What is the most important thing to hold on to at this time of year?

We are now half way through the year, congratulations, and the term break feels like it’s only minutes away. This is a busy time of year in schools with mid-year assessments, reports, marks and setting up the LMS for the next semester. There are also the strategic decisions such as staffing changes, possibly interviews internally as well as those you might be applying for, and financial reporting. This all means stress and being very busy.

During periods of stress and busyness, we often forget how to behave and what we should and shouldn’t say to others. We can lose control of our thoughts and let our judgements run wild. We get tired, become short tempered and intolerant.  Imagine a whole group of people like this working together and I hear you saying, ‘welcome to my staff room’.  Yes, the end of Term 2 can turn the best of us into short-sentenced, judgemental, impatient, sleep-deprived zombies. I often think the end of Term 2 morphs a whole group of normally level-headed, wise individuals to ‘tightly wound-up springs’, and it then doesn’t take much for anyone to ‘unravel’.

Our emotional intelligence has effectively gone ‘out the window’.

Emotional intelligence – the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well, in ourselves and in our relationships.  (Daniel Goleman, 1997)

It actually does not take very much for a person to slip into a lower state of emotional intelligence brought on by things like reduced sleep, pressure, time challenges, or relationship changes (both positive and negative). Emotional intelligence is in fact a skill, a learnable skill, that needs to be continually built upon and practised in order to be strengthened. The best leaders have high emotional intelligence and it is the skills necessary to identify the mood state we, and others, are in and regulate for it that are the most sought after in leaders of today. The World Economic Forum lists emotional intelligence in the top 10 skills needed for the future of work. Emotional intelligence is the most important thing to hold on to at this time of year because it can so easily be forgotten.

Developing higher levels of emotional intelligence have been shown to positively impact:

  • Stress
  • Absenteeism
  • Quality of relationships
  • Work performance
  • Teamwork effectiveness
  • Trust among colleagues
  • Organisational commitment
  • Job satisfaction
  • Innovation and creativity
So what actions can you take to get it back?

Daniel Goleman notes that people best able to handle stress have developed a stress management repertoire that they draw upon as needed. These techniques might include mindfulness practices, exercise such as walking or swimming, a long bath or other relaxation favourite. Having these techniques incorporated into our daily way of operating doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the impact of stress from time to time, but the regular daily practice seems to reset the trigger point for the amygdala (the part in the brain responsible for the flight-fight response), making it less easily provoked. This neural resetting gives us the ability to recover more quickly from stressful situations while also making you less prone to them at the outset.

Teachers who have more developed skills in emotional intelligence

  • have more positive feelings about teaching
  • greater feelings of satisfaction about their work
  • are better able to manage stress associated with teaching
  • are less likely to suffer from burnout
  • have higher degrees of warmth and connectedness between teachers and students
  • show more autonomy and leadership
  • have teachers who focus more on students interests and motivations

                      (Rivers, Brackett, Reyes, Elbertson, Salovey, 2012, Yale University)

Your mood will influence those around you. The phenomenon called ‘emotional contagion’ tells us that your mood can be felt by those around you and your mood will change their mood. If you are in a positive mood, your influence on others will be positive. The opposite is also true.

Remember too, that as the leader of a group, you are setting the tone that you want the team to adopt.

The leader’s mood is the reference point for the rest of the organisation. 50-70% of how employees perceive their organisation’s climate can be traced to the moods and actions of one person… the leader.

Ensuring your emotional intelligence stays high means finding ways to self-regulate. By this I mean, finding ways that can return your mood and your thoughts to their usual state of calm, rational and well-paced. Self- regulation is done actively. You make it happen.

Between now and the end of the term, I encourage you to find something that will take your focus away from the day to day tasks for a short time each day. It can be a simple thing. A favourite of mine is to solve the daily challenge quiz in the newspaper and this can be done with others, and the laughter is a bonus. Other times a short walk does it.

I also encourage you to take yourself to bed at a reasonable hour and to get at least 7 hours sleep. You want to start your break healthy rather than exhausted.

The most important thing to hold on to at this time of year is your emotional intelligence. Having high emotional intelligence requires you to self-regulate. This requires taking some action and doing this regularly; and be kind to yourself. Yes, you are tired. Admit it and accept it. Now regulate yourself for it. Realise that you are likely to think and respond differently at this time. Pause before speaking and make sure you are thinking of others with compassion and positive belief in their ability. If your patience is tested, count to 10 before you speak. This allows the emotional reaction to pass and logical thought to begin to form.

Enjoy your holidays ahead. See you in Term 3.

Janine Stratford, is a Leadership Development Coach and Career Strategist, working with teachers and leaders in schools across Australia and New Zealand. A former teacher and school leader, she is passionate about developing great leaders as role models for their schools and their students. You can find out more about Janine at www.coachingfocus.com.au