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Letter to Leaders: Understanding Millennials through EQ

One of my mentors once told me: “To lead effectively, you need to have IQ and EQ.” It’s just as relevant now as it was when I heard it a year ago.

EQ, or Emotional Quotient, isn’t a new concept by any stretch, but it’s execution has been debated among top-level executives for a while. Fundamentally, EQ is having emotional awareness of yourself and empathizing with your employees/coworkers. For leaders, the empathy that they demonstrate ideally creates a great working culture for employees, which is the key to pleasing that always-debated Millennial generation.

A lot of the articles I’ve seen are “Millennials in the Workforce” which outline how senior-level execs can empathize with the youths of the world—the largest labor force segment today according to one study. I’ve never really been comfortable with articles or studies that stereotype one segment of the population, whether it’s by ethnicity, sexual orientation, or age. So, instead of providing subjective Millennial research, I want to go back to basics and outline how to empathize.

I want to bridge the gap between senior leadership and their employees by giving practical strategies in developing EQ. I believe that leaders with strong emotional intelligence are far more successful, and if you look at top-performing companies, many of them have these 21st-century leaders—executives with hearts.

Know Yourself

First and foremost, know who you are. You can’t expect to understand employees until you understand yourself. In a self-exploration exercise, outline what you believe, your values, your passion, and (most importantly) your vision. 

This is the first step because you will always have critics, and it’s up to you to know whose feedback really matters and how it affects you. Be cognizant of your strengths and weakness in this step so you know how to navigate situations that cater to both your strengths and weaknesses.

Be a Listener First

The difference between a leader and a manager is EQ. Managers will manage with what they think is best, not allowing for outside feedback. Leaders aren’t afraid to be wrong and are open to learning.

Leaders with emotional intelligence ask questions for two main reasons: 1) they are aware that they don’t know everything, and 2) they take in all variables of a situation to make the best decision.

Being a good listener isn’t easy, and if you truly want to empathize with Millennials (or anyone for that matter), you need to be able to listen to what they’re saying. Listening combines the act of hearing what is being said and understanding what is truly meant by it.

Be Nonjudgmental

Being emotionally aware allows you to analyze the environment around you without judgment or selfish intention. If you understand your own emotions, you won’t be unintentionally swayed by them when you begin to empathize.

Part of this process is understanding subjectivity as it applies to larger issues—how would you react to a situation and why did someone react differently? Challenging your own prejudices and discovering commonalities first comes from your ability to know yourself (aka, go back and read the first section). In the case of “Millennial relations”, you will be able to bridge the differences and understand how you are alike.

The amazing thing about emotional intelligence—the more you are aware of it, the more of it that you will have. Empathizing with your employees, no matter their age, will allow your organization to work for everyone and become wildly successful. Don’t know where to start? Try asking your employees. 

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