Have you ever blurted out a passive-aggressive comment when operational changes are announced? Or were you ever shocked by an employee’s anger or distress about a small shift in their responsibilities?
Let’s face it, change can be scary. But what if strong emotions are holding you and your team back from embracing change?
Neuroscience theories state that we rely on our emotions for survival. Emotions help us make essential social connections with others from the get-go, demonstrated by the still face experiment with babies.
But because these social needs are hardwired, a threat to our social standing can flood our brains with powerful emotional responses. Because emotions originate from the primitive parts of the brain, they can engulf higher functions like reasoning and decision making.
By developing your emotional intelligence, you can access these higher functions of the brain even when overwhelmed. With the right strategies, you and your team can embrace change using emotional intelligence to manage these knee-jerk responses.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Also known as EQ, emotional intelligence was popularised by psychologist and science reporter Daniel Goleman in 1995. His ground-breaking theory argued that emotional intelligence was a better predictor of success in life and work than a person’s IQ.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and control your emotions while knowing the effect your behaviour has on others. It’s a mixture of awareness, which focuses on observing reactions and responses, and management, which involves making conscious decisions.
Here are the four strategies that are essential to embrace change through emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness: Allowing us to be aware of our own reactions and emotions
- Self-management: Applying self-awareness to make more conscious, thought-out decisions
- Social-awareness: Paying attention to others’ needs and feelings, and your environment
- Social-management: Allowing productive interactions with others around you
Using Emotional Intelligence to Embrace Change
Any change to an organisation or team can trigger overwhelming emotions. Our brains crave stability, so when uncertainty looms, it triggers neural responses to protect us from the threat. In other words, we become defensive, fearful, or stick our heads in the sand.
But we can learn to embrace change through emotional intelligence by managing our fearful reactions. Change management allows leaders to prepare their teams to not just adapt to change but to also understand and appreciate it.
By applying emotional intelligence tools and strategies, you can help you and your team embrace change instead of rejecting it through fear.
Identify the Source
Cultivating a high level of self-awareness allows you to get to the root of emotional responses. You need to understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ first before you can solve the problem.
First, you need to identify the actual emotion you’re feeling. Is it fear, anger, denial or frustration? Once you’ve labelled the emotion, ask yourself why you’re feeling this way.
- Fearful that the change may make you look incompetent?
- Angry because you feel powerless and out of control?
- Frustrated because you don’t understand the need for change?
Manage the Issue
Now that you’re more self-aware, it’s time to manage the root of your emotional reaction. If you’re worried that your skills aren’t up to par, research your training and upskill options. If you’re feeling frustrated or out of control, approach the decision-makers and ask to be involved in the process.
Emotional Intelligence in Change Management and Leadership
As a leader, it’s essential you adopt an active role in any changes that affect you and your team. With your support and guidance, you can encourage your team to embrace change through emotional intelligence strategies.
Being Aware of the Needs of Others
Social-awareness is key to emotional intelligence in leadership positions. For example, leaders with high EQs are more sensitive to subtle differences between their employees. You’d be wrong to assume that everyone in your team will react to change the same way as you do.
Perhaps some of your employees tend to procrastinate when faced with a shift in processes. While others may be quick to anger and feel defensive about their position in the team.
Employees desire their supervisors to know who they are, what they want, and to ensure their career aligns with their needs. By knowing what makes your employees tick, you can leverage their strengths and manage their weaknesses to create resilience.
Social-management will help your team embrace change through emotional intelligence. It’s not enough for you to drive change from the top down. You need to apply EQ tools to build resilience, manage expectations and adapt as painlessly as possible.
Accentuate the Positive
Are you contributing to a nose-dive in morale because of your subconscious reactions to change? Maybe you automatically tense up when a team member suggests adopting a new system or workflow. Your body language matters!
If you’re not open to change yourself, you can’t expect your team to be the same. Instead, you need to cultivate a positive outlook and lead by example. Ask yourself: will this change create any opportunities? And can these opportunities help me and my team?
Transformational leaders practice courageous communication as part of their change management strategy. By clarifying the reasons behind these operational changes, you’ll engage your team’s higher functions of analysis and understanding.
A two-way communication strategy is the key to embracing change through emotional intelligence. Encourage feedback from your team by creating a safe space that is free of judgement. And schedule regular one-on-one meetings to discuss their concerns and fears for the future in private.
Teams that already adopt new technologies and processes on a regular basis are less likely to reject change. As a leader, you should encourage new ideas and innovation within your team. And you should be actively implementing improvements and new technologies whenever possible.
When you learn about a change in the organisational structure, ensure that your team isn’t left behind. Identify any necessary new skills and create a training plan for anyone who might need it. Point out to any resistant employees how this upskilling will improve their careers, and that they can count on your support.
Over to You
By embracing change through emotional intelligence, you can improve the well-being and career track of you and your team. It’s all about adapting to change through awareness, analysing reactions and solving underlying problems.
You can’t be an effective change leader if you’re not mindful of your own emotional triggers along with your team’s. And by applying emotional intelligence strategies, you can ensure your team is agile and future-proof. Courageous communication and forward planning are key to building resilience and accepting change.
Keen to learn more about how neuro-leadership can help you manage change and improve your leadership skills?
Omozua Isiramen is a Certified Life and Executive Neuro-Leadership Coach, who uses emotional mastery and a neuroscience-based approach to empower and prepare clients’ hearts and heads to take the journey from where they are to where they want to be by bravely accessing and optimizing their limitless brain potential.
She works with busy professionals, entrepreneurs, teams and organisations to help them transform stress into performance super fuel and drive greatness from within by becoming brain-friendly leaders with clarity, confidence and courage.
Click here to learn more and to schedule a 30-minute discovery session.