October 05, 2022

Understanding Emotional Intelligence and Its Value in the Workplace

What it means to be a good leader — the qualities that we focus on — will differ from person to person. Being a decisive visionary capable of delegating and clearly communicating a strategy, are all important qualities. One quality that doesn’t receive the same level of recognition but that some would argue is even more important is emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence encompasses a variety of skills that elevate the impact and influence of leaders and managers, and its core components even help us beyond the workplace.

In this webinar “Emotional Intelligence at Work,” executive coach Marek Rudak introduces the concept of emotional intelligence, how it impacts the workplace, and offers practical advice on how to increase your own skills. In this blog post, we will explore the highlights and key lessons learned from the discussion.

What emotional intelligence is and isn’t

You’ve probably heard the phrase “People don’t quit companies, they quit managers” before. Here’s a statistic Marek shared to provide insight. According to The Center for Creative Leadership, 75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including the inability to handle interpersonal problems, unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict, or the inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.”

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, manage, and express one’s emotions and relationships in and out of interpersonal interactions. Practically speaking, this means bringing awareness to our emotional state, recognizing how our emotions can influence our behavior and impact others, and learning how to manage our emotions.

The workplace is a better place when people act with emotional intelligence. This is especially true in the case of managers, as they have a significant impact on the employee experience and company culture. Managers that can navigate change and turbulence, communicate effectively, have difficult conversations, and support the growth of their team members will prove to be invaluable champions for company growth and success.

Emotional intelligence is not simply the opposite of intelligence. For people working to develop their emotional intelligence, the goal is not to be more touchy-feely with respect to their emotions, nor is it to develop a poker face. Rather, the goal is to learn to use one’s mind and heart at the right times.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.” — David Caruso, Management Psychologist

The 5 components of emotional intelligence

So how do you start developing your emotional intelligence? Fortunately, unlike our IQ, our EQ (emotional quotient) — the measurement of emotional intelligence — is not fixed. It can increase. Here are the five core components of emotional intelligence Marek highlighted during the webinar.

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is about using emotions as a source of information. If we can’t label our emotions then we run the risk of reacting without thinking first. As Dr. Dan Siegel says, “If you can name it, you can tame it.” Having a stronger label for our emotions gets us close to understanding where they come from and how to address them in and out of work.

Where to start: Journaling is a great way to start developing greater emotional insight and self-awareness.

2. Self-regulation

If self-awareness is the thinking piece of managing emotions, self-regulation is the doing. What do we want to do with our emotions now that we’ve named them? Taking a moment of pause before responding can be very powerful. Work is full of little moments that cause a wide range of emotions to stir, and just a few brief moments can bring about the clarity and understanding necessary to act from a more informed perspective.

Where to start: Remember to pause. Try taking three deep breaths to support the regulation and processing of emotions.

3. Motivation

Motivation is about using emotions as fuel to accelerate our drive toward the goals ahead of us. Want to get back into that flow state where time seems to disappear and we become more productive? We have to understand what motivates us, and we do our best work when our motivation to succeed comes from within. Managers can be a great help to their direct reports wanting to explore their motivations and how they ladder up to functional- and company-level objectives.

Where to start: Be intentional. Make a list of values and ideals that are important to you and map them to your life at work.

4. Empathy

Empathy is understanding from another’s perspective, putting yourself in their shoes, and understanding why they may have thought or done the things they’ve done. This is different than sympathy, which is understanding from your own perspective. Seeking to understand other perspectives makes for more productive conversations. To grow in empathy, we have to understand our biases. Our brains want facts, and in lieu of facts, we create assumptions that tend to skew negative.

Where to start: Be curious about the perspectives of others and consider some of your biases and how they might limit your ability to adopt new perspectives.

5. Social skills

Having social skills is all about taking that first step to invest in relationships and taking that first step to invest in them when things begin to go sideways. Emotional intelligence is about how we experience our own emotions as well as how we positively influence others. For everyone, and especially managers, this might look like showing appreciation to people on our team. Team leader or not, we have the power to leverage our emotional intelligence to make a change and create a better experience for our teammates.

Where to start: Recognize teammates for their input, effort, and results.

Watch the full presentation

Emotional intelligence is something everyone can develop and improve. For more detail and insight on this topic, watch Marek’s full presentation.

If you’re looking for ways to support yourself or your team with building emotional intelligence beyond the actions suggested in this article, consider professional coaching. Bravely provides access to coaching for everyone — at all levels — at your company. Coaches can help people focus on performance, support them through challenging times to improve retention, build more inclusive practices and cultures, and explore motivations that can influence growth and development.

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