Since it is the holiday season, this post is to remind leaders to pay attention to their emotional intelligence. Be aware that not everyone is jolly and merry. Leadership is a relationship and leaders need to have antennas up to make sure people are getting the support they need at this time of year.
The other day I was running some errands and if I am not listening to NPR, at this time of year I am listening to the station with constant holiday music. I was thinking about little gifts as stocking stuffers and this song came on the car radio: “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” It stopped me and I sat in the car and said to myself, “For some people, this is not the most wonderful time of the year.”
I shared how my mom died in October, but she was blessed with a long life of 93 years with relatively few serious health issues over the years. But during the past few months, we learned that our brother-in-law was diagnosed with ALS. A very good friend is dealing with a brain tumor and treatment. In my women’s executive group, one woman is starting breast cancer treatment and two lost their husbands unexpectedly. One was only 52 and the other died of a heart attack on his 82nd birthday. And the list could go on. Not everyone is jolly and merry.
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) is all about self-management particularly managing one’s own emotions and being aware of the emotions of others. One of the surprising themes that emerged from the research for my book Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts, was how coping with grief is an important leadership skill that leaders are usually not taught or discussed. It is hard to be emotionally intelligent and not study the grieving process. Learning how to deal with one’s grief is important in order to assist and support those who work for us. Grief is about loss and many things are being lost in this world of accelerated change.
We often associate loss and grief with death of loved ones and certainly that affects organizations. In fact, the Grief Recovery Institute did a study and concluded “the death of a loved one taxes employers more from $75-$100 billion annually.” They refer to these as the “hidden costs of grief” because they are often related to the costs of alcohol and substance abuse. People are also grieving for other losses such as divorce and even the loss of a pet. But entire industries are dying, stores are closing, and jobs are disappearing.
To learn how to deal with grief, I have completed training to be a hospice volunteer twice (four years apart) because I did not get involved after the first training. As a volunteer, I go into homes to give caregivers a break. It has been a rewarding activity. Since my parents have required more help during the past two years, I have not taken on many assignments. I believe hospice training helped me be a better friend to friends who are dealing with grief. It is important to know what to say and what not to say even if all words are said with good intentions. Grief in the workplace is inevitable so leaders need to use their emotional intelligence (EQ) to be sensitive, understanding, and supportive to others. Grief affects the bottom line.
Another trend that is occurring in many churches is that of Blue Christmas Services. Our church held our first one last Sunday and my husband and I attended. It was contemplative, calming, thoughtful, and reflective. It was a reminder that for some people this is not the most wonderful time of the year.
Google will even bring up a whole list of Blue Christmas sermons.
Since I collect sermons, commencement speeches, and other talks, I found perusing these sermons fascinating. But the theme is consistent: Don’t make assumptions that everyone feels the way you do. Be careful about what you say and do. Pay attention to those around you and their thoughts and feelings.
I am not advocating being a scrooge or a grinch–quite the opposite. ‘Tis the season to be caring, thoughtful, considerate, and sensitive to the feelings and situations of others. Leaders don’t need to have all of the answers. Many times people don’t want or need a solution. They just want someone to listen. ‘Tis the season to listen.
Within your sphere of influence:
Who might be struggling?
Who has recently lost someone or something?
How might you support them?
Have you listened to them?