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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