Imagine you’re having coffee with a prospective client and the entire time you’re talking, you’re simultaneously replying to texts and emails. You’re talking to the client with your mouth, but your eyes are on your phone. You may think your solutions to your client’s problems are extremely important, but the next day, the client tells you they’ve decided to go in a different direction. The reason? You lack relational intelligence.
Jeremie Kubicek, author of the new book 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, calls relational intelligence the future competitive advantage for leaders. “Relational intelligence is the ability to connect and be present in the midst of tasks,” he says. Although most of us focus our conversations on the knowledge we have to share, our measurable core competencies, Kubicek says IQ is no longer a competitive advantage.
Rather, it’s individuals who have the ability to connect with other people who stand out among the crowd. Relational intelligence, he argues, is about influence. “It increases your influence, your likeability, the desire for people to want to be around you,” he says.
Relational intelligence, Kubicek says, can be achieved by following his five gears method. There are five gears that we go through during the course of our work day: fifth gear: focus mode, fourth gear: task mode, third gear: social mode, second gear: connect mode, first gear: recharge. Shifting between these gears at the right time is what allows us to get relational intelligence.
You know the coworker who always shows up at after-work drinks still talking about his to-do list? That guy, Kubicek says is stuck in fourth gear: task mode and is having trouble shifting into third gear: social mode. Understanding what gear you tend to get stuck in is the first step to improving your relational intelligence.
Trigger points during your day, such as a time of day when you stop everything you’re doing and mentally shift into a new gear, are important to improving your relational intelligence. Kubicek realized he lacked relational intelligence when he would arrive home and sit in his driveway for a half hour talking on the phone or checking work voice mail. When he walked through the door to his house, he was still in fourth gear: task mode instead of being in second gear: connecting mode, when he spends time with his family. Although he was sitting at the dinner table, mentally he was still running through the list of things left to do for the day and making a list of the tasks he had to do the next day. “Relational intelligence is about connection,” he says. “You’re connecting with people by being in the right gear.”
Kubicek noticed a bridge 2.5 miles from his home that became his new trigger point. “Once I get to that bridge, I stop talking on the phone, I disengage from work in my mind as much as possible, and start to shift into second gear. I start to think, What do my kids need? What does my wife need? So when I pull into the driveway, I’m in the right gear at the right time,” he says. Finding a trigger—a physical landmark or a time—when you tell yourself to change gears is key to becoming more relationally intelligent.
How many times have you been interrupted while reading this article? Did you pause to check an email notification that popped up on your screen? Did a coworker pop into your office to ask a question? Relational intelligence can also help to improve your productivity by helping you to be more fully connected to what you’re working on. A person with high relational intelligence may react to an interruption by saying: “I would love to talk about this, but my mind is focused on something else at the moment and I’m not going to be fully with you right now. Can we meet at 2 p.m. when I can be fully focused on you?” “Being intentional, wanting to be present, that’s relational intelligence,” says Kubicek.