grows, genuine commitment to excellence and to each other can develop.

This is Emotional Intelligence

The dynamics behind replacing defensiveness with trust falls into the core management competency of Emotional Intelligence (EI).

The American Management Association’s Management Body of Knowledge says that managers need to develop emotional intelligence competencies “such as personal awareness and impact, collaboration, and healthy conflict” in order to achieve “personal, team, and organizational success.” Inspiration and influence are also listed by the AMA as foundational EI skills of an effective manager.

Since the concept was popularized in the 1990’s by Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence has become a common term for a quality that is easier to recognize than to describe. If you focus on any skill area to develop as a manager, however, this is the one that will take you farthest.

If It’s Hard to Describe, How do I Focus on It?

A survey completed by organizational scientist and executive coach Sunnie Giles and published in the Harvard Business Review asked 195 leaders around the world to choose their top leadership competencies. In this study, there was a clear #1 quality of an effective leader: “Has high ethical and moral standards.” Other top qualities were about communicating, being able to change opinions, creating a feeling of togetherness and providing psychological safety. In fact every quality picked as most important for leadership were emotional and relational skills.

All of these emotional and relational skills have a common source: they all spring from you understanding who you are and what you stand for. This is where your focus should begin.

Emotional and relational skills grow when you know what your personal core values are.

You Have What It Takes

It’s true that some people have personality types more inherently attuned to emotions and empathy, while others more easily dial in to logic and data in life situations.

However, every manager has what it takes to inspire, influence and make important connections with the teams that they lead. 

Here are 10 ways you can develop as an Inspirational Manager, without acting like someone you’re not:

1.      Be human – Know your own values, know what you stand for.

2.      Practice observing your fears and doubts. Fears and doubts are a natural part of having a human brain, they do not come from who you truly are.

3.      See each direct report as a complete person with a desire to make a difference, regardless of what they are saying. Their fears, doubts and complaints are not who they truly are. (This is coaching!)

4.      Be consistent in your responses, moods, interactions and directions.

5.      Understand your company’s and your boss’s goals (ask your boss!) and be able to describe in one or two sentences how your team’s work directly contributes to meeting these goals. This is your team value story – tell it often!

6.      Be clear about desired outcomes (even if the current desired outcome is to determine what actions to take). 

7.      Be accessible to discuss options or provide guidance but let your employee solve the problems.

8.      Set regular time with your employees (1:1 or team meetings), and make this a priority in your own scheduling. Through regular check-ins with your team, you develop a deeper feel for your team’s strengths and challenges. Innovations arise more spontaneously.

9.      Practice regular feedback to your employees – acknowledge them for something genuine and say what you see. For example: “It’s clear how hard you have worked to create this report template! And I am not yet seeing how using this report improves our workflow…”

10.  Build your own support system outside of your team. Talk regularly with a peer, friend, mentor, coach or someone who sees you as capable of taking on challenges and will support you to do so, even when you feel you are not ready.

People are drawn to others with clear personal values, who demonstrate their values in their actions. In this way, you can inspire people to be their best without having to act like someone you are not.

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