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A crisis can take different forms and emerge without warning. These crises include advertising disasters, miscommunication with suppliers, or a mishap during a company event. Most organizations prepare contingency plans for various crisis scenarios. However, regardless of the type of crisis that we are facing, it is important that the leaders of an organization use their emotional intelligence when faced with a challenge. It can greatly help them overcome the crisis they are facing. It helps us manage our panic and reactions, and it helps us understand others and help calm their panic.
What is emotional intelligence?
It’s our ability to manage our emotions, which enables us to handle crises more efficiently. Emotional intelligence has four elements — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management/social skills.
Related: Successful Leadership Tactics in a Time of Crisis
As a leader, you are under constant watch. People will monitor your every move. Because of this, you have a great opportunity to influence. If they see you calm, they will stay calm. So how do you ensure that you stay calm even in times of crisis? You need to be conscious of how you react to your situations and other people. When you are aware of your reactions or emotions, you are in charge of the situation, not your emotions. Find out how you react when you’re under pressure. Does your heart beat faster? Do you become irritable? When you know how you react, you can manage your emotions, which increases your ability to deal with the crisis because your emotions do not influence your decisions.
People who are self-aware can easily identify their emotions when they take the time to do it. Even experts require a moment to gather their thoughts, but once they have, they can easily manage themselves.
So, what does it mean to self manage? When you know you’re about to react negatively to something, you can do something to intervene before things escalate. For instance, one of your employees made a mistake, which might cause your company to lose an important client. How do you feel? While you’re allowed to have those emotions, you need to learn to manage them so you can deal with the situation.
If you manage your emotions, you can set your disappointment, anger, and panic aside and begin to deal with the problem first before dealing with the employee. In other words, your emotional intelligence can help you focus on the important things during the crisis. When the crisis is over, you can take the time to let those emotions out in private.
Related: 8 Powerful Phrases Leaders Need to Say in a Time of Crisis
While the first two elements focus on internal matters, social awareness (and relationship management or social skills) focuses on your ability to connect with other people.
“Empathy is a core skill of social awareness,” writes author Daniel Goleman. Empathy is our ability to understand and share other people’s feelings. During a crisis, you’re not the only one who’s experiencing different emotions. As a leader, you can influence how others feel. If you let your emotions run wild, your people will probably do so as well. If you show them that you are afraid or angry, they might feel those emotions too.
Your people are probably just as afraid, if not more than you are. Your anger might make them feel antagonistic too. Instead, if you manage your emotions, you are in a better disposition to help them deal with their emotions. You can motivate them to continue working despite the crisis that you are facing. You can even encourage them to work towards solving the crisis. Being socially aware allows you to lead others to manage their emotions and focus on the tasks at hand.
Relationship management or social skills
“Relationship management refers to your ability to influence, coach, and mentor others, and resolve conflict effectively,” writes Lauren Landry of the Harvard Business School. Yes, you need to be a good communicator, which means learning to be a good listener. Being a good listener improves your ability to be socially aware. You need to use what you learned from your observations (due to your social awareness) to help you manage your relationships. For instance, a crisis creates tension, which means increased emotional responses. To prevent conflicts from arising, you need to address the issues before they become problematic, and having a good relationship with your people as well as with external parties allows you to resolve the issues easily.
Related: What Leaders Can Learn From Governor Cuomo About How to Communicate During a Crisis
All of these mean that leaders need to develop their emotional intelligence while there is no crisis so that they are ready by the time a crisis occurs.