A new book by former Fortune 15 leader Kristin Harper sheds light on some actionable emotional intelligence (EI) insights to help leaders excel in their careers. Harper’s book, The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career, is informed by her career managing some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Crest, Oral-B, and Hershey’s KISSES, as well as her current role as founder and CEO of the leadership development company Driven to Succeed, LLC.
Remote.co interviewed Harper to get her advice on how remote workers, in particular, can leverage EI to improve their virtual relationships with coworkers, employees, and their boss. Harper emphasizes that since two of the biggest downsides of working remotely are missing out on nonverbal cues and informal conversations—especially during such an emotional time in life, work, and society—it’s important for remote workers to effectively leverage the following five EI strategies for maximum results.
1. Extend Grace
We’ve all been the recipients of virtual communication that misses its intended mark, whether by coming across as a little brusque or downright rude. Yet Harper suggests that it’s easy to misinterpret words, tone of voice, actions, and behaviors when they’re translated online.
She explains that it’s especially important, given the personal and societal effects of working remotely, the global pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement, that virtual workers practice the common proverb, “be difficult to offend.”
“We all have off days…and moments,” Harper says. “Try not to add meaning to words—listen to what others say and accept it at face value. Assume good intent and extend grace.”
If something from a piece of online communication is still bothering you after some time has passed, the author suggests inviting your colleague to have “a brief heart to heart conversation with the sole purpose of helping them be great, not a gotcha moment.” She notes that while emails, instant messages, and text messages are expedient, they are often ineffective at addressing conflict. “Even a brief conversation can build empathy and lead to stronger relationships,” Harper says.
2. Conquer Clear, Confident Communication
As Harper writes in her book, “Even the most skilled expert loses credibility without communicating with clarity and conviction.” Therefore, she stresses the importance of prioritizing speaking directly, taking frequent pauses to ask for feedback, and driving for clarity of decisions in a virtual environment.
“When you want to effectively persuade others, first understand the objective, decision-makers, influencers, and barriers,” she says. “This will help guide your content, so you proactively, confidently, and efficiently address what’s on people’s minds and hearts.”
3. Leave Room in Your Schedule
While people who had never worked remotely prior to the coronavirus pandemic may have assumed that a work-from-home schedule would add extra freedom and flexibility to their plates, those who do it regularly know better.
“Working from home adds more complexity and demand on your time,” Harper says. Therefore, she advises that remote workers avoid cramming full every time slot on their calendar. “Scheduling every hour of the day leaves no room for creativity, unexpected tasks, impromptu conversations, direct messages, or thinking time,” she says. “Some of the most effective virtual relationships are nurtured through instant messaging and asking for 15 minutes for a just-in-time conversation.”
To create more bandwidth for accomplishing tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed, Harper coaches those working from home to schedule meetings with themselves for specific purposes. For example, block free time to take a breather, take a walk, or engage with your family. Also, remote workers should create boundaries around their work hours to avoid burnout and workaholism. “The work will be there tomorrow,” she says.
4. Meet Before the Meeting
“The larger the group, the higher the stakes,” Harper writes in her book. Because of this, she feels it’s important for virtual workers to take an extra step and connect with stakeholders before meeting with them to align.
“Some people think it’s a waste of time to meet before the meeting,” Harper says. “However, a single dissenter can instantly change the group dynamic and tone and alter the desired outcome.” Furthermore, she notes that in virtual meetings, people are often hesitant to speak up, so their valuable perspective may go unheard, leading to less favorable outcomes for the entire group. When working from home, you can avoid this possibility by being proactive.
“Meeting with key influencers prior to the team meeting allows you to learn, understand, and proactively address concerns,” Harper says. “Plus, pre-alignment creates advocates who might speak up on your behalf during the team meeting.”
5. Control the “Controllables”
Another key principle that Harper shares in her book is to, “Respond with intention instead of reacting with impulse.” This can be particularly important when working with a distributed team.
“I believe that 95% of life is out of our control,” Harper says, adding that in many ways, people’s words, actions, behaviors, and interpretations of what you say and do are both uncontrollable and unpredictable. This means that others may misunderstand even your best intentions.
“You can be the most favored employee one day, but in an instant, everything can change,” she points out. “Your manager or sponsor can leave the organization or lose their power and influence. Change is emotional.”
Because of this, she recommends staying aware of how these uncontrollable situations make you feel, concluding with some final timeless advice: “While you can’t control the situation, you can control your response.”
Learn More About Successfully Working Remotely
Check out our blog for more helpful tips on being a better remote employee during the “new normal.”
By Robin Madell | July 23, 2020 | Categories: Work Remotely
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