We are in the midst of a global pandemic and many of our employees are struggling, stressed, and afraid. Truth be told, we are likely feeling some of the same things. Yet, as a manager, we soldier on. Budgets have to be managed, sales targets have to be met, and difficult decisions have to be made. In the Harvard Business Review Article entitled The Best Managers Balance Analytical and Emotional Intelligence, the authors suggests that attending to our employees while solve pressing problems requires two different parts of our brain: the analytic network, which enables the task-focused attention needed to solve problems, or the empathetic network, which facilitates reflection, compassion and social connection. One of these network will be our natural preference. Knowing that for ourselves will help us to use it as a strength when appropriate, but also recognize when we need to develop our skills in the other.
To exercise our empathic network, we can complete at least one 15-minute conversation each day in which our sole purpose is to understand the other person, not to solve a problem or give advice. We need to stop whatever else you are doing and give that person our full attention. We must listen beyond what we hear, tuning into to the whole picture of what we hear and see, including your interlocutor’s body language and tone of voice.
To exercise your analytic network, we can schedule specific windows of time within which to complete certain tasks. Hold ourselves to those committed windows, even if they are not actually firm deadlines. When we identify a situation at work that requires a new approach, we can use it as an opportunity to do some research by coming up with key questions and new resources that we normally wouldn’t think of, including people. Then, then connect our notes together into a framework to help move ahead.
For more thoughts on developing the Emotional Intelligence, see the Empowering Your Leaders section of our website.