3 Keys to Developing the New Must-Have Executive Skill: Part 2

By: Mary Ottman

In this three-part blog series, we are covering the three keys to developing the new must-have skill for executives.

In 3 Keys to Developing the New Must-Have Executive Skill: Part 1, we learned that resilience is the new must-have executive skill and that resilience can be defined as the ability to quickly bounce back from failure and continue undeterred on your original course with forward momentum.

In this post, we will talk about the second key to developing resilience.  This 2nd key is the most important to develop, in terms of what people tend to stereotype as being more applicable to women.  We will talk about that more in a second.

Key #2) Emotional Intelligence – Managing and Interpreting Your Emotions

Ladies, I cannot stress this enough.  To start with, we tend to be creatures filled with intense emotions.  Thanks for that, hormones!

And if you are like me, you are PASSIONATE about the people and the work you love.  (If you aren’t passionate about your career, we need to find out what you love and get you there!)

If you are reading this, it is because you probably care very much about the quality of your work, your reputation and your people.  Why?  Because that is the type of reader that I attract.

By the way, being PASSIONATE, by its very definition, implies feeling an intense emotion.

However, the ability to manage and interpret our emotions, especially in the workplace, is a needed skill for both men and women.  As one of my career mentors once told me, “if someone can control your emotions, they’ve got you.”

What did my mentor mean?

If someone knows they can “punch your buttons” or manipulate your responses by saying or doing different things to you in stressful situations, they have control over you.  Not good.

We do not want to give away our power by giving others the means to control our emotions and our responses in the workplace, if we can help it.

What’s wrong with actually feeling our emotions?

If we descend into deeply experiencing those intense emotions when we are faced with a stressful situation, it is easy to become overwhelmed by those feelings.

When we deeply feel (or experience) our emotions, we:

  • May begin to cry
  • May become visibly flushed and upset
  • May become extremely angry
  • May experience an episode of high blood pressure and its accompanying effects
  • May begin to tremble
  • May externally display intense emotions that make our superiors, coworkers or customers feel extremely awkward or even frightened

If that happens, it is very difficult to stay objective and calmly assess where other parties are coming from in that situation.  If we cannot remain objective in a stressful situation, then we cannot maintain our ability to develop solutions and paths forward that benefit all involved.

Frankly, if other people feel awkward or frightened when you become emotional around them at the workplace, you can probably understand why they will delay giving you critical information that you may not like. 

You do not want that.  There is nothing worse than getting bad news, except getting bad news that you receive too late to be able to do anything about it.

So how can we learn to manage and interpret our emotions?  One way is to study emotional intelligence.  

Yep, I know some of you just thought, “Oh heck no.  I do not have time for that”.  No worries, because I’ve got you covered! 

Stay with me here and I will give you a couple of great resources to check out.

There are plenty of great books out there along with training classes. Dr. Daniel Goleman is a pioneer in this area and I resonate with Dr. Travis Bradberry as well. In particular, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Dr. Bradberry and Jean Greaves is a great resource and it is also a smaller book for those of us who are intimidated at the thought of reading yet another large leadership tome.

According to the article, “How to Manage Your Emotions Without Fighting Them”, what we need to do is learn to develop Emotional Agility, the capacity to mine even the most difficult emotions for data that can help us make better decisions. 

Dr. Susan David points out that “our emotions evolved as a signaling system, a way to help us communicate with each other and to better understand ourselves.”

So, to take that one step further, when you feel a strong emotion at work, ask yourself what that emotion is trying to tell you. 

Carl Jung, the highly esteemed Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” 

Perhaps you have a coworker that you believe dodges work assignments and that “slacker” behavior gets on your last nerve. 

If you examined your strong reaction to that, it might be because you have a belief instilled in you from your childhood that you have to work extra hard to succeed in the workplace. 

In this example, you might consider that your workaholic tendencies are not necessarily the norm for most people.  In fact, you might have a lack of work-life balance that could potentially lead to burnout and decreased performance. 

In that case, who has the healthier work ethic?  Thought-provoking, isn’t it? (Said the reformed workaholic.  That would be me!)

The bottom line is that surrendering to experiencing those deep emotions takes away your ability to assess and treat the source of those emotions and your ability to remain objective in the heat of the moment. 

Okay, for my extra busy ladies out there with no time to read a book, here is a quick tip you can start doing today! 

A quick method to self-diagnose and interpret your emotional triggers would be to note when you become defensive, challenged, upset, outraged, nauseous, or if you have any other emotional reactions at the office.  After the event occurs, be sure and note the specific feeling you experienced and also the situation that caused it.

Keep these events in a journal so you can start to notice trends.  The big takeaway here is that self-awareness is a huge enabler for your success.

Once you are aware that you are reacting emotionally, you can reflect on why you are reacting that way.  Thinking through alternative ways to respond that will allow you to remain in control of your emotions before a situation arises will allow you to be present and be more prepared to handle those situations in healthy ways in the future.

The good news?  Your leadership, your colleagues and your employees notice what ticks you off or causes you to go into micro-manager mode.  Whether they tell you or not, they will also notice that you are starting to respond to respond to stress in healthy ways.

This will allow your team and your leadership to feel more comfortable bringing challenging situations to your attention.  By hearing about these challenging situations up front and early (as we used to say in the Army), you will have more opportunities to develop alternative paths forward that allow your leadership skills to shine!

Coming soon:

 Stay tuned for the third installment of “3 Keys to Developing the New Must-Have Executive Skill”.

This final key takes the first two keys and puts them into action.  Let’s face it.  Savvy executives have to be able to determine when, how and how much action to take in order to successfully lead an organization or a business.

You DO NOT want to miss this!


David, Susan.  “How to Manage Your Emotions Without Fighting Them.” Harvard Business Review, 28 November 2016, hbr.org/2016/11/how-to-manage-your-emotions-without-fighting-them.

About the Author

Mary Ottman is an established, well-trained women’s empowerment and leadership expert with a focus on systems for speakers. After a successful Army civilian career, where she served as an executive leader to notable accolades, and single-handedly turning around the diminished gains of her personal health, finances and lifestyle, she is expanding her life management guidance and structured offerings to everyday entrepreneurs, and overwhelmed, but purpose-filled, women.

Mary invites you to sign up for her IAW eCoaching Session on June 26th titled “Will You Stay Stuck or Speak Up?  5 Essential Steps to Take Your Success from Mission Invisible to MISSION INVINCIBLE!” Register Here

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