If you bring up the idea of emotional intelligence in a business setting and you may well be met with some scepticism. Many people believe that Emotional Intelligence is simply a buzz word that has taken HR departments across the world by storm. However, since the early 1990’s there has been a steadily growing body of evidence that suggests that emotional intelligence or ‘EI’ for short, may well be the best predictor of both employee and workplace success.
Emotional intelligence can be defined simply as ‘the ability to recognise and understand our own and other emotions’. From a practical perspective this means that emotionally intelligent people are keenly aware of how their emotions can drive their behaviours and how those behaviours can impact others. It is about having an intuitive ability to effectively manage these emotions – their own and others – especially in times of high stress.
The importance of having a high level of personal and workplace emotional intelligence is highlighted by a series of recent scientific investigations that suggest that ‘EI’ may even trump ‘IQ’ as a predictor of success.
Recent research by the Center for Creative Leadership in the States stated that the three primary reasons for underperformance or failure among the 2000+ organisations that they serve are poor interpersonal relationships, poor teamwork and an inability to effectively handle change.
Furthermore, Nobel laurate and renowned psychologist Daniel Kahneman discovered that individuals would much rather engage in business with people that they trust and that they personally like – even if somebody they don’t particularly trust is offering a cheaper product or better service.
Lastly, consider the last time that you purchased an item of high value such as a car, a house or a large home appliance. Visualise the person who guided you through the sales process; it is highly likely that the person was somebody who you trusted, somebody who built rapport – somebody who was emotionally intelligent. In fact, I can share with you that a month ago when I bought a car, my salesperson said to me: “I know exactly what you are looking for Angela, I will drive it and bring it up upfront”. I answered: “what if I don’t like it?”, he said: “You will”. The car had everything I wanted it. Not only is he an amazing salesperson, but he truly built such a rapport that created a relationship of trust.
So how do we go about using emotional intelligence in the workplace? EI can be broken down into four key components and mastering these is the key to becoming a more emotionally intelligent individual.
Becoming more emotionally intelligent all starts with the concept of self-awareness. Individuals who possess a high degree of self-awareness have a decent understanding of ways of their own emotions. One can begin by identifying times when you feel stressed, your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions and aspirations. It can be helpful to keep a journal of your emotions and thoughts at hand throughout the day and jot down anything that you experience. Notice the triggers that set you off and recognize them so you don’t react the same negative way each time. I remember a word that a manager loved to use in the past. Once I identified it, I also became more curious to understand why it would set me off. It helped!
As humans we all have emotions that can drive us in less than optimal directions. A large part of using your emotional intelligence in the workplace is to become skilled at effectively managing our emotions so that they do not control us. Once you start to recognise your emotional landscape through self-awareness you can become more attuned to the powerful effect that unwelcome emotions can have on your behaviour; but this where you realize that you have a choice. Negative emotions can create a turbulent and sea within your mind and body, becoming emotionally intelligent is about realising that while you can’t avoid the stormy waves, you can learn to surf them. Next time you feel a surge of negative feelings, wait until they pass before acting rashly.
Empathy is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence; somebody who has a deep understanding of the feelings of others and how these feelings drive their actions. As an emotionally intelligent individual, you should not be considered a ‘softie’ who fears hurting the feelings of others but rather as a person who is willing to evaluate and consider the emotional impact of tough and necessary decisions that have to be made. Emotionally intelligent people are willing to openly share their feelings, worries and hopes and also to recognise those same features in others. The next time that you see a furious co-worker, try to respond in a manner that soothes and seeks to understand. Put yourself into their shoes.
- Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills are central to the becoming emotionally intelligent in the workplace. The three aforementioned skills are a prerequisite to attaining a high level of interpersonal skills and additionally one is required to develop the ability to find common ground with people with a diverse range of backgrounds and personalities. The ability to collaborate, to bring groups into cohesion, to connect, build rapport and network are all critical for success in the business world and are some of the hallmark characteristics of emotionally intelligent people.
The weight of the available evidence suggests that levels of emotional intelligence are highly correlated with business and personal success. Using emotional intelligence in the workplace is no easy task, however the potential benefits are enormous. Every aspect of modern business form customer service to board presentations can be improved by increasing the personal levels of emotional intelligence within the office environment. Working to improve the four key skills mentioned in this article; self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and interpersonal skills will not only contribute to greater levels of success for you and your business, but also make you a happier, more rounded and more fully developed individual.