Allison McWilliams: Building your EQ through mentoring

Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, writes occasional articles for Inside WFU.  This is the third for the fall semester.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.

Allison McWilliams, the Director of Career Education in the Wake Forest Office of Personal and Career Development on Monday, October 10, 2011.

Research has argued that emotional intelligence, or EQ, can matter up to twice as much as both IQ and expertise in predicting career success. Sounds important, doesn’t it? So what is it and how do you do it? In short, EQ is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness effectively to manage your behavior and relationships. More specifically, EQ has four components:

  • Self-awareness: your ability to recognize your emotions and mood and how it impacts others
  • Self-management: your ability to manage your impulses, moods, and to think before acting or reacting
  • Social awareness: your ability to gauge accurately the emotions of others through listening and observing
  • Relationship management: your ability to build rapport, build networks, inspire trust

The great news is that the four key components of EQ are all key components in effective mentoring relationships. To be an effective mentor it is important that you have a deep understanding of self and a honed ability to develop trusting, empathetic relationships with others. By engaging in mentoring relationships, you will continue to develop these skills over time. Effective mentors are always in learning and self-development mode. Effective mentors understand that they are not perfect but a work in progress, constantly looking for ways that they can grow and develop their skills, abilities, knowledge, and talents. Effective mentors share successes as well as failures, create safe spaces for sharing and risk-taking, practice listening and respond well to feedback. As a bonus, by doing so, you role model EQ to your mentees, as well.

Try a few of these tips to develop your EQ:

  • Pay attention to your emotional, verbal, and physical responses. Write down your responses to different work and life experiences. What patterns do you start to notice over time?
  • Practice not responding. The next time you have the urge to jump in argue a point, try taking a step back. What were you going to say and why? How does it feel to sit one out? What was the result of you not making yourself heard?
  • Seek out feedback. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to observe you in different situations and to give you feedback on how you engage with others and how you manage your own responses. Try to resist the urge to defend yourself, but simply listen and ask questions for clarification, and then reflect on what you heard.