10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

May 18, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed


“Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work…I.Q. is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” ~ Warren Bennis, Author and Pioneer of Leadership Studies.

Daniel Goldman’s seminal work on Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence reveals the surprisingly deep impact of our relationships on our personal and professional lives.

Social Intelligence (SI) is the ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments.

Certain things leaders do—specifically, exhibit empathy and become attuned to others’ feelings and motivations—literally affect both their own brain chemistry and that of their followers. The good news is that social and emotional literacy is not fixed early in life. If you have a growth mindset and you are willing to put a few simple things in practice every day, you’ll seen reap the rewards of authentic connection with the people with whom you work. Here are 10 ways to enhance your social intelligence.

1.     Recognize that attention is the currency of all relationships: Giving people your attention tell them you respect their opinion and feedback. We live in a highly distracted world. How often do you find yourself talking to someone scrolling through their email on their phone. How do you feel? Lock eyes, listen hard. Give the gift of attention. Be mindful. Be present.

2.     Invest in relationships: Get to know people, really know them, and let people get to know you, really know you. Don’t hesitate to share a story or to talk about yourself in a way that shows something about your character, as context and time permit. Over time, go a level deeper of getting to know your people by investing in some one-on-one time with them, outside of the context of immediate tasks or projects. Understand personalities and motivations. Show heartfelt caring and concern about others.

3.     Smile more often: Facial expressions say a lot. A scowling or stone-faced leader does not say: “I’m approachable! Come, let me know what you need and what’s happening.” Rather it tells those you lead to stay away and don’t bother me. Make the choice to smile more often than not. Let your team know they can approach you by welcoming them with a smile.

4.     Share your mistakes and vulnerabilities: One thing exceptional leaders know is that mistakes need to be recognized. And they’re willing to go first with their mistakes. Approachable leaders open up about the mistakes they have made. They also let their team know where the mistakes have led. By being open about past mistakes, you encourage others to share their trials with you. Doing so allows you to help guide them through the tough times.

5.     Tell more stories: Stories have a great power. They draw people in and they help people remember details. Stories can also help make you a more effective communicator. People are drawn to stories. Stories click with others. And stories create community when done right. Tell stories that encourage your team to be a community.

6.     Get good at chit-chat: Effective leaders are willing to sit down and chat with those they lead. Whether it’s at the lunch table or at the front door or at a community event. When leaders initiate conversations with others they are seen as approachable. They open the doors to conversations. They make the first move so others can feel more comfortable.

7.     Share the glory: You will find there are leaders who hog all of the glory for a job well done. You will also find that these leaders are rarely the ones that have credibility with their teams. Rather, the leaders who share the glory are the ones who are seen as fair leaders and people rally around them. Don’t hog the praise for yourself. Pass it around to the ones who really helped your organization get to where it’s trying to go.

8.     Be relentlessly positive: There are positive people and then there are negative people. Generally, people are drawn to those with a positive worldview rather than those who hold a negative worldview. Having a negative outlook will make others see you in a negative light. Change your perspective and begin to think positively. Share this positivity and others will see you as a more positive and effective leader.

9.     Show your interest in who they are: Heart-Tree-Star, developed by a Microsoft manager who ran training and development for senior executives, is one structured way to think through and communicate about what motivates people. The three-part model goes through three lines of discussion around current passion and enthusiasm, growth and skill development, and personal definitions of progress and achievement:

  • Heart: What do you love doing? What are you good at?
  • Tree: What do want to develop? How do you want to grow? Where do you want to end up in the future?
  • Star: How do you feel rewarded?

10. Communicate like your life depends on it: When you get ideas and suggestions from colleagues or your team, acknowledge them. Ten words or less, such as, “I appreciate the heads up,” or, “Thank you, that update helped me,” does a lot to encourage further information, whereas a ringing silence or lack of response telegraphs apathy, which tends to shut people down. When you decide to ignore input or recommendations, certainly ones you solicited, take a moment to explain. Absent that, people will read their own story into your silence, which may be: s/he doesn’t want my input, so I’m not going to provide it. Consider making extra effort to be gentle with people who are easily intimidated, or less prone to go “toe to toe.” Attention is the currency of relationships but communication is the grease that keeps the wheels moving.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent post on what babies can teach us about employee engagement.

Best,

Saeed

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