Berger Leadership Blog

Categories: Leadership

Demonstrate EQ in your communication

Dan BergerAs we continue operating in and adjusting to virtual environments – and as many of our teams continue to work from home amid the coronavirus pandemic – demonstrating emotional intelligence (EQ) takes intentional effort. Not only is it more difficult to convey empathy and make personal connections via email, the stress of the world we're currently operating can subconsciously alter our responses.

My father-in-law Earle Keirstead sent me a recent article from author Justin Bariso that details how Apple CEO Tim Cook demonstrated EQ when flagging for his executive team a lengthy, concerned-filled email from a developer. Cook's email was one word: "Thoughts?"

Leaders are bombarded with requests and opinions on how to do things (solicited or not) throughout their day. The way you respond – both in your internal thought process and externally to others – reveals a lot about your character and level of EQ.

Bariso breaks down how this one-word email said a lot by simply opening the door for conversation, and ways in which he could've responded that would've been less effective:

  • Dismissal: Receiving criticism is hard, but it's necessary for us to grow and improve. A lengthy email airing grievances about the way things are done at your organization will likely stir up some negative feelings. Your knee-jerk reaction might be to dismiss the comments; maybe the employee doesn't see the big picture or fully understand why things are done that way. But great leaders take time to reflect on constructive criticism and either find better ways to do things or be more transparent in the decision-making process to get employees' buy in.
  • Quick reaction: Yes, there are certain situations that require immediate action. But even they should have some thought put toward the solution. In our normal course of business, leaders and organizations must commit the time and resources to evaluate the situation, consider alternatives, and then make the best decision available. Too quick of a reaction can have negative impacts on your employees who must implement and deal with the aftereffects of change, and potential financial consequences if it wasn't fully thought out.
  • Intimidation: As tech has evolved, so has our communication style. Emails and text messages allow us to quickly respond, often with abbreviated and concise language. Much more is said when we talk in person, not only through words but also body language. Bariso explains that Cook's "Thoughts?" email could have easily just been a "?" That approach, however, comes across with a negative connotation – like, "What the heck is this guy talking about?" – and can discourage thoughtful dialogue. Even when trying to respond quickly, leaders must consider how the receivers will interpret their message. Words do matter.

Good communication skills are a must for great leaders. It allows you to steer your organization in the right direction, keeping everyone on the same page, and builds close relationships with your team. While this is a challenging time that requires adaptability, don't let quick reactions hinder your goals.

Reflect on how you communicate with your team when faced with challenges or criticism – being open and receptive to feedback will lead to success.

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About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and helped turn the association into the premiere advocate for the credit union industry. Since becoming president and CEO in 2013, Berger, who is also an author, economist, and one of Washington's top lobbyists, is credited with bringing national attention to key policy issues, while ensuring NAFCU's members meet policymakers at the highest levels of government.

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