I spoke to Jen Shirkani, who has over twenty years of experience as a learning and development specialist, coach and speaker. She is the author of the new book, EGO VS. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps with Emotional Intelligence and the founder and CEO of the Penumbra Group. Below is a brief interview where I ask her questions about how to control your ego and start to build emotional intelligence so you can become more successful at work.
Dan Schawbel: What is the difference between Ego and EQ and why do workers need to know about it?
Jen Shirkani: Ego in my definition refers to that part of you that is concerned with the self. It can either be the kind of ego that involves being overly concerned with oneself, to the exclusion of others—something we may be oblivious to even when we have the most noble of intentions. It can also be the impression one leaves with others when he or she operates out of their own comfort zone at the expense of others. It can come across as self-involved behaviors and comments that appear as narrow in perspective. EQ (emotional intelligence) on the other hand is one’s ability to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, moods and drives, the ability to read situations and people accurately, and responding in ways that are more appropriate.
A leader with high EQ is not threatened by challenges from others, is easy to work with and for, and holds firm performance standards while also being seen as fair and trusting. Leaders with EQ also display situational awareness and emotional connectedness: two vital skills for building employee engagement.
Dan: What are the most common reasons for leadership ineffectiveness?
Jen: In my experience, most employees report that leaders are most ineffective when they don’t show any appreciation or recognition, are poor listeners, appear aloof, and/or take credit for other people’s ideas.
Dan: How do you prevent your ego from getting in the way of your career as you rise to the top?
Jen: It’s very important that leaders or future leaders first understand the dynamics of being an executive. The success of being at the top can get a little heady, clouding a leader’s ability to view oneself objectively. Compound that with the fact that the higher a person’s rank, the less likely those around the person are to give honest feedback, and that can set a leader up for disaster. You can prevent ego from rearing its ugly head by staying grounded, seeking honest feedback and managing impulses.
Dan: What are some ways to boost your leadership EQ on a daily basis?
Jen: Every day, employees and leaders can increase their EQ by doing self-audits of their own behaviors and interactions with others: evaluating themselves on how others perceive them, not just on how they intend to be. Then they can be more mindful of their responses by considering what each situation or person requires, instead of taking a one-size-fits all approach when communicating.
Dan: What are some common traps that people fall into at work when trying to communicate, influence and build relationships?
Jen: Probably the most common trap people fall into is “Ignoring Feedback You Don’t Like.” Of course, it can be hard to hear honest feedback—especially when the feedback is not what we think or want to believe about ourselves. But the consequences of ignoring that feedback can be even more damaging – including a 629% risk of derailment. Another common trap is “Not Letting Go of Control.” Some leaders may fall into this trap by thinking: “Look at me, I am rolling up my sleeves and working side-by-side with the troops.” In reality, what may look like helping isn’t helping at all since the group doesn’t often need another operator.
They need a leader. In most cases the leader’s need to be involved often slows down the work of the group, as other things sit and wait for him to review or approve them. The principles of Emotional Intelligence say it’s not an executive or founder’s job to stay in the weeds and micromanage every challenge the company faces in each and every department but instead to lead people in the strategic direction they envision.