Tips for Demonstrating EI in the Remote World of Work

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Tips for Demonstrating EI in the Remote World of Work

By Dr. Kimberly Janson

A recent study found that CEOs turn over every three years and are being hired for EQ (emotional intelligence/EI) and fired for IQ. The reality is that many folks are simply unsuccessful in the workplace because they do not have the requisite capabilities in emotional intelligence. Therefore, it behooves us to start with a good understanding of what EI exactly is. 

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Referred to as EI or EQ (emotional quotient like intellectual quotient), the concept of EI was made popular by Daniel Goleman. At the core, EI is comprised of four components. Those components are self-assessment, self-regulation, empathy, and trust. We can make determinations about people’s depth and competence in these areas based on interactions with them and the behaviors they demonstrate. When working remotely, we simply have less data available to us to aid in our assessment of someone’s EI. However, the paradox is EI becomes even more critical in a remote work situation because of just this reason – we have less data to go on in understanding behaviors and intent.

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Dr. Kimberly Janson

Element 1: Self-Assessment

It is difficult enough to understand how we are showing up without the mirror of someone reacting to what they are experiencing from us. On a phone call or video meeting, reactions are more easily hid than unfiltered facial expressions. Someone who has strong self-awareness has a tight alignment between their intent and their impact. Because people can interpret many things from our behavior and often infer that there is mal intent in our behavior, often folks aren’t inclined to ask about intent. It is vital, essential, critical, and every similar word to convey the necessity of us having strong self-awareness. We may know that we struggle with something, but this is often the case; we think the size of the issue is an inch, whereas it is really 7 inches by other people’s assessment. We operate blindly as a result. When working in a remote situation, here are some tips to help:

  1. If you suspect someone has reacted to something, ask. Ex. “Did that just land wrong?”
  2. Listen to your intuition. You need it more when working remotely, and people with finely tuned intuition have more success.
  3. Make it a regular practice to ask for feedback and create opportunities for people to give it to you. “Is there anything you would suggest I do more of/less of to be more impactful next time?”
  4. Ask a trusted party to be vigilant about letting you know if you are creating an unintended impact.

Element 2: Self-Regulation

Because our interactions are less and done in a limited genre, such as a call or email, it is important to make sure you are behaving in ways that don’t leave a lasting negative impact. Emotional regulation is always important, but even more so in these situations. When working in a remote situation, here are some tips to help:

  1. If you find yourself reacting, make some quick notes while the person is talking to organize your thoughts to take the emotion out of your words.
  2. Add physical exercise to your regime. This often gets diminished for people working remotely and can take our edge off.
  3. Ask people how things are coming across – almost like asking about whether the volume is right in the car or when watching a movie. “Is my intensity too much, not enough…it’s hard when we are remote to tell!”
  4. Pull yourself out of your head and picture yourself in a room with the folks in the meeting. Picture how people would be reacting to your words and tone? What would your body language look like? Should you change it? Can you add humor or diffuse?

Element 3: Empathy

You never know what people have going on behind their doors or what they are dealing with in their lives. Assuming positive intent goes a long way to assist in having empathy. When we can make people feel safe with us, we get more from them, and they have a greater chance at being their best self. It does not mean we do not hold people accountable. It does mean we recognize the humanity of situations. When working in a remote situation, here are some tips to help:

  1. Make it a habit to seek to understand first before you seek to be understood.
  2. Meet people where they are and walk with them. Understand things from their point of view.
  3. If you aren’t getting what you expect, is it because they don’t have the skills, the confidence, they aren’t bought in, are being dis-incented in any way, etc. Work on trying to find the root cause of why something is occurring and help them find a pathway out.
  4. Mention something if you think people are off in some way. Follow that by an acknowledgment that things seem to be a challenge and a well wish for them. Ask them, “How can I help?” That is guaranteed to go a long way.

Element 4: Trust

If you are vigilant about the other three components of emotional intelligence, you will go a long way in building trust. Big, negative reactions hang around for a long period of time…like smoke in a curtain. If people find you callus and not empathetic, they are less likely to trust you. If people find you unaware of your own impact, they will not place trust in you regarding the impact on them. In a remote work situation, trust is measured mostly by brief interactions and performance. When working in a remote situation, here are some tips to help:

  1. If someone makes any suggestion that is even close to suggesting there has been an infringement in the relationship somehow, explore it, remain non-defensive, and if appropriate, own it.
  2. On time, repeatable performance goes a long way in building trust. Without people being able to “drop in on you” as they can when co-located in a work setting, it becomes even more critical to deliver as you commit to doing so.
  3. Gossip is a terrible erosion of trust. It is easy to take small bits of information and spread them around or allow other people to do that with you. Have a hard rule about gossip and drama.
  4. Talk about trust and how important it is to be trustworthy. Speak about it in your relationships and ask that if you ever do anything that suggests otherwise, to please let you know because it is THAT important to you.

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