The concept of emotional intelligence has been studied for decades. It wasn’t until 1995, with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence that EI was pushed to the forefront. At the same time, employers still didn’t embrace emotional intelligence for work success. Maybe it was because they believed that emotional intelligence myths like there actually isn’t such a thing. That has changed as research has found that emotional intelligence was the strongest predictor of workplace effectiveness.
Additionally, McKinsey & Company anticipates that the demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will rise by 2030. And, as we begin to embark on a post-COVID world, EI is more relevant than ever.
With that in mind, here’s how you can deploy emotional intelligence for work success to improve both your personal and organizational work success
While “EI is a set of skills, attitudes, and behaviors,” it’s also a variable, states Bill Davies, a Principal Consultant at PSI Talent Management International. “I can be emotionally intelligent one moment and emotionally stupid the next. So, developing EI is about being more emotionally intelligent more of the time.”
Whenever we’re “tired, irritable, or vulnerable,” we can quickly “lose our capacity for EI.” More detrimental is that these emotions allow us to become easily triggered. As a consequence, this leads “to what are termed ‘defensive habits,” adds Davies.
Examples include “micromanaging, aggressive body language, and passivity/helplessness,” he explains. “We now know that the brain is not built for multitasking and that, particularly for complex activities such as communication, problem-solving, and decision making, we need to work sequentially with focus.”
With that said, “a core starting point for EI is this ability to manage our lives and create capacity,” advises Davies. “Arguably, this means having a more disciplined approach to how we manage our energy and work in a ‘brain-friendly way.”
An easy place to start would be setting aside “time each day to release tension and calm the mind,” he adds. “Find a moment every day to stop and re-charge, rather than plow on regardless waiting to flop in the evening or wait for the weekend and a holiday. Without regular renewal each day, it can mean the weekends become either stressful, low energy, or both.”
If you’re in a leadership role, this could be encouraging your team to frequently take breaks throughout the day and to use their vacation days. Also, when you know that they are unplugging, don’t bombard them with work-related issues.
“In simplest terms, empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. Possessing this is arguably the most important leadership skill. After all, being empathetic is the foundation when building and fortifying social connections.
What’s more, it can create a more loyal, engaged, and productive team. As if that weren’t enough, empathy increases happiness, teaches presence, and fosters innovation collaboration.
So, how can you practice empathy as a means for emotional intelligence for work success? Here are some areas that you should focus on;
- Get to know people better, such as their background and interests. You can do this with one-on-ones or less formal lunches.
- Before rushing to judgment and critique, take a timeout until you’re composed and have all relevant data.
- Listen more and talk less.
- Develop your self-awareness muscle through journaling and feedback.
- Ask others how they’re doing when you’re gut is screaming that something is off.
- Be genuine and even a little vulnerable.
Make yourself vulnerable.
Speaking of vulnerability, psychologist Nick Wignall defines it as “The willingness to acknowledge your emotions — especially painful ones.”
He clarifies “that when we talk about vulnerability, we’re usually referring to emotional vulnerability. When your best friend suggests that you should work on being more vulnerable in your relationship, they’re probably not talking about making yourself more physically vulnerable.”
In short, vulnerability is all about emotions. In particular, difficult emotions like anxiety, frustration, and shame. The other part of the equation is acknowledging these negative emotions and knowing how to address them.
For example, when you’re frustrated with a task, you may go for a walk to clear your head. When you’re anxious, you might recite mantras. And, if you are feeling down, you might call a friend who always makes you laugh.
For emotional intelligence for work success, lean into emotional vulnerability. Emotional vulnerability might be painful or uncomfortable. But, it’s also a valuable asset. It can help reduce anxiety, strengthen relationships, and improve self-awareness.
To become more emotionally vulnerable, Wignall recommends;
- Labeling your emotions using plain language.
- Engage in emotion-focused journaling.
- Practice being assertive by clearly communicating your wants and needs.
- Consider therapy or counseling.
Overall, this “is simply the skill that allows you to acknowledge difficult or painful emotions instead of immediately avoiding them or reacting to them,” Wignall states.
Focus on mental health and wellbeing.
Not to disparage the damage that the pandemic has done, one silver lining has been that it’s highlighted the importance of mental health. As of January 2021, over 41% of adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. And, when not addressed, this can impact everything from your physical health to relationships to productivity.
The good news? You can use your calendar to put your mental health first by;
- Limiting social media and screen time.
- Stepping outside for at least 20-minutes per day.
- Meeting with a therapist online.
- Minimizing isolation — even if it’s a quick phone or video call.
- Spending free time on meaningful activities you enjoy.
- Making self-care a daily routine.
On an organizational level, leaders can use tactics like;
- Changing the culture where everyone feels safe to open up about their feelings and struggles.
- Launching an employee wellness program.
- Focusing on early intervention/prevention, like advice on how your team members can cope with stress and anxiety.
- Enforcing working hours.
- Cultivating a healthy and positive work environment.
- Granting autonomy and flexible schedules.
- Helping them solve their time management problems.
Listen with your third ear.
“It’s easy to hear what someone is saying; to listen is another matter. People high in emotional intelligence listen with their third ear,” says Dr. Steven J. Stein, founder and executive chairman for Multi-Health Systems, which develops and administers Emotional Quotient (EQ) assessments.
“It’s not just what somebody says to you; it’s also the underlying message,” Stein says. “What do they really mean? When somebody says they’re fine, for example, is that really true? Or is there more going on in their life that they’re avoiding talking about for now?”
Change your mindset about criticism and feedback.
When it comes to criticism or feedback, many of us quiver in fear. That’s understandable. Does anyone really like to hear about past transgressions or shortcomings?
But, instead of avoiding this, use feedback to your advantage. It’s not an easy feat. However, it’s possible by first using reflection.
What this means is asking yourself questions like;
- Why the criticism upset you?
- What was my reaction?
- What action can I take without pointing fingers?
From there, view negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. For instance, it’s not a personal attack on your skills or abilities. Rather, it’s helping you identify your mistakes.
Moreover, feedback can change your bad behavior or habits. For leaders, it can improve their effectiveness. And, it can even build trust among your customers and employees.
Build social bonds.
Now, more than ever, you need to build social bonds with your team. As you’re hopefully well aware, the pandemic has scattered teams. As a result, everyone is missing out on in-person interactions in the office, as well as social isolation both at work and in their personal lives.
To counter this, build camaraderie with your remote team via virtual lunches, game tournaments, fitness challenges, and virtual breakrooms.
When you can get together in person, engage in team-building actives, interactive workshops, or holiday parties. And, don’t rule out team service opportunities through volunteer events and donations to charity.
Focus on what you can control.
“We can influence situations and people, but we have zero control over what the outcome will be,” states Stefan James. “Our emotional response is the only thing at our disposal.”
James also says that when we focus too much on what’s out of our hands, it steals “precious time and energy away from what we can control.”
“Focusing on what you can control takes preparation, effort, and discipline,” he adds. “It requires that you adopt the mindset of, ‘I am going to be the very best that I can be with what I have.’”
Sharing is caring.
Finally, don’t greedily keep your knowledge about EI to yourself. If you’re aware of any articles, books, podcasts, or Ted Talks on the topic, share these resources with others. You could also schedule seminars or workshops for your team to do together.
Another suggestion would be to discuss and model, the core principles of EI during meetings and one-on-ones. And, encourage others to test their emotional intelligence and schedule EQ checkups.