How to Be an Emotionally Intelligent Remote Manager

When it comes to hiring and promotion, organizations often undervalue emotional intelligence. Especially when organizations have to decide who to promote into management positions, some qualities routinely take priority – qualities such as technical proficiency, business knowledge, or even the person’s network. 

While these can be incredibly important at predicting an individual’s success in their role, emotional intelligence should not be overlooked, especially for management roles. Some argue that emotional intelligence is actually more important than intellectual capability in leadership. Since managers are responsible for motivating their employees to reach their maximum potential, it is crucial that they are understanding and receptive to their team’s emotions.

Unfortunately, remote work can hinder your management’s efforts to emotionally connect with employees when they need it most. For many organizations that are still operating remotely, face-to-face interactions (and for some, interactions in general) have dwindled during a time when anxieties about health, safety, and financial security are at an all-time high.

The good news is that, while some social awareness is innate, it can be improved, even in a remote work environment. Here’s how you can manage your remote team with excellent emotional intelligence:

1. Listen First

One of the most crucial characteristics of emotionally intelligent people is that they are good listeners. Strong listening skills are key to seeing where an individual is coming from. As leaders, managers are sometimes prone to starting and leading work conversations. Next time you’re in a meeting, try listening to all perspectives before making a judgement or sharing your opinion.

2. Personalize Communication

Especially when working from home, it can be tempting to shoot off one group email with instructions or news rather than many individual emails. While this is efficient and appropriate in most situations, consider making some of these communications more individualized. Individual emails are more likely to be read, more likely to garner a response, and make individual team members feel like a crucial part of that project’s success rather than just a number of people assigned to the task.

3. Prioritize Face-to-Face Interactions

While you’re working physically apart, it’s still vital to make time for face-to-face interaction. Studies show that seeing another human’s face triggers mirror neurons that cause us to re-create what they are experiencing in our minds. Biologically speaking, face-to-face interactions are more equipped to generate empathy than emails or texts. To lead your team with emotional intelligence, be sure that a large part of your communication is via video chat platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 

4. Make Time to Celebrate

During COVID-19, huge office celebrations of birthdays or milestones may seem like a thing of the past. To keep spirits high, emotionally intelligent leaders make the time to host virtual meetings or send emails congratulating individuals on their achievements.

5. Show Empathy

During this time, managers are under more pressure than ever before. The most emotionally intelligent leaders can take a step back from their own stress and step into the lives of those they are leading. In this unprecedented age, patience and understanding are critical to keeping your team motivated.

Emotional intelligence is crucial in good leaders, but remote work and limited social interaction can thwart managers’ attempts to connect with their team. When communicating with staff, listen intently, individualize communication, speak face-to-face whenever possible, and show empathy with employees to keep them motivated.