Emotional Intelligence, one of the foundational skills of effective leadership, is like the board game, Othello: it takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master. Having patience, assuming good intent, and coaching for compassion are all easy to do when things are going well. When the pressure is on, though, it’s easy to become impatient, or to lash out, or to take criticism personally. That’s why it’s so helpful to practice.
Just like an athlete who trains and trains and trains so that her muscles know what to do when the whistle blows, leaders who practice emotional intelligence are better able to navigate stressful situations, have crucial conversations, and lead their team to produce meaningful results.
So, wherever you are, stop the other three things you’re trying to do right now and take a minute to check in with yourself. Close your eyes if you can or stare into the far distance if not. Take a deep breath. Take another one. Relax. Take a moment to be aware of your environment and how you’re feeling.
The more often you check in with yourself, the easier it is to keep yourself on track — whether that’s getting hyped for a big presentation, or being present for a one-on-one meeting, or getting in the zone for heads-down work. If it isn’t easy at first, give yourself a break — mastering a skill takes practice. Just remember to keep practicing.