With the economy in flux, a workforce in transition, and the persistence of COVID-19 in the mix, there’s never been a better time to evaluate your emotional intelligence skills. As companies continue to require a return to the office, the skillset that worked on Zoom won’t quite cut it in face-to-face interactions. Leaning into the five principles of emotional intelligence is a smart move for employers and employees alike, a boon for morale, and a boost for workplace productivity.
Why is emotional intelligence important in business?
It's likely you’ve heard the phrase “emotional intelligence” bandied about in the past couple of years as mental health has come to the forefront of corporate conversations. World-renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman identified the five components of emotional intelligence as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills; each is key to meeting goals and targets, as well as creating a happier and healthier working culture.
Here's a quick primer:
- Self-awareness: the ability to recognize your own moods and motivations and their effect on others.
- Self-regulation: the ability to control your impulses instead of being quick to respond.
- Internal motivation: shown by an interest in learning and self-improvement.
- Empathy: the ability to understand another person’s emotional reaction, which requires taking an active interest in others’ concerns and appropriately reacting.
- Social skills: the ability to identify social cues; listen and respond appropriately; the ability to diffuse situations using persuasion and negotiation.
Numerous studies show a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, retention, performance, and even income. Emotional intelligence is now becoming recognized as an integral part of leadership. Many companies currently enlist psychologists to create “competency models” used to identify, train, and promote employees.
An emotionally intelligent leader will have a better understanding of their business team, leading to more valuable interactions. People with high EQ tend to be flexible and adaptable to change. Flexibility and adaptability are both incredibly useful business skills that also help in integrating a new team or continuing to develop an existing team.
The Harvard Business Review reports four million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. There are many reasons why an employee resigns, and the Harvard Business Review recommends getting to the ‘root’ of your company’s attrition problem and then creating highly customized programs for retention.
As an executive search consultant, I have a unique perspective on the psyche of professionals who are contemplating leaving their employer. Factors contributing to talent looking for other career opportunities include lack of career advancement and poor leadership.
We’ve discussed this in past blogs, but empathy continues to rise to the top of a successful leader’s emotional toolkit. Forbes Magazine recently detailed how empathy drives business innovation and retention. As employees battle with burnout and career unhappiness, empathy can be a powerful cure.
Empathy has a particularly strong impact on retaining female talent.
Catalyst, a global nonprofit firm that helps build workplaces that work for women, found more than 50% of women said they were unlikely to think of leaving their jobs if they felt there was a high level of respect for their life circumstances. Their study also reported 86% of people who felt their leaders were more empathetic, and better equipped to successfully juggle their personal, family, and work-life obligations. This is compared to 60% of those who perceived less empathy.
What can you do?
Fortunately, emotional intelligence is not solely an innate ability, it is a skill that can be learned and developed.
For starters, get over yourself long enough to recognize you should care about your employees. As Invesco EMEA Chief Executive, Doug Sharp eloquently said, “The only assets a firm has rides up and down the elevator every day.” Your company has invested in people. A strong leader will take interest in becoming more emotionally intelligent to ensure those investments are being developed and retained.
Second, manage professional relationships. Get to know details about your staff. Learn names and alma maters. Create photo flashcards of individuals within your company. Add names, with the phonetic spelling, along with some basic information about the individual. If you see them in the hall or breakroom, say hello!
Next, it may be useful to invest in software to measure and develop the employee experience. Several companies have developed employee experience platforms that help talent connect, grow and thrive by fully understanding the needs of the worker.
A few other suggestions offered by Harvard Business Review include taking a 360-assessment and asking for feedback from your colleagues; practicing active listening; paying attention to your emotions; and taking a course or training on emotional intelligence.
There’s no doubt this is a challenging time for executive leadership, especially for those who want to get it right for their employees while also accomplishing company goals. Leaders who hone their emotional intelligence pave the way for smoother in-office interactions, better job performances and employee retention. The best managers know effective leadership comes not just from the head, but also from the heart.