Emotional Intelligence – it’s a No-Brainer

By Phil Cox

Hands up if you work for a company that is full of emotionally intelligent people!

Yeah – it’s great, isn’t it?

High-EQ workplaces tend to have fewer dramas, more engaged staff, and bags of empathy. Who wouldn’t want to work somewhere like that?  And that’s before we remind ourselves of the benefits a high-EQ workforce brings to organisational performance.

The Grandaddy of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, found that the single biggest factor that distinguishes between average performance and exceptional performance in an organisation is not the intellect or technical ability of their employees (although these are of course both important), but their Emotional Intelligence.  In fact, Goleman demonstrated that EQ was at least TWICE as important a driver of exceptional performance as either of the other two factors.  In a nutshell, you are far less likely to become a successful leader if you lack emotional intelligence.

And there is increasing research to suggest that EQ is important on a personal level too, and generally makes for a more pleasant experience as an employee.  Research suggests that people who fail to use their emotional intelligence skills are twice as likely to experience stress, anxiety, or depression.  As susceptibility to these conditions can suppress our immune system, there can be implications for our physical wellbeing too.

The great news is that there are ways of developing a high-EQ organisation, by encouraging emotional intelligence in your people, using the five building blocks of EQ that Goleman himself identified:

  1. Self-awareness. This is the ability to read one’s own emotions, and have confidence in one’s self worth. The trick here is to help your people make the unconscious conscious, the unknown known; and feedback is such a powerful tool to do this.  Do you have team leaders who can combine warmth and challenge, who can provide staff with both motivational and developmental feedback, and can ‘hold the mirror up’ to staff?
  2. Self-regulation. The ability to control disruptive emotions and override biological impulses.  Some organisations now offer their staff free access to mindfulness apps, to help them to become aware of their feelings, triggers and reactions, to re-frame unhelpful thinking, and to respond positively to emotional challenges.  If this isn’t an option for you, how can you encourage your team members to take time and space to decompress during the working day?
  3. Motivation. People with a passion for their work tend to seek out challenges; they enjoy learning about it and they are proud of a job well done.   Try to help your team members see the alignment between their personal values, the job that they do, and the purpose of your wider team or organisation.
  4. Empathy. This is an essential ingredient in any diverse and inclusive organisation – and the great news is that there are lots of ways to develop empathy!  Set up a mentoring or volunteering programme for staff, which encourages them to see a new and different side of life.  Do you reward staff who actively engage in possibly challenging conversations?  To what extent is curiosity and a willingness to change one’s mind enshrined as an organisational value?
  5. Social skills. All the minor negotiations we do every day to get things done depend on an ability to build rapport and find common ground.  To what extent are your staff praised for building and nurturing personal connections and relationships?  Make this important skill an explicit part of your competency framework, if it isn’t already.

The benefits, from a D&I perspective, of having an organisation full of emotionally intelligent people are self-evident.  A culture which encourages empathy and self-reflection is likely to breed a workforce which is open to different ideas, welcoming of the unfamiliar, and seeks to collaborate in order to add value.  That this also creates enhanced personal and organisational performance is an added bonus, and one which any organisation should readily invest in.

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Three common biases women encounter at work

A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad.  The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says:   “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” How is this possible?

If you haven’t figured out that the surgeon is the boy’s mother, then I made my point: unconscious bias is everywhere – whether you’re a man or a woman!  But don’t kick yourself for it – you’re hardly alone.

As we’re approaching IWD, I want to share some of the most common biases women encounter at work.  Let me know if any of these sound familiar:

  1. All she needs is more confidence.

Call it confidence, call it Gravitas, or any other strong, extroverted, Presence-based characteristic.  The lack of these attributes often stop women from progressing.    The more heavily-influenced a company (or part of it) is by male presence, the more likely it is for women to be considered less capable if they don’t command a room or a meeting.

This is of course a fallacy.  In many cases, women appear less confident only in scenarios when they are the minority, i.e. in male-dominated groups.  We all feel a level of discomfort (even if we rarely acknowledge it) operating in an environment that is less familiar.  Many men admit to this feeling when they enter a room full of women – or find themselves at the school gate with a group of mums.  All of a sudden, our confidence appears to ebb.

But competence doesn’t.  A competent person remains competent in both scenarios, even if it may not seem that way.  In fact, rarely are competence and confidence correlated.  And if we believe this, then why do we pay so much attention to a person’s confidence?

In other words, she doesn’t need more confidence; she needs more acceptance and appreciation of her competence.

  1. We always hire the best candidate, regardless of background

If only that were the case!  We want to believe that’s what we do but the data shows otherwise.  It shows that we’re slaves to our unconscious affinity – or ingroup – bias.

We may not be aware of it, but a person who is more like us will come across more capable, credible, trustworthy and likeable than a person who isn’t.  We actively solicit, pay attention to and favour the contributions of ‘ingroup’ members.  This also means that we are much more likely to overlook, overhear or disregard the strengths of a person who is different from us.

When that happens, we also do this: we justify to ourselves why the person we really like is also more capable, and therefore, the better candidate.

Yes, we all do this.

Truth be told, there is no such thing as true meritocracy.  All our decisions have a strong influence of bias – in this example, affinity  (or ingroup) bias.

So next time you prefer one candidate to another, and that preferred candidate happens to be more like you than the other, put your preference to the test:  scrutinise it like someone who is advocating for greater diversity.  Is the ingroup candidate really the better candidate or might your view be influenced by something other than objective criteria?

  1. ‘Great work, Rachel!’   ‘Thanks, but I’m Susan.’

It is both astonishing and embarrassing to reflect on the number of times women have told me how their names are mixed up with other women.

Think about it:  there are 2 women in a meeting of 8 and the men struggle to keep them apart.  What does it say about the value they assign to these women?  How much regard do they hold for them?  If they cannot remember who  is who, how likely are these women to be taken seriously?

Of course, this isn’t a malicious thing.  We know that.  But, gentlemen, next time you confuse two women, think about what this means and how you think of them at work.  Think also about the last time you confused two men who are like you.  Surprised you can’t think of an incident like that?

Ladies, if this happens to you, I encourage you to (politely) correct the situation.  That ought to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

As we go into a day/week/month of celebrating the many wonderful women around us, let’s remember these commonly-perpetrated microaggressions, let’s identify them, talk about them, and find ways to challenge them.  We do this not only to respect our fellow female colleagues, but to improve everyone’s wellbeing and performance at work.  And isn’t that a worthwhile endeavour? #ChooseToChallenge

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What’s the verdict on Unconscious Bias Training?

I often get asked to deliver Unconscious Bias training.  This stumps me.  On the one hand, our human cognitive biases are the main challenge to real progress in Diversity and Inclusion.  On the other hand, I’m keenly aware of a growing body of research that suggests Unconscious Bias training doesn’t work to dispel our biases. In fact, some research indicates that it does the opposite: when people feel that the knowledge they received is enough to tackle their biases,  they sometimes think they don’t need to engage with the topic any further.  This often has the result of intensifying the problem instead of helping alleviate it.

I believe UB training has its place.  The answer to making the most of it lies in understanding what problem it can solve.

Becoming aware of our cognitive biases and how the brain works will not change our behaviours, even when we want to change.  So if an organisation is hoping to introduce UB training in the hope that it will address its EDI challenges, it might see discover that it has invested time and money into something that has very little – if any – impact.

If, however, Unconscious Bias training is introduced as part of raising awareness exercise – the first step towards tackling EDI challenges – then I believe it can have the right impact.  We do need to understand how our brain works and we do need to acknowledge the fact that we make decisions based on learned subconscious patterns and sometimes entirely irrational preferences.  And that, when it comes to making important decisions, like hiring or promotions, these decisions are riddled with misinformation (or, in fact, lack of factual information).

Once we understand this, we also need to understand that, when it comes to addressing these issues – and changing how we make decisions – training alone is not going to be impactful.  It will take a lot more than that.

What will it take to mitigate our ingrained biases?

First and foremost, we need to change our relationship with Unconscious Bias. We need to stop thinking of it as a ‘bad’ thing  and stop punishing ourselves for having bias.  It is a perfectly normal part of how our brain operates – how it has evolved over thousands of years to help us survive and cope.

If we continue to vilify UB, we are going to be much less inclined to address it.  Our brain is wired to react much stronger to negative associations than positive ones.  This includes repelling negative thoughts about ourselves.  If we associate UB with something that is ‘bad’, we will be less motivated to do something about it.

To give ourselves a fighting chance of reducing our inherent biases – at least when the stakes are high – we need to reframe how we think about them.  If we think of UB as a function of our brain that helps us more than it hinders us, we might be more motivated to address it in those instances when it is likely to hinder us in situations when it matters that we get it right.

Once we understand this, the second thing to understand is that it will take a combination of interventions to address our bias.  This includes developing new habits of thinking, being given an opportunity to practice how we mitigate our biases and not expecting to get it right straight away (or ever!), and introducing processes designed to decrease the level of systemic biases.

Voice At The Table do this by introducing and improving Inclusive Behaviours which, as we improve in each one of the 8 behaviours, help us make less biased and better-informed decisions.

We also introduce various processes – Inclusion Nudges – designed to address bias on a systemic level.  Some of these may include simple changes to hiring and interviewing processes, and others might address how we look at organisational EDI goals, such as team composition and improved performance.

This, more holistic approach to UB, gives organisations a genuine chance to mitigate bias in important decisions.

So let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater; let’s not get rid of UB training all together.  Let’s just make sure that we use it to solve the right problem.

Contact us if you want to find out more about our Inclusive Behaviours Framework or how we use Inclusion Nudges.

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The Story of Sexism

Last week’s commentary by Tokyo Olympics Chief and former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, suggesting the imposition of time limits on women’s contribution in meetings, caused uproar leading to his resignation. In retort to a request for comment on the Olympic committee’s plans to increase women’s participation to at least 40%, Mr. Mori stated that meetings with many women take too long.

Mr. Mori, an intelligent and well-respected man certainly didn’t intend to offend anyone. He was simply stating what he had observed.  In his view, things were done in a certain way and that way was being violated by the introduction of a new element:  a different gender. The disruption to his traditional view of business was so considerable that he didn’t even notice the offence he was causing to the other 50% of the population.

Mr. Mori is certainly not the only one to be caught out by his unconscious (or perhaps conscious) bias. There are plenty of daily examples of its existence in every culture (note our very own in our Editorial feature this month).

That made me think: when did the world become so sexist?

The history of sexism

The latest research into this question came to light in 2018, suggesting that sexism began with the advent of farming and agriculture, some 12,000 years ago.

Women and men appear to have held equal status in hunter-gatherer societies, choosing how to shape their lives and where to garner support from peers.

When humans began to farm land and settle down in communities, the need to defend resources gradually shifted power to the physically stronger gender. The shift intensified with land ownership being passed down through male lineage, further eroding women’s autonomy. This gave rise to patriarchy – so deeply ingrained in every institution of modern societies.

Restoring the balance of power

According to the World Economic Forum, we’re still about 100 years away from gender parity. Given the 12,000 years of systemic and institutional sexism, one might argue that 100 years is not so bad. It’s a strong sign of progress towards parity.

That said, the world may not have 100 years, as the restoration of power between the genders will lead to many other remedies so greatly needed in this world, including in business. We need to expedite parity, even when it means breaking with tradition or enduring the unendurable in board meetings.

In his response, Mr. Mori observed that,

“Women have a strong sense of competition. If one person raises their hand, others probably think, I need to say something too. That’s why everyone speaks.” NY Times

Maybe that is so. Maybe, like the youngest child in a large family who never gets a chance to say her 2 pence’ worth, when we get the opportunity, we take advantage of it. So what?

In the spirit of progress, and with all due respect to your position and intellect, Mr. Mori, I suggest we let the women speak!  The world of business (and beyond) needs to hear what we have to say. Instead of reprimand, therefore, I suggest we listen.

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One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

By Melissa Jackson

Just when I thought the government had proved its strength by being streets ahead of its European counterparts in rolling out a Covid vaccination programme, it sank to the shallow depths with a recent sexist stay-at-home marketing campaign. Although swiftly-withdrawn, it shamefully presented us with draconian stereotypes that women have fought relentlessly to bury and role models that we thought had been consigned to the history books.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that women have borne the brunt of caring responsibilities. Studies have shown that women are undertaking disproportionate amounts of housework and childcare and are also shouldering the burden of the pandemic’s economic fallout.  Before coronavirus, for every one hour of unpaid work done by men, three hours was done by women. Now that figure is higher. Mothers are also twice as likely to take time off because of school closures or sick children and are more likely to lose their jobs.

Is this what the government was thinking when it created the poster depicting women – in three of the four images – in domestic roles? These dated and reductive portrayals of modern family life are startlingly conservative with a small c; I hope it’s not how modern-day Conservatives perceive the role of women or we’re doomed. After a monumental public backlash, the government removed the infographic and claimed that the ad did “not reflect” its “view on women”.  Easy to say, after the horse has bolted.

My over-riding concern here is the misguided role model imagery it – albeit fleetingly – delivered, especially for younger women and girls. It’s been stated time and time again that there aren’t enough strong female role models for women to aspire to, which often limits the career paths that girls follow. Strong role models and female mentors in industry, offices and board rooms help to dispel harmful biases that keep women from realising their ambitions to create a world where gender diversity thrives.

The Advertising Standards Authority stipulates that campaigns “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. Wasn’t it glaringly obvious that this infographic fractured those rules?

In my book, sanctioning it as a “public information” tool showed the government’s blatant lack of awareness and mind-blowing arrogance that has no place in modern society.

Only a few months ago, we were warned that the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality.

The global statistics, published last November by UN Women, suggested that employment and education opportunities could be lost to the pandemic and that the “care burden” it had created for women posed a “real risk of reverting to 1950s gender stereotypes”.

How disappointing that we’ve witnessed it on our own doorstep.

If you like this post, you might also like to read We All Have Value To Bring To The Table

Active Voice: Six Ways to Boost Your Team’s Morale

When a team’s morale is high, its members will typically be eager and enthusiastic and want to take on whatever they can to help one-another and/or the business. But the ramifications of Covid have left employees feeling flat and fearful for the security of their jobs. If staff morale is at a low-point in your team, we give you some pointers that are designed to give everyone a lift.

1.Be Transparent.

Don’t attempt to hide problems or avoid conversations when morale is low. You have to remain transparent to boost staff morale. Your employees will respect honesty while you work together to fix any issues. Inform them about company updates, new protocols, customer feedback, and more.

2. Communicate

Share positive company announcements, like a new product in development or a glowing customer review. Check in with your employees on a frequent basis, ask them:

  • How are you feeling about your job/manager/co-workers?
  • Are you facing any challenges? How can I help?
  • Are you happy at work? How can I help?

Try to provide open, regular communication about issues and achievements that are important to your employees.

3. Give Employee Recognition

Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. When staff feel appreciated, it boosts their engagement with the business, but it has also been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.

4. Get Employee Feedback

When you show employees that you’re listening, they will feel heard and are far more likely to be motivated. But it isn’t enough just to collect feedback, you need to act on it as well. Even if you don’t implement each piece of feedback, be sure to thank your employees for sending in their thoughts and suggestions.

5. Offer Employee Growth

Boost employee morale by giving them a sense of purpose so they have a goal to work towards and something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be a job promotion, instead, you can send them to a course or conference (even if its online) to improve their professional skills. Employees want to feel a sense of growth to be truly motivated.

6. Train Managers

Be sure to train all your managers in emotional intelligence, communication, giving feedback and recognition, and different leadership styles.

Managers can directly impact engagement and morale, so investing time in training them is one of the most important strategies for fixing low morale.

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The Key Benefits of a Progressive Work Culture

Guest Blog by Mark Gray*

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of a successful, progressive work culture. They are right up there with team-building, effective communication and great training opportunities. A progressive culture in the office brings enormous benefits to both the company and its staff.

A progressive workplace is an attractive prospect for employees: it offers a more welcoming and friendly working environment, it encourages a culture of open conversation among staff and fosters a positive attitude to flexible working. It’s taking all the best ingredients and baking them into a triple-layer cake, of which everyone wants a slice.

Or do they? How do we convince employers of the rewards that come with a progressive work culture?

I’ll list a few.

  1. Better talent acquisition

These days, people are much more likely to work in a variety of job roles and industries throughout their career, rather than having a single linear career trajectory. One of the things job-seekers weigh up, when they are considering a change, is a progressive culture that is welcoming and will equip them for success. By providing this through a conscious, complete cultural offering that includes training, you give your business the best chance of attracting the top talent you need to grow.

An important aspect of talent acquisition, of course, is diversity and inclusion. Regardless of what gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation your applicant is, and no matter how able-bodied they may or may not be, it’s important that you’re not discriminatory. Progressive work cultures that have strong diversity and inclusion policies in place have reaped the benefits, ensuring they are able to attract top talent from all walks of life.

  1. Improved staff retention

In a progressive workplace, people trust each other. When people are able to form relationships with colleagues at work based on mutual respect and understanding of the important part they each play in the business, they are much happier. Positive relationships in the workplace result in a more positive and productive environment where people want to spend their time, meaning that people are more likely to stay and seek their next role internally where possible, particularly if there are consistent opportunities for development.

It’s important to support employee mental health, and such a progressive and trusting culture can be of huge benefit here. If employees are experiencing mental health problems, they’re more likely to stay with an employer that understands and supports them.

  1. Increased productivity

Progressive cultures encourage and reward collaboration. Effective collaboration results in the completion of tasks faster and more efficiently, giving team members more time to work on other projects. Collaboration in a dynamic environment that rewards contribution and effort also results in improved innovation. By consistently working together, the team achieves more and the business gets better results, thus sustaining the structure of a culture built for success.

These are just some of the ways in which time spent creating a consciously progressive workplace culture can have a positive impact on the success of individual team members and on business as a whole. Every individual has the power to help realise these benefits by contributing to a positive and progressive culture.

How can you make a difference in your workplace today?

* Mark is a freelance writer and author of a guide to the male menopause and its associated mental health issues

If you liked this post, we think you will also enjoy reading Our Top Five New and Recurring Diversity and Inclusion Trends of 2021.

Why you need to continue networking virtually and some key considerations in this changed environment

Guest Blog by Joanna Gaudoin

Networking has profoundly changed over the last few months. For some, being able to be at home and network at events may be a big relief but the opposite is also true, for many who enjoyed (at least to some degree) the sociability of events – reconnecting with existing contacts and meeting new ones, the online version is a poor substitute.

Maybe like me you hoped Covid would be sorted after the first lockdown and then you’d pick up your networking again. However, it is clear we will have to live with the virtual situation for a while to come. The danger is we wake up in March and realise it’s been a year since we really did any networking.

People often think networking only matters if you have a Business Development role. This is far from the reality though; there are many benefits that do have a positive impact for the organisation you work for, but also for your own career. I think of a friend of mine who had always moved roles through bosses moving on and her eventually following them. When she sadly got frozen out at her last company, she realised she hadn’t invested in her network and amplified by Covid she had an even greater challenge in finding a new role, as she didn’t have a network to call on. She uttered to me, “I won’t make that mistake again, I am building my network now.” You can’t build a network the minute you need one.

Networking helps you to have a strong base of contacts who you can call upon and they can call upon you, they hopefully talk about you positively to others and this means people know you and see you as an expert in your work area. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Whether you are a seasoned networker or not, whether you have networked during Covid or not, virtual events are a slightly different ‘game’ so here are five top considerations to have in mind, after all some virtual networking events will be here to stay:

  • Like in person, picking an event that has some content sharing facilitates conversation rather than one that is totally informal, but one where there is some networking in breakout groups is important too, so you actually get to ‘meet’ people.
  • One-to-one conversations don’t really happen, so you are likely to need to put aside some time for one-to-ones where you think they may be relevant.
  • People are often forming perceptions about you beyond just meeting you, virtually they can be Googling you. Make sure your LinkedIn profile represents you really well. This article is about job hunting but is still relevant in terms of the key elements of your profile to focus on.
  • Take the opportunity to complete your profile on the event platform being used, if you are offered this. That way, people in the virtual event can easily see more about you and are more likely to remember as they can read it as well as hear about you from listening to you.
  • As you would in person, say to people what they can expect next from you (if you do nothing, you have effectively wasted your time), even if it is as relaxed as, “Are you on LinkedIn? I’ll connect with you there, if that’s ok?”

Beyond going to virtual events, my biggest encouragement right now would be to nurture your existing network in other ways – so do put time aside for that. You don’t want to find in a year your network is decimated; it’s hard psychologically to get in touch when it has been a very long time.

To learn more about this topic and give your networking a boost, come to the webinar on 5th February 12.30pm, find out more here