Imagine you have a team member who has great expertise that is beneficial to the team and the organization, yet he has difficulty listening to and understanding other team members perspectives to the point that others start checking out in meetings. It may be that he needs some help developing his social intelligence.

While developing social intelligence is very possible, as it is a learned skill rather than an innate one, sometimes personal reflection is not enough. A mentor or coach can be useful in helping you attain a higher level of social intelligence, which can transform your leadership where you are able to inspire and influence others within your organization. A coach can identify outward behaviors that others perceive of you, but you may not see in yourself. Another tool that can help in developing social intelligence, whether with the help of a coach or not, is by using the StrengthsFinder assessment, mentioned in previous posts.

StrengthsFinder identifies attributes in each person who uses the assessment, such as adaptability, command, consistency, empathy, and strategic traits. Through using this assessment, leaders can discover how they are best able to communicate with their employees, coordinate involvement in projects, and perform to their potential as a professional and a leader.

To give an example of how StrengthsFinder could influence personal growth of social intelligence, the assessment could say that you as a leader had a personal theme of ‘command’, meaning that you have a strong presence, and you make decisions and take control of situations. This strength may cause you difficulties when trying to actively listen, a key skill of people with high social intelligence. When you are aware of that trait, you can use it judiciously.

Reigning in your ‘command’ strength provides space for you to listen during calmer and more stable times when your team needs gentle guidance more than a strong hand at the helm. And in more chaotic times, when quick action is required, you can stand up and make decisions, showing the confidence that keeps your team focused. In each situation, knowledge of yourself and your own strengths leads to knowledge of others, and how to relate to them in the most productive way possible.

Empathy is both a key factor in social intelligence and a personal theme in the StrengthsFinder assessment. It is the ability to not just sympathize with the feelings of others but also actually be able to imagine or feel what they are experiencing. This is an excellent skill to utilize in developing a meaningful personal connection with your employees.

When employees know you understand them and their preferences, their trust in you will allow them to be coached more effectively and have a greater engagement at work. (On the same note, emotional intelligence comes in handy for knowing when to identify over-empathizing in yourself and remove yourself from an emotional situation before you are too involved to be of assistance.)

Each of the personal themes on the StrengthsFinder assessment not only defines the inner attributes of an individual but also how they relate to others. By identifying your strengths and attributes you can identify how best to use them, and in what circumstances, to best suit the needs of your team and successfully reach your goals.

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