What does Patrick Mahomes have to do with Emotional Intelligence?

There was a phase of my life when the term “emotional rollercoaster” would have been an appropriate label. In fact, there has probably been more than just one phase when that would have been an accurate description.

It started when I was a child. I went from 0 to 10 quickly…overly excited, overly frustrated, overly passionate, overly emotional. Maybe it’s in my DNA. Maybe it’s a result of my surroundings. Whatever the cause, I have become aware of my emotions and how they affect me and those around me, which has been key to interacting with those in my closest circle and beyond. The more I can control my emotions, the more I can achieve in my personal and professional relationships.

I’ve been studying emotional intelligence for nearly two decades and the more I research, the more I realize no matter how “emotional” one is, we all have an opportunity to grow more “emotionally intelligent.”

Specifically, a key factor to the EQ formula includes managing our emotions. It’s not enough to simply have awareness of our emotions. Being able to be in control emotionally is huge but can also be challenging. We are wired to feel emotion through the limbic system in our brain. The degree to which we experience emotions differs from person to person, but we all feel anger, stress, fear, and happiness. It’s how we respond to those emotions that are so important – critical, really – in affecting our interactions with others in the workplace.

Take Kansas City Chiefs 2nd year Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II; who is just 23 years old!  In the spotlight of Monday Night Football’s national stage, Mahomes performed on a level rarely seen in Kansas City let alone in the NFL.  Not only did he display exemplary skill, he also managed his emotions in a way, I believe, helped him lead the Chiefs to their fourth consecutive win!

There were several variables that a person lacking emotional intelligence would have allowed to affect their performance.  Flags disrupting the Chiefs offensive rhythm, the pressure of needing to overcome a ten point 4th quarter deficit, the deafening roar of the opposing fans at Denver’s Mile High Stadium and relentless pressure from the Bronco’s defense. But during all of it, I barely saw Mahomes get worked up. Instead, he was calm and collected for almost the entire game. That is a huge part of what emotional intelligence is – managing your emotions especially in challenging moments to still achieve your desired outcome.

During my years in corporate America, I found the same principle to ring true. It was much easier to become energized and remain positive about my job when working for someone who exhibited servant leadership and stayed calm, even when faced with difficult business decisions. These people made me want to work harder and do better, because my efforts were valued. Likewise, I’ve experienced projects that left me feeling emotionally drained and pessimistic when I worked for someone who couldn’t control his or her emotions and expressed extreme verbal frustration when I didn’t meet my goals. That’s a tough and toxic environment in which to work and ultimately caused me to change my circumstances (i.e. get a new job!).

The next time you are watching a sporting event, observe the leadership of the team or the coaching staff. How are they responding in the heat of the moment? How does that behavior affect the players and supporting coaches? One of my favorite recent articles about emotional intelligence in the sports world discusses the Philadelphia Eagles decision to hire an “emotionally intelligent” coach and the team’s success as a result of that hire.

Not a sports fan? That’s ok! You can make these same observations at work or school. Identify someone in a leadership position and take note of the way they respond to critical issues. Then, look at those around them. Are employees eager to please, because they respect the leader? Or, do they seem bent and broken from years of working under autocratic leadership?

With a few simple steps, we can all learn to manage our EQ and take our game to the next level.

  1. Take a day and focus on what triggers your emotions both positively and negatively. Use your senses. What smells, sounds, sight and the environment around you triggers you to react. Having awareness is the first key step.
  2. Knowing what those triggers are, identify 1-2 ways that will help you stay calm and collected before you react. Do you need to walk away from the situation? Do you need to write down your thoughts first?
  3. Think about these three key areas of managing your emotions: Control, Accountability and Adaptability.

Just like Patrick Mahomes II, we all have the ability to strengthen our EQ especially in intense moments. It’s the practice and education that makes us ready for them.

One of my most popular speaking topics is, “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: What’s your EIQ?” wherein I work with groups to discuss ways to identify, assess and control their own personalities and to work with the variety of personalities they encounter in the workplace. My Four Square approach will help everyone increase his or her social and emotional I.Q. Sound like this might be a good fit for your organization? Let’s talk!

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