In our series on emotional intelligence (EQ), we have discussed self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. We now turn to the fourth and final skill that drives emotional intelligence: relationship management.
Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves define relationship management in their book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 as follows: “Relationship management is your ability to use your awareness of your own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully.” From this definition, you can readily see that relationship management is not a “standalone” skill; it is deeply entwined with self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. In fact, it is impossible to practice relationship management effectively without drawing on those other skills.
The benefits of relationship management are innumerable in the workplace. For example, if you develop a high EQ as a leader, you can use your relationship management skills to deliver effective feedback since you will be able to recognize and handle employees’ emotional responses to what you say. You will also be able to guide your team through change by addressing the unavoidable negative feelings related to change such as cynicism, anxiety, and anger. And – always a “hot button” – you will be able to de-escalate disagreements and resolve conflict to a successful conclusion. The ultimate outcome of consistent relationship management is a strong culture of trust, improved employee engagement and retention, and high performing teams that deliver the business outcomes you want.
One of the methods we use with clients to help build relationship management skills is an emotional intelligence journal. With an EQ journal, you consider the interactions that took place during the day before you finish up at work. For any interaction that did not turn out well (for example, a disagreement that blew up, a team meeting where a person shut down, or a feedback discussion that ended with the employee feeling crushed), put in writing:
- Who were you meeting with?
- What was the context?
- What did you say/do?
- What was the person’s response?
- What could you say/do differently the next time?
In particular, think about whether you could have done a better job keeping tabs on your own emotions and how you expressed yourself (self-awareness and self-management) and whether you might have missed certain cues from the other person (social awareness).
Before you think, “Oh, no … not another thing to put on my calendar!” bear in mind that an EQ journal is not supposed to be the next great American novel. You don’t have to schedule a block of time at the end of each day for this. We are talking about taking five minutes to jot down the salient points of an interaction.
As time progresses, the EQ journal will give you greater clarity into where, when, and with whom you tend to have relationship issues. It will provide a record of your insights and the different approaches you have tried. But the real prize comes after several months, when you realize that you are writing less and less in your EQ journal because you have fewer and fewer interactions that go south. You will have learned what is effective for you and the people you relate with and are armed with tools and techniques that make for a great workplace and drive outstanding business results. And that, after all, is what emotional intelligence is all about for you as a business leader.