Courage Drives Emotional Intelligence

by Kerry Goyette

In The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends set off on that yellow brick road, they needed three things to succeed: a heart, a brain and courage. Most of the time, when people think of emotional intelligence, they think only of heart. They think heart = empathy, compassion and kindness.

But emotionally intelligent leaders who are full of heart possess more than just feelings of empathy. They act as leaders by considering the needs of others and working to shape their environment to help others to thrive.

True emotional intelligence takes heart (empathy and compassion), an understanding of the brain (its fears and tendencies), and courage to change the environment to bring these components together.

How to Create a Better Environment
How do we bring all these pieces together? How do we create this environment?

When I begin work with a client, my first step is to try to understand the relevant environment as best I can. This helps pave the way for conversations about tough topics and requires a particular mindset.

First, I don’t assume anything. I enter the situation with an open mind. Questions are at the center of my approach.

Second, I enter without judgment. When I say “judgment,” I don’t mean just deciding if something is good or bad; I mean I try to hold off on making conclusions.

The brain always wants to find patterns and make connections, so it takes a lot of mental energy to put aside assumptions and try to see what really is. It takes courage to challenge and put aside my assumptions because it means I have to admit that I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what I’ll find when I enter without judgment, and I have to be willing to find anything. For leaders, this means there’s a possibility of seeing your own mistakes reflected back at you.

Third, my aim is to build trust and listen. My goal in the listening phase is to turn that sense-making instinct down for a little while and try to collect as much information and input as I can.

Listen First, Analyze Later
In turn, people find themselves able to confide in me. This process allows me to not only see the environment for what it is, but to start to uncover the many factors that go into making things the way they are.

If you want to work on getting to the root, here are some examples of courageous questions you can begin asking:

➜ What is the problem? Why do we want to solve it?
➜ What is causing your problems or what is not happening or not functioning?
➜ What is the opportunity in this issue?
➜ If our problems could be resolved, what would change?
➜ What’s the gap between where we want to be and our current state?
➜ What are the key drivers that would close that gap?
➜ If there is a conflict with someone else, what do you agree on?
➜ What are the points of disagreement?
➜ What has to be done to get over the points of disagreement?
➜ What impact is the problem having on your ability to be successful? Why?
➜ Try to consolidate the problem down to a decision.
➜ Is there more detail you can gather about the problem? Explain.
➜ Is the problem something you can resolve on your own?
➜ Do multiple people need to be involved?
➜ Where are you most likely to fail at something that is also critical to solving the problem?
➜ Would it help to find a way to collaborate differently?

These questions might seem relatively simple, but when you have the courage to ask them and keep an open mind, they often yield significant answers.

Emotional intelligence requires courage. It takes guts to move beyond yourself and try to shape your office’s current environment. Leaders fail to adapt when they fail to bring together all the pieces: heart, brain and courage.

Kerry Goyette is founder and president of Aperio Consulting Group, a corporate consulting firm that utilizes workplace analytics and research-based strategies to build high performance teams. Goyette’s work has been featured in Fast Company, Entrepreneur, CEO World Magazine, Glassdoor and Quartz at Work

Goyette shares this excerpt from her latest book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence, listed by Forbes magazine as one of the Best Business Books for Summer 2019.

Speak Your Mind

In Business Dailies

Sign up for a complimentary year of In Business Dailies with a bonus Digital Subscription of In Business Magazine delivered to your inbox each month!

  • Get the day’s Top Stories
  • Relevant In-depth Articles
  • Daily Offers
  • Coming Events