Leadership & Management
Promoting Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
January 23, 2020
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The last few decades have changed a lot about doing business. Importantly, there have been many positive developments in how we approach work and team building. One important development is the increased understanding of the impact of emotional intelligence in the workplace.
It’s true that the importance of emotional intelligence for individuals is well understood. But it’s also a critical part of building a healthy team. Below we explain what emotional intelligence is and how it can help strengthen your hiring decisions and team dynamics.
A Quick Emotional Intelligence Definition
The concept of emotional intelligence, or “emotional quotient” is meant to work alongside IQ — intelligence quotient. IQ doesn’t fully measure a person’s ability or competency. Emotional intelligence, while harder to measure, is a way to complement the picture. A common emotional intelligence definition is “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.”
Some definitions also include four more precise areas of competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Of these, self-awareness is considered the core of high EI. If you don’t know yourself and your own motivations, you are poorly equipped to understand others.
One thing that it’s important to understand is that emotional intelligence in the workplace and elsewhere is not a “soft skill,” and that it is no less important than IQ. It might even be more important. Being able to manage your emotions allows a person to deal with complex and stressful situations more adeptly. High emotional intelligence is a critical trait for leaders and innovators of all types. It helps with everything from building strategies to conflict management.
EQ is a key differentiator in the business world. People with high emotional intelligence make more, perform better and are more likely to close deals.
Hiring for Emotional Intelligence
Building a resilient team starts with hiring the right people. We celebrate high performers and brilliant minds, but a team is a team. This means promoting emotional intelligence in the workplace is a must. No one builds a successful business alone. A team of average performers who work together masterfully is going to outperform a bad team with one star player every time.
Beyond that though, there is evidence that emotional intelligence is a better indicator of individual success as well. Someone with high emotional intelligence is a great hire at every level. It’s hard to measure EQ, so you have to draw it out through personal interaction. Here are some tips on selecting candidates with high emotional intelligence:
- Avoid “personality tests.” Personality is not the same as emotional intelligence. Be wary of self-reporting tests as well — if a person isn’t self-aware, how can they report their EQ accurately?
- Really talk to the candidate’s references. Make sure to ask specific questions about behaviors that reflect on their emotional intelligence.
- Finally, adjust your interview process to emphasize EQ. Speak informally. Ask questions that reveal the candidate’s self-awareness. Put into place hiring practices that give decision-makers time and context to select for this trait.
Encouraging Emotional Intelligence on Your Team
Unlike IQ, which is static, EQ is something that can be trained. Like with so many parts of a successful team, it starts with leadership. Make sure that your leadership demonstrates emotional intelligence in your management. Pay attention to your emotions. Encourage self-reflection. Listen actively, and often, and make this a part of your culture.
Additionally, an important part of emotional intelligence in the workplace is responding, rather than just reacting to, difficult situations. Work on managing your unconscious and immediate impulses to frustrating events and people. This takes practice! Learning to deal with difficult moments or difficult colleagues isn’t easy, but model the behavior and encourage it on your team.
It’s also important to celebrate team successes, and not just individual accomplishments. Recognize the parts that everyone played in getting a project to the end point. Having the social awareness to recognize people for their distinct contributions is a key part of emotional intelligence.
Emotional Intelligence Skills Are Key to Success
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what your goals are, you need to work with people to get things done. This means that understanding and improving emotional intelligence should be a key part of your strategy. One good thing about EQ is that if you practice it yourself, it will impact your team. This is an area where leadership can make a huge difference. Start with the tips above, but remember that it’s a life-long process. Good luck!