Casting a cold eye over emotional intelligence
Guest contributor Robin Hills explains why EI courses have increased in popularity for a wide range of businesses.
Why You Should Care
Emotional intelligence is about assertively but sensitively articulating a point of view in a way that encourages collaboration and an appropriate dialogue.
Business leaders need to become more active in nurturing those relationships, and emotional intelligence training can produce great results.
The pandemic rewrote many of the rules around employment. There’s no getting away from the fact that hybrid and remote work are now established, commonplace norms. As a result, many people have radically revised their relationship with their place of employment, both physically and emotionally. The good news is that the complex relationships created by these new arrangements are increasingly being understood and addressed by both employees and employers.
One of the responses gaining traction is the application of power skills such as emotional intelligence, which is increasingly being seen as a constructive and practical technique used by leaders in the new, fragmented world of work. Of course, emotional intelligence isn’t a recent concept but perceptions around its value in the workplace were undeniably spiked because of the changes to the workforce over the past few years.
Consequently, people now better understand that emotions fundamentally underpin all aspects of our daily lives. We engage with other people through emotions, in both our personal and professional interactions.
We formulate decisions based on our emotions. We learn because of emotions. Emotions also motivate us. We are, at heart, emotional beings.
Encouraging collaboration and cohesion
By judiciously expressing our emotions, we can create healthy relationships with our colleagues that help to foster understanding and build influence. Some people wrongly assume it’s all about being kind or nice, which is not the case. Emotional intelligence is about assertively but sensitively articulating a point of view in a way that encourages collaboration and an appropriate dialogue. Properly deployed, this approach can minimize conflict and nurture a more cohesive working environment.
For example, younger generations now expect the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. They also have a greater desire to be emotionally intelligent, so directing them while explaining the ‘why’ can help make for a more engaged workforce.
You don’t want your brightest minds leaving because they feel undervalued as this can be very bad for your bottom line – emotional intelligence provides the tools to help minimize this risk.
Starting to understand emotional intelligence
A lot of organisations will bolt an emotional intelligence module into their leadership training, which may not be the most fruitful. A fundamental part of teamwork is conflict management and conflict resolution, along with communication and leadership skills. Emotional intelligence should therefore be infused into the training course, not bolted on as an afterthought.
It’s also important to stress that emotional intelligence can’t be developed just by taking one course, whether it’s taught online or in a classroom.
Simply watching a few videos doesn’t work; engaging with additional structured materials like worksheets, quizzes and real-world case studies will help people to really absorb and nurture their emotional intelligence skills. People must take away what they’ve acquired and put it into daily practice for it to be effective. This will involve working with different people and trying out new behaviors and ways of communicating to find which characteristics work best for the individual.
Develop, change and grow
A lot of emotionally intelligent leaders have gone through training and will be looking to continually learn, develop and grow. I’m also seeing leaders doing exercises with their teams to discover their thoughts and feelings, too.
Despite all this, there are still some leaders who take a more autocratic approach to team management. This can produce ingenuine but profitable results, which can engender a ‘why should I change?’ mentality. My answer is: if you change, you should get better results because you’ll be bringing people along with you. You’ll have happier staff, and most leaders want their people to be happy.
However, a lot of people are so ingrained in that behavior that they find it very difficult to make a mental shift that would allow them to open up opportunities, particularly with the ‘short-term-ism’ that is so prevalent in many businesses.
Investing in emotional intelligence for the future
In a constantly changing world, the hybrid work model has pushed organisations worldwide to reinvent how they engage with staff, while changing expectations around workplace relationships are driving an evolution in management approaches and company cultures.
In this hybrid workplace, the interpersonal relationships between employers and employees will be critical for driving employee engagement, retainment and productivity. Business leaders need to become more active in nurturing those relationships, and emotional intelligence training can produce great results.
By developing an in-depth understanding of emotional intelligence skills and investing in personalized and scalable training solutions, organisations will be better equipped to flourish in this more virtual environment.
Robin Hills is a business psychologist and trainer on the online learning marketplace Udemy.
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Jon has 20 years' experience in digital journalism and more than a decade in L&D and HR publishing.
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