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Emotional Intelligence – Key for the Future of Work

We know that the world is changing – fast. And workplaces are changing with it.

We are working in increasingly complex and competitive environments. Organisations and the people in them are trying to achieve more with fewer resources and greater pressure. Raising productivity, integrating new approaches and succeeding in global markets demands greater flexibility, cultural sensitivity and collaboration.

The importance of a positive organisational climate
In times like these, it is essential to create a positive climate that individuals want to be a part of, where wellbeing is key, that motivates them to want to come to work; an organisational culture and environment that enables staff to contribute to their maximum potential.

Positive relationships bloom when attention is given to human connection and flourishing. Positive communication i.e. considering the language used in all interactions, written and verbal, is also key.

How do people show up to meetings where you work?

The role of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the intelligent use of emotions, and it is critical for human connection. Emotions are linked to our body and brain. They are quick and occur automatically and usually without conscious thought. They can impact and influence attention, thought and behaviour. Emotions give us data about ourselves and our environment.

When the brain’s pre-frontal cortex (the logical, intelligent system) is not talking to the brain’s limbic system (the instinctual, emotional centre) effectively, we may behave emotionally without the mediating influence of intelligence, or we may be logically accurate without considering the emotional or relationship aspects. EI is all about harnessing these two systems to ensure we are managing our own emotions, rather than letting our emotions manage us.

Smart use of emotions can improve our capacity to work well with others, communicate effectively, cultivate stronger working relationships, engage with our jobs, manage stress, handle conflict and make fast and effective decisions – essential skills in today’s fast-paced and increasingly disconnected world.

Why is EI important for organisations?
EI has twice the power of IQ to predict high performance.1 Two decades of scientific and business research shows the overwhelming value of EI as a critical tool in business, for leaders, salespeople or anyone whose job involves influencing and engaging people.

The Future of Jobs Report produced by the World Economic Forum, places EI in the top ten necessary skills in the workplace in 2020, as in the list below:

TOP 10 SKILLS IN 2020

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgement and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

What’s more, reviewing the other skills in the list, and knowing how emotions influence the brain and our cognitive processes, the other nine skills are in fact linked to the skill of emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence isn’t a luxury you can dispense with in tough times. It’s a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success.”2 – Harvard Business Review.

EI is the foundation of effective leadership and can have a profound impact outside the confines of the office. It enables people to instil confidence and belonging in others, engage and influence people across boundaries, and respond with sensitivity and care even when challenged.

The financial impact of EI
A clear body of evidence shows that EI, more than knowledge, technical skills or traditional measures of intelligence, determines individual effectiveness and successful business outcomes. Far from being a ‘soft’ skill, EI is yielding bottom-line results for leading organisations across diverse industries.

“Leaders who use their emotional resources to foster engagement deliver significant bottom-line results.” 3 – Joshua Freedman

This foundational competency differentiates high performers and propels leaders and organisations to higher and more sustainable levels of success.

How can you develop EI?
Some people can appear more emotionally intelligent than others — they seem to naturally connect and empathise with people, show greater self-awareness and resilience, and manage emotions skilfully in themselves and others. This may be through their early learning as a child, or examples they have been set along the way.

Yet while some people naturally tune into what others feel and put them at ease, the good news is that like any skill, EI can be taught and developed.

It helps to understand that emotions are data and they are not in themselves good or bad. Emotions provide us with the information we need to make decisions on how to respond and behave. Take micro expressions for example. These are fleeting expressions that are automatically generated and out of our control, providing data about how individuals feel. As a leader if we can get better at perceiving these micro expressions, we will have access to more data about how people around us are feeling. This in turn gives us more choices about how and when to respond. If you don’t see these expressions, or you are inaccurate in your perception of them, you will have less data  and fewer choices.

Applying discipline and practice over time, can help develop EI to improve individual performance, collaboration, productivity and engagement.

Emotional intelligence may be the most important quality we can learn and practice to continue our growth as individuals, and our capacity to positively impact business outcomes.


References

1 Mount, G. (2006). The role of emotional intelligence in developing international business capability: EI provides traction. In V. Druskat, F. Sala & G. Mount (Eds), Linking Emotional Intelligence and performance at work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Elbaum Associates, 97-124.
2 Harvard Business Review (2003). Breakthrough ideas for tomorrow’s business agenda April.
3 Freedman, J. (2010).

 

Melanie Weir
Positive HR Manager and Senior Consultant
Langley Group