As Anthony Robbin said, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

This awareness is what helps understand your and others’ emotions, behaviors, and thought patterns. This helps you choose how to interact as a leader.

The value of positive relational intelligence

Relational Intelligence is the act of intelligence to relate with others to continue to have healthy relationships with your superiors, co-workers, clients, and peers. 

  •  It helps build self-awareness to recognize your moods and behavior patterns.
  • It shows you what may have been causing you to think and respond in ways that aren’t constructive. 
  • It deciphers interpersonal solutions for tough work situations.
  • It supports you in managing hard negotiations, collaborations, and sticky conversations with ease.
  • It shows you how diplomacy at times worsens the situation and suggests practical actions for directness

The ever-evolving workplace makes it hard to keep relationships and stay connected with a wide array of stakeholders. In times like this, it is imperative to have open channels of communication informed by emotional abilities. This often determines the quality of work and your success as a team. 

You can read more about the Relational Intelligence program offered by Physis here.

Peers are integral to our work ecosystem

Peers and their teams contribute to our success. None of us work in isolation and none of us can achieve more by being an island.  

As a leader, a strong relationship with your peers is imperative for these reasons:

  • Teams that have strong workplace relationships work together towards their common goals.
  • Fears and insecurities give way to more innovation, creativity, and the courage to experiment. 
  • It communicates trust in all forms. 
  • It shows teams that leaders can work together toward organizational goals.
  • Peers begin to see that you value the strengths they bring to the table

As they say, alone you go faster, together you go further.  A leader with a higher relational quotient encourages effective conflict management and enhances ideas for positive team dynamics to manage differences.

Raghav & Raghu’s peer insecurities

Raghav and Raghu were leaders managing delivery for a large Indian MNC. Raghav saw Raghu as sugarcoating all that he said. Raghav was wary of sharing too much with Raghu as he saw Raghu as a collector of information. Information that was, then fed into different channels for Raghu’s use. It was a selective sharing of information with the CEO for Raghu’s benefit. Raghav felt betrayed.

Betrayed Raghav’s strategy was withdrawing. 

He felt stuck because his withdrawal did not actually help him work better with Raghu. We discussed this in coaching.

The primary questions of exploration with Raghav were:

  • How come he withdrew? How does that help?
  • Where did he learn that to be an effective method?
  • What has been the outcome of withdrawing?
  • What did he feel when he realized the leak in information to the CEO?
  • What would it take to put away his anger and replace it with respectful directness?
  • Why would it be important to confront this?
  • How could he use ease and play here?
  • What are the benefits of openness, and honesty for him?

Raghav decided to speak to Raghu.  He took his ‘disappointed self’ into the meeting, not his ‘angry self’. This was important as he was clear he wanted to respect the dignity of Raghu.

He shared with Raghu that he was ‘surprised’ over the leak of information to their CEO. He told Raghu that he shared information in a certain context and did not expect this information to pass further. So when the CEO asked him questions it was shocking, uncomfortable, and awkward for both Raghav and the CEO. 

He spoke to Raghu more about his discomfort and how it put him on a back foot in the meeting with the CEO. His tone was light, non-blameful. It wasn’t a sit-down conversation, just a short mention as they walked out from a meeting. He emphasized that ‘I share because I want to trust you will hold the information’. ‘Do check with me once in case you want to mention what I share. This way I am more prepared’.

Raghav said this conversation established a few things for him:

  • Raghu now knew that Raghav knew ‘the truth’.
  • Raghu is clear that Raghav is open and direct and thus boundaries get established.
  • Raghav establishes that he isn’t the kind of peer who keeps things under the carpet.
  • Raghav stopped feeling angry and it freed up his energy instead of overthinking this incident.
  • He learnt that withdrawing isn’t a solution, respectful directness is.
  • Raghav did not feel like a victim who could be ‘played’.

There is no script that defines how a leader can sharpen their relational intelligence but the place to start would be listening and genuine empathy. 

Our SALT course focuses exclusively on relational intelligence and leaders have found journeying with this content immensely skill-building. In 2022 two large teams of top performers went through 6 six-month journeys to upskill on overall stakeholder management skills oriented to deeper conversational skills.

6 ways to show your relational intelligence skills include:

  • Establishing a rapport with your peers. This is most important during the initial stages of communication. This lays the foundation for creating a safe environment with open communication amongst a team. During this stage, especially in the remote work culture, being empathetic towards others’ views, opinions and influences could let you see things from their perspective and establish a healthy connection.
  • Be willing to understand others. Good listening skills and asking questions that foster employee engagement. Be intentional, while demonstrating curiosity and the willingness to learn about your peers, as creating a safe space is an ever-evolving process.
  • Embrace differences. As a leader, you will have to interact with many stakeholders at various levels. The receptive ability towards anyone who thinks or acts differently promotes a culture of inclusivity. This leads to peers bringing forward diverse solutions and thought processes that can give your organization superior success.
  • Trust building. This is the most important skill of relationship building. Listen well so you can learn what builds trust with your peers and superiors while looking at things from their perspectives. Being a good communicator is reciprocating conversations and your team’s efforts to break boundaries. To continue to sustain a trustworthy workplace you must focus on the 5 Cs – competence, commitment, consistency, character, and courage.
  • Respectful Directness. Instead of confrontations, shaming, and escalations, it is politically astute to do so in a way that shows the peer your boundary. It shows the peer that you are not out to get them. In the long run, this establishes your credibility.
  • Influence to add value. As a leader, it is imperative to be impactful in the lives of your peers and find ways to influence that add value and enhance problem-solving for them. This not only improves the strengths and commitment levels of your peers toward you but they become willing to drop the guard. You establish your identity as a ‘giver’ and not just a ‘taker’. 

Learning to work well with peers is like learning ‘good sibling relationship’ skills. Annoying our peers, creating a political environment, and working with insecurities saps our energy. 

Being angry and manipulative with them creates poor energy in both teams undermining our capacity to work together. Relooking at healthy strategies with our peers enhances the psychological energy needed to establish the results we seek at work.  

Do you have a peer that you pull out swords with? Can any of the above strategies support you?


Suggested Furthur Readings:

Sailaja Manacha

Sailaja Manacha

Sailaja Manacha, a Master certified Coach from ICF, is known for her programs and coaching methods that combine psychology with leadership practices. In her work, Sailaja draws from Psychology, Ontology, NLP and Spiritual frameworks as well as rich, real-world experiences.

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