Emotional Intelligence: What's your EQ?

How does "Emotional Intelligence" impact your leadership? Sara Ramsay, Education Manager, offers some takeaways from a recent webinar with Camber Outdoors, providing insights into our feelings and how we can act with purpose.
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Education Manager
July 12, 2017

I recently attended a webinar on Emotional Intelligence, shorthanded to EQ or EI. Hosted by one of our partner organizations, Camber Outdoors, I was intrigued by the webinar’s title, “EQ - The Secret Sauce for Accelerating Leadership”.

 I want to be a better leader, I thought - and I want to help our leaders be better leaders, tooSo I took a look at my calendar, set aside an hour’s worth of time and went for it. I’m really glad that I did.

The host of this webinar was a local gal, Sherryl Christie, who dove into the topic of Emotional Intelligence and why it's so important to leadership.

Sherryl defines Emotional Intelligence as: “The ability to form and maintain mutually satisfying relationships, particularly during times of moderate stress.” As a professional in the outdoor industry, that last bit really resonated with me. How often are we leading folks through a moderately stressful environment? Even if it doesn’t feel stressful to me, the leader, how often are my students or participants moderately stressed? How can I be a more compassionate leader - with the most astute Emotional Intelligence - during these types of situations?

A few points from Sherryl’s presentation really stuck with me. I hope that you enjoy my ponderings, and that some of this resonates with you, too. I know that the topic of Emotional Intelligence has given me some really self-reflective stuff to chew on, as I’m continually thinking about how to be a better leader and teacher, both here at The Mountaineers and beyond.

Act on purpose. Respond, instead of reacting. For me, on a personal level, this resonates in a big way. I can be quick to react when something rubs me the wrong way, and I’ve been known to put the cart before the horse in some instances. Knowing that about myself, I try to take the time think about how I can respond with more purpose. Sometime that means I stop what I’m doing, take a breath and count to ten. I’m usually much happier with my response, instead of my reaction.

Feelings are a type of data point. If we can identify a feeling - anger, frustration, joy - we are better poised to guide our thinking and behavior, as a result of that self-reflection.

“Ideal Feelings Distribution” This was my favorite part of Sherryl’s discussion! She notes the “ideal distribution” of our feelings in a given situation, and goes further to identify the benefit of each of those feelings, even the feelings that we typically identify as negative. Every feeling has a place and serves a function.

  • Love (Connection) & Joy (Energy) = 50-60%
  • Anger (Motivation) = 10%
  • Anxiety (Vigilance/Risk Awareness) = 10%
  • Fear (Safety/Protection) = 10%
  • Sadness (Compassion) = 10%
  • Shame (Humility) = 10%

While I was reviewing my notes from the webinar, I started to think about this distribution of feelings in the context of a specific outdoor activity, and how my own feelings might relate and correspond to one of my favorite sports. In the summer time, for me, that’s mountain biking. I love mountain biking. It's a way to connect with nature and some of my closest friends. It brings me joy, and the energy to live a full and engaged life. But it's hard - it can be really f**king hard - and sometimes I get angry. I yell and scream and try something over and over and over until I get it. I’m motivated to be better. I get anxiety when its steep, rooty and exposed and I think about how to better manage my risk. I occasionally fear for my well-being, and I do my best to protect myself when I’m about to fall. I’ve learned to fall safely. I am sad when I see someone else who is having a hard time with the sport - believe me, I’ve been there - and I want to do what I can to make their ride better - to swing their “Love & Joy” ratio back into a healthier balance. I feel some sense of shame when I don’t accomplish something I really thought I should or could. Mountain biking is humbling, and it puts a lot of things in perspective.

I’ve never thought about this sport in these terms, but it's an honest way to categorize why I love it. If it was always fun and easy, I don’t think I’d love it so much.

At a broader level, I think that this “ideal distribution” is transferable to just about everything we do at The Mountaineers. We don’t do it because it's easy - but we don’t need to make it too hard. It needs to be both fun and challenging, and in a balance that will have our members coming back for more. That’s why we’re all engaged as outdoor enthusiasts, so as leaders, we should do what we can to set-up the best, most well-rounded learning environment for others. It's the stand-by mantra of Safety, Fun and Learning - but nuanced. Its having the subtle touch to foster the right learning environment for each of our students - facilitating the right balance of feelings - so that they are able to experience the same emotional connection that we do.

Find an ideal balance between “self” and “other”. Sherryl talked about this balance in a way that I hadn’t considered, and in a way that made me really think about the work we do here at The Mountaineers. The Mountaineers is a volunteer run organization. That’s amazing, and the task is enormous - it takes a village of nearly 2,000 volunteers to keep this organization afloat, thriving and moving forward. With that in mind, it's really interesting to think about this balance between “self” and “other” in the context that Sherryl presented. If we become more “self” oriented as individuals, we may take-on too much responsibility and burn out. One person cannot carry the load on their own. Conversely, if we become more “other” oriented, we start looking externally for cues, inspiration and validation, waiting for someone else to make the first move so that we can follow. Do either of those extremes sounds familiar? If we can find that balance, we’re healthy. We’re delegating, we’re initiating and we’re getting things done.

Interested in learning more? You can view Sherryl’s complete webinar here on the Camber Outdoors website.

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Russ Immel
Russ Immel says:
Thu, Jul 13, 2017 2:11 PM

Thanks for making this resource known. Enjoyed your response and write-up about the webinar.