I resumed my role as our condo association’s president recently. The previous president, embroiled in an unexpected crisis with plumbers and gas leaks, had decided the stress was more than he wanted to handle. By default, I agreed to take up where he left off. Although the gas leaks have been repaired, and everyone’s dryers and stoves are fully functional again, we have unfinished business in the form of outstanding bills with two plumbers.
One couple in our association is adamant in their opinion that we have been overcharged and have made it their personal crusade to make sure our association is not cheated. While I admire their dedication and appreciate their willingness to get involved, my personal style leans more toward “keep the peace at all cost” and “do whatever needs to be done to make the pain stop.” If it were my personal funds on the line, I would pay the bill immediately, no questions asked. I don’t know that it would even occur to me that I could debate the charges.
Throughout this situation, I have been thinking about conflict resolution and emotional intelligence, wondering about my own EQ (as in “emotional IQ”), considering how it influences my effectiveness in managing difficulties at home, on the job, and in groups. Daniel Goleman outlines four main facets of Emotional Intelligence: self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management. All of these areas affect a person’s ability to resolve conflict.
Self-awareness includes the ability to recognize one’s emotions and understand their effects. My emotions about this situation: frustration, anxiety, a certain level of indifference. Though I realized that my instinct to capitulate and pay the bills without a fight would have the undesired effect of lowering our condo associations already anemic reserves, I lacked the resolve to consider the alternatives.
Self-management is controlling one’s emotions and adapting to change. Because of my position as condo president, overcoming my emotions was necessary. I scheduled a meeting of the board, prepared to hear everyone’s ideas and negotiate a solution. This is my comfort zone with leadership: kindly inviting people to share their viewpoints, listening well, and summarizing points and counterpoints.
Social awareness is recognition of others’ emotions and a grasp of social networks. My fellow board members came to the meeting wearing their fatigue like pajamas. It was not difficult to pick up on the nuances of their emotions as we passed around a threatening letter from one plumber. The unspoken alliances in our group were evident as well; we are a friendly building, but not without cliques.
Relationship management involves managing conflict while influencing others, harnessing the emotions of the group to achieve a desired result. Operating according to my most natural leadership style, I led a discussion of our problem and potential solutions. I guided the board toward a consensus about how to handle the two outstanding bills.
In the end, the decision was not the one I would have come to on my own. Frankly, this often happens to leaders as they wrestle with EQ issues personally and professionally. Our scores can ebb and flow based on circumstances. This time, I was influenced by lack of sleep. Like others, I could also be affected by countless factors such as my interaction with team members, physical health, or personal stress.
We chose to pay the lesser of the two bills, agreeing that we will be more effective registering our complaint with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List than we would be continuing to engage in he said/she said over a $300 invoice. As for the other bill, we decided to wait and see if the plumber carries through on his threat of legal action.
While we wait, I have time to reflect on my own EQ. To show emotional intelligence in this situation and be the best leader possible to the group, I needed to thoughtfully consider the interpersonal and intrapersonal forces at work in our meeting. I had to listen to the desires of the group as a whole and trust their instincts while recognizing my own limitations.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.