Emotional Intelligence: Leading with the heart in mind
Knowing how to lead your team effectively whilst keeping their emotional wellbeing at the forefront of everything you do
Words: Niomi Clyde-Roberts @NiomiColleen
Working with a range of different personalities always brings about fresh challenges, however, these challenges are what makes us more effective and dynamic within our leadership role.
Something I’ve reflected upon and learnt quite recently, is that nobody has the same outlook, perspective as you. They may well have similar ethos’ and work expectations, but everyone you meet has been through a range of different challenges/situations in their life time, that has altered their thinking.
So, when you communicate to each individual in your team it’s vital they understand your point of view and that you understand theirs. But more importantly is that you understand how they have interpreted or received the given information.
It’s important to recognise there are always going to be outside influences and this can get in the way of the heavy workload of school life. Being aware of your team’s emotional wellbeing is high on the agenda, however, it’s important not to let standards slip.
If you need to be flexible – do so. If it’s taking a colleague slightly longer to complete a task, don’t pile on the pressure by creating a rigorous deadline, rather meet them half way. Trust them. After all, they are professionals.
The likelihood is they are already putting pressure on themselves, as conscientious individuals. Having said that, I’m aware this isn’t always the case.
Pick up on the silence. Read the words that are unsaid. Silence is a form of communication.
If an individual is unhappy, feeling the pressure or feel that they are not listened to, their standard of work will automatically slip. Catch them, communicate and let them know you are available, before this happens. Ideally you would have developed a strong rapport previously, so this doesn’t occur.
Unfortunately, in some cases, kindness and empathy can be viewed as a weakness, by other leaders or staff in your school. It is not a weakness, if anything it is a strength. Being empathetic does not mean you have lower standards, it means you are willing to be flexible to achieve those high standards.
I maintain high standards when working with my team, alongside being empathetic and caring, so I know it can be achieved.
Breaking down barriers
Barriers are a person’s way of protecting themselves against anxiety, hurt, high expectations, new ideas etc. As a leader, you will need to break down many barriers to succeed in your role. This takes time and plenty of effort and it can be exhausting at times, but it really is worthwhile.
Once you’ve managed to get that person or people on side, the interactions and working alongside them becomes so much more manageable. Whilst helping break down those barriers you also build a sincerity of trust and, once that’s developed, it should be maintained.
No-one really likes change, but sometimes it’s necessary. A natural human response to change is, ‘No, no way’ or ‘jog on!’, which is why leadership roles, or any role that encourages movement and change, can be mentally exhausting.
I’ve had recent experience of having to break down many barriers, when I joined a new school as head of Year 5 and SLT, last September. It took a few months, but eventually I was able to reach those members of staff that had originally not warmed to me (because I was new and several staff had been there a number of years).
They soon realised if I said I was going to do something it would happen and that I had their backs if they needed to discuss anything with me. They also knew I was there for the children and that, for me, being part of SLT was not a power trek. It was because I wanted to see and encourage change for the better.
Status doesn’t matter. The type of person you are and how you treat others does.
Leaders that put others down, micro-manage or try to push things under the carpet should not be leaders. It causes anxiety, restlessness and quite frankly it’s bullying, as they’re using their power against others that are powerless to do anything about it. I’ve had personal experience of this, as I’m sure plenty of other educators have.
Emotional intelligence has and will always be high on my list. The amount of challenges we have to go through as humans, let alone teachers, always makes me think about an individual’s perspective.
Questions I ask myself:
- Have you considered how they are feeling at that moment in time?
- Is there a situation in their personal life, that is affecting their processing skills?
- Are they exhausted, on edge, due to workload?
Worth reflecting upon:
- What is most likely to ensure they are enthusiastic and feel happy about the task in hand?
- Are they a perfectionist and want to alter plans to suit their particular working style? As a perfectionist myself, I’ve always tweaked ideas in the past to make improvements and so I feel comfortable with the standards of the learning outcomes.
The main reason for these reflections, of course, is so that my team remains positive, motivated and pro-active. You can have strong characters in your team, but equally you can have vulnerability. It’s vital to keep an eye on both, as dynamics within a team are everything.
Once something is said or received in the wrong way it can be difficult to rewind as opinions / judgements have already been formed. It also requires the leader to apologise if they get something wrong, but also apologise if another member of the team has misinterpreted the information. As they information could potentially have been clearer or delivered in a more effective way.
I’m still learning and believe I always will be. I’ve learnt a huge amount about myself and others over the last academic year and will continue on my leadership journey throughout my teaching career.