Riding the Storm Out

I have been working on this post for about 3 weeks now. Sometimes posts and ideas come quickly to me, but this one has been very different. I have been trying to communicate an idea that is a bit difficult to wrap my head around.

How does our emotional intelligence impact our love for certainty in decision making?


And the idea of how emotional intelligence relates to uncertainty in decision making became much more clear to me.


Consider this case

As a leader, you have recently taken an emotional intelligence self-assessment and your results show you have high Self-Regard. This means that you have a strong confidence in your strengths and a clear knowledge of your weaknesses. You are feeling good about that.

Then, as you continue to read your assessment, you see that you are less certain on how to really solve problems that arise that have a clear emotional component. The assessment you took calls this Problem-Solving.

The coach who is helping you understand the impact of your emotions on your leadership says one way to think about this high level of Self-Regard and weaker ability to solve emotional problems that arise is that you double down on certainty to solve the problem you are facing.

It is not that you avoid the problem. Quite the contrary. You don’t quite understand the emotion associated with the problem, so you lean on your confidence and intuition.

Fast forward a week or so and someone on your team has made a mistake. Not just any mistake, but one that is going to cost half of your department’s quarterly budget. The implications of this error are profound:

  • The team off-site will have to be cancelled

  • Two vendors who are helping you solve an IT issue that is already 3 months behind will have to stop working until next quarter

  • You are hoping your boss isn’t going to hold bonus money from the team

  • Not to mention, the impact of this on your team’s yearly performance reviews

Since you are a naturally competitive person who was born to win, rather than step back for a moment and consider the emotional impact this problem is having, your knee jerk reaction is to control the situation and double down on your certainty of how to act.

You lean into all your competitiveness and desire to control the situation. That swirling fear of the unknown causes you to begin to awfulize the event that has occurred, giving it far more weight than it deserves.

Your boss emails you and wants to meet with you the next morning to “understand” what happened. You quickly shift into problem-solving mode. Rather than call the team together and process the event in a quick after action review, you put together a 10 slide presentation that will show your boss exactly what happened and how to most certainly prevent this from ever happen again.


It Won’t.

This is because the imbalance between your Self-Regard and your Problem-Solving will continue to take you to certainty when emotional problems arise. Rather than examining the emotion associated with the problem so that you better understand what really happened, you overplay your strength.

You feel the meeting with your boss went well. You explained with great confidence what happened and what you planned to do about it.

Nonetheless, the impact of this gap in emotional intelligence is real.

What you will never know is that while you felt the meeting with your boss went well, she has a different perspective. She didn’t want a 10 slide action plan, she just wanted to better understand what happened. You went into fix it mode, she wanted to know the gist of the problem. Your need for certainty and being uncomfortable with ambiguity was a reason she doesn’t see you as strategic. She communicates this to her peers and HR in a personnel planning meeting. She is not supportive of promoting you until you improve your strategic agility. Your bosses feedback to you will be that the organization doesn’t really see you as being strategic.

Likely this is not what is happening at all….

What Does Dorian have to do with all of this?

Since my wife and I live in Orlando, this storm has real meaning for us. As I am writing these words we are preparing for lots of wind and rain.

As I watched the weather people tried to predict what is going to happen. I quickly realized no one actually knows. And yet, the weather folks on TV have to come on with a great deal of confidence, even if they are unsure of all the variables that will go into deciding where this storm will actually hit.

Realizing the emotion that accompanies a storm like this, and that you can not, even with all your self-confidence ,control the outcome, is in some way comforting.

It is not if problems are going to arise but when. The wisdom is in how you are going to respond.

I argue this wisdom has something to do with your emotional intelligence and the balance you have in your strengths and weakness.

See you all after Dorian. Please pray for Florida!!