Leaders are encouraged to see the big picture, the vision and strategy. “I need to get out of the weeds,” is a frequent self-criticism that I hear from executives. While all this is true, many in leadership roles get busy and stop monitoring the way they behave in meetings and interactions with others.
For example, instead of being present while in a conversation with an employee, a CEO gets distracted as he thinks about what he needs to do next. The CEO’s lack of attention can be painful to the employee. Yet, the employee’s experience may not even register with the CEO. The behavior described in this example reflects a small segment of time. Small things build up and this less than adequate interaction can become a pattern, then a perception and then a habit. Habits are hard to break.
Humans learn to bond and trust others through a series of interactions. Just like in a marriage, the goodness of fit is usually never about one big thing, but a series of little things that add up to build trust and compatibility or not. As an executive coach, I usually conduct 360 degree interviews with people in the “coachee’s” environment prior to setting coaching goals. Those interviewed often share perceptions that are based on an accumulation of positive or negative behaviors displayed by the “coachee.” One’s boss, peers and direct reports often make judgments based on this series of “small stuff.”
I advise anyone in a position of influence to sweat the small stuff. Be self-aware of your own feelings and behavior as you interact with others. Tune into what others might be experiencing. The most emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled at managing their own emotions as well as managing the emotional aspect of a situation for those they lead.
For more information on how to assess and develop Emotional Intelligence in yourself and others, click here.