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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Millar

Build your Emotional Intelligence & Influential Leadership Skills during Covid 19, Lockdown / Rahui

After a week of lockdown in NZ, it has been noticeable how differently we are responding to it and so are our clients. I have noticed that it is important to look after yourself now more than ever as we are questioned about whether or not we should be at the beach, the supermarket with others or hiding out at home in panic.


The jokes about toilet roll hoarding and panic buying help to soothe us, the key is about not taking yourself too seriously otherwise we can move into high octane stress mode. One of the key ways to manage this is looking at what you can control. You can control your response to everything.


The things you cannot control are others, sometime even your own children. The fear that can set in when our children aren’t following the government rules can be difficult to manage. We may not get through to them with rules and lockdown, but we can influence.

Influencing is a leadership skill, this is able to be built via emotional intelligence.

Taking time to look after yourself first is important to building these skills. For your children, for your neighbourhood or even your team whilst in lockdown. Another part to building your business as you go back is how you lead your customers. Looking after yourself now or building better habits in looking after yourself now will make way for a higher level of leadership within your life, family and business.


Emotional Intelligence is simply being intelligent about your emotions. This intelligence is important to make sure you know who and what are driving the show. For example, if you have a high level of anxiety, it may be that you respond to that. When our emotions take over, we move into our snake brain, our fight or flight brain. When this happens, we are incapable of any logical thought.

Sometimes it may even be from a perceived pressure, it doesn’t have to be real. When this pressure builds up we have an Amygdala Hijack, it is when a small thing triggers us and we lash out…usually after when it has all calmed down we feel a little silly as we had over-reacted to it.

We can help our bodies to manage the times when we must be on high alert as long as we work on having enough time to rest and digest. For example, you would not be able to read this blog if you weren’t in a rested space.

You may have flipped across the title and moved on well before you read these words. If you are not an essential business, then you will be working from home or not at all. This is the time to take stock and look after yourself.


Many have jumped into the grip of financial panic in the first week, we may have started to relax on that now as we have sorted the mortgage holidays or financial breaks. Not everyone is so lucky in that space. I have found that the best way to deal with it is not to worry about it. That might seem a little crazy, but if your landlord is not being compassionate, then a few weeks of not paying the rent will increase their ability to negotiate with you. It’s not like they can throw you out right now. No one is allowed to move. Putting some of those things aside in your head is a great way to manage your ability to respond in the now. In the present moment.


1 – Communicate Assertively

Assertive communication is about respecting the other person. Consider what is your normal style; aggressive or submissive (passive aggressive). Do you use YOU or WE as in YOU SHOULD…? Or WE are all about putting the dishes away, around here – cue sarcasm! Understanding your normal style helps you to notice if it is creeping up in your communication.

Focus on using ‘I statements’. I am concerned with this virus right now and it is making me feel anxious when you go for your run, supermarket, essential job. Can we discuss how your actions could limit the impact on this household please?

2 – Respond instead of reacting to conflict.

Staying calm through stressful situations is key. Noticing your emotional response to situations, shouting, withdrawing, crying. It is important not to get caught up in the drama triangle. The key is not about winning here, which is often the thing that is triggered in conflict. The point is to remember the goal. What are we all here for?

Staying calm and in the room means that you can remind others what the goal is. Resolution is key. I noticed this morning that our family group chat fear had crept in, one person reminding each other that that group chat was about supporting each other at this time and every other time too.

3 – Listen Empathetically

Emotionally intelligent people listen to gain clarity rather than waiting for their turn to speak. Responding rather than reacting they ask questions to extend their understanding of what the other person is saying. They look for visual and verbal clues also to what is going on. In order to be truly present to another person requires you to be aware of your own ‘stuff’. Taking the time to truly listen is key. If you haven’t got the time or you are not truly keen to hear them. This will show through in this skill.

Often, I find my children will start to tell me something and I am in the middle of something. I have to say, wait a minute and then I can really listen to exactly what you are trying to say. Being teens sometimes they are very quick to shut me down, you don’t understand mum.

Then I have to listen to me being a teen and watch out for very different situations. Sometimes going head on is not the right way to achieve really hearing them. Picking your moments works incredibly well.

4 – Be Motivated

Emotionally intelligent people tend to be self-motivated. My dad always used to say, “Who motivates the motivator?” – The Motivated. Set goals for yourself and work on hitting them – you get a hit of dopamine when you do. Sometimes goals are too big, work out the actions or little things that you want to achieve every day. Doesn’t have to be a challenge, just whatever you decide to do the night before. 1 degree of change is enough to change the world. Resilience is a large factor in your ability to manage the goals. As discussed earlier in this article, look after yourself. What can you do to build your energy and happiness at this time, a walk in the sunshine, read that book, gardening, some fantastic food?

5 – Maintain a Positive Mood/Outlook

This is not about spiritually bypassing and saying everything is fine. It is about looking at what positives or possibilities you can see whilst during lockdown. What you focus on grows. If you are around negative people, then that impacts others. What are other’s moods, you are not responsible for their feelings. But you are responsible for your own. Look to maintain a positive attitude. I find when I am feeling down, getting out and doing exercise that I have to focus on, like a good powerwalk helps to bring me back to myself and create that even keel.

6 – Practice Self Awareness

Emotionally intelligent people are self-aware and intuitive. They are aware of their own emotions and how they can affect those around them. They also pick up on others' emotions and body language and use that information to enhance their communication skills.

7 – Take the good with the bad

An important part of increasing your emotional intelligence is to be able to take critique. Instead of getting offended or defensive, high EQ people take a few moments to understand where the critique is coming from, how it is affecting others or their own performance and how they can constructively resolve any issues.

Discern, of course, where the critique is coming from and who is giving it to you, what are their intentions. If you seek feedback, then be prepared to be challenged. If you focus on things being good and praising others, then you will find when you ask for feedback that it will be given in kind, even if it is something you may not wish to hear.

In general, we don’t like surprises, so we will respond emotionally first…usually shock, so let yourself go through the SARAH curve to manage the situation: Shock, Anger, Realisation, Acceptance, Help – it will need time. Be kind to yourself. If you haven’t understood the feedback, then asking questions in the help stage will be far better than asking in the shock stage. No one expects you to change instantly.

8 – Empathise

Empathy not sympathy, the goal here is to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You don’t live their life, everyone is unique. Some people are having a harder time dealing with this than others. The introverts are all staying at home happy as, the extroverts not so much. The twenty somethings are finding this all a little frustrating. The immune compromised are feeling vulnerable and anxious. If you don’t know what it means to feel anxious, then find out. If you don’t know what it feels like to be depressed, then find out. If you can't remember being 20 and bullet proof, then find out. Empathy says you seek to be clear about what is really happening to someone else without solving it, giving advice and making judgements.

9 – Work on your leadership skills

What do you need to be better at as a leader? I like the Five challenges of a leader from Kouzes and Posna; Challenge the Status Quo, Enable others to Act, Inspire a Shared Vision, Encourage the Heart and Model the Way. At the end of the day leaders need follower to lead. If you don’t know where you are going, then it is very hard for others to follow you even your children. With these challenges above all five are required to lead others. What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses in your leadership skills? What could you learn about and work on throughout Lockdown?

10- Be approachable and sociable

Have you noticed how hard the social distancing thing has been since Covid 19, what we used to naturally do, we are having to stop ourselves? In this awareness of social distancing. If you are good at this normally. What do you need to change? If you are generally a smiley person, what must happen for you to maintain this, but not be taken advantage of? Especially online. Be clear about your boundaries, but don’t shut off entirely. Emotionally intelligent people find this easier to understand how to do. Having previously been socially awkward when I was younger, I have watched others and learnt what to do and what not to do. The reality is that there are 50% of people you like and 50% of people you don’t and neither should know which category they are in.

At the end of the day… have fun, lockdown can be a gift to yourself or not. Use the time wisely or don’t. Listen to your heart.

Many of my business clients were screaming out for a break, it certainly feels like Mother Earth was.

Stop and smell the roses!

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