Emotional Intelligence: A Necessity in the New World
With our evolving society and ideologies, organisations have had to change their visions to a more personal one so that their employees can gain a sense of purpose in our confusing world. Today, emotional intelligence has become just as important as technical skills for leaders and their teams. Just like how technical skills help you complete practical tasks, emotional intelligence helps build stronger relations within your team. A good leader is not one who has more experience in their technical skills, but one who is also skilled in managing their emotions in positive ways.
Have you ever responded to your team member’s queries bluntly without considering their emotions? This could make them feel unheard and possibly lower their drive and motivation in the workplace. A way to develop leadership skills as the head of a team is to learn to respond with compassion and words of understanding. Your team wants to feel heard and by improving listening skills and emotional intelligence, you can greatly boost the morale and energy of your team.
Leaders who can balance their technical skills and emotional intelligence are more likely to create a team of better performers compared to managers that only favour technical abilities.
Emotional Intelligence, a Broader Concept
Technical skills can only take you so far. Research has shown that achieving all-rounded professional development includes having emotional intelligence.
When understanding the Emotional Intelligence ‘EI’ model, we can break it down into 4 domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Within these 4 domains, there are 12 competencies that professionals can use to develop leadership skills. Let’s break down each of these domains.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognise your emotions, know how your personality attracts or repels people, and understand how others perceive you. Being self-aware not only helps you recognise your feelings but also learn the triggers behind them. By seeing yourself objectively, you can learn how your emotions affect your actions. You become more realistic in your approach when you know how others respond and feel towards you. This helps develop leadership skills to boost your confidence and communicate with your team with more conviction.
When both the leader and their team are in tune with their thoughts, emotions and actions, it builds a more positive collaborative space in the workplace.
Keeping your disruptive emotions in check even in stressful situations is crucial at the workplace. While it is human to get frustrated and stressed out when the workload piles up, it is also important to practice self-management to be in control of your emotions.
Adapting to stressful situations is challenging. You are the captain of the ship and even if the ship is sinking, you have to come up with a solution to save those in it. Leaders are often faced with the challenge of making decisions that will impact the company and their team. These scenarios can be stressful, which is why adaptability is a key trait in your professional development journey.
Adopting an achievement orientation mindset pushes you to constantly strive for excellence. This would include improving listening skills and welcoming feedback from your team members to push yourself to become a better leader. Finally, when facing setbacks, a positive outlook can help leaders be persistent in pursuing their goals despite the bumps.
While being aware of yourself is very important, reading the emotions of others is also a valuable skill for managers and leaders. Empathy and organisational awareness fall under the domain of social awareness and developing this skill can change the dynamics of your workplace.
In today’s age, building trust in virtual teams can be challenging but having empathy as a leader and listening to the concerns of your team members can help improve your relationships in the workplace. Effective communication is not just about talking; listening is just as essential.
PRO TIP: When interacting with your team members, try not to chime in with a solution immediately. Hear them out fully, understand their emotions and then give your input.
Relationship management is defined as your ability to build value-adding relationships with others such as influencing, coaching your team, handling conflicts, and practising teamwork with inspirational leadership.
Relationship management focuses on ensuring a healthy relationship between leaders and their team members. This would include navigating difficult conversations with your colleagues. When handling conflicts, it’s important to be aware of your own emotions as well as those affected to manage these interactions successfully. As leaders, there are times when we have to give negative feedback to our team. Learning to be clear and respectful when explaining your concerns and perspectives can help manage relationships better. Leaders and managers are the guiding lights for the team but it’s important to communicate with empathy and compassion as well.
INSIDER INFO: The flowprofiler® workshop covers these 4 domains of emotional intelligence to help you manage your emotions and prepare for dynamic personalities and interactions in your very own team.
“Emotions are a critical source of information for learning.”
~ Joseph Ledoux, Neuroscientist
Brain Function: Analytic vs Empathic Networks
Leadership is not a trait that one is born with, but a skill one learns from practice. Leadership can be extremely challenging and with our changing social landscape, it’s important to update your EQ leadership style to be an influential and impactful leader of the 21st century. To understand how to develop yourself as a leader, we can study how our brain functions in theory and put it into practice.
Professor Anthony Jack of Case Western Reserve University explains that the two major neutral networks functioning in our brains are the Analytic network (AN) and the Empathic network (EN). While the AN comes into action when you need to solve problems or make a decision, the EN helps you analyse your environment and other people. Interestingly, both these networks oppose each other. The Analytic network suppresses the performance of the Empathic network and vice-versa. The most effective leaders are capable of switching between the two in a fraction of a second. So, how do you balance both?
Achieving the Right Balance
Here are some tips to find the balance between your AN and EN to achieve personal excellence.
Find out your dominant neural network
To figure out if your AN or EN is more dominant, start paying attention to your behaviours. When you’re experiencing different situations, be mindful of how your mind works.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I more inclined to use my analytic network or empathic network in this situation?
- Am I concentrating on facts and solutions or am I exploring the different creative possibilities?
- What situations do I use my analytic network in? When do I switch to my emphatic network?
Once you’ve figured out which neural network you’re more inclined to use in most situations, you can then begin exercising both equally.
Exercise the less dominant neural network
Now that you know which is your dominant neural network, you can start learning to activate the less dominant one by practising that neural network constantly to create a more balanced brain function.
To exercise the empathic network, start conversations with people around you to get to know them better. Focus your full attention on listening to the person you are conversing with and observe their behaviour. To exercise your analytic network, start setting deadlines and following them strictly. Alternatively, take up challenging tasks at work and try to come up with a solution on your own before getting the opinion of others.
Practise makes perfect
Once you’ve gotten the hold of activating your less dominant neural network, it’s time to practice toggling between the two. Start being conscious of how your mind works. Whenever you catch yourself using your dominant neural network excessively, push yourself to activate the other neural network. It can be challenging as they’re constantly battling each other, but as you continue shifting between the two, you’ll begin to master the fine balance of technical and emotional skills.
Just like how a basketballer must know to dribble and shoot with both the left and right hand, working both the AN and EN helps your overall learning and development.
Benefits of Emotional Intelligence at the Workplace
According to The Emotional Intelligence Advantage study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, emotional intelligence is a necessity in company culture today. With employees eager to find personal meaning in their work, cultivating emotional intelligence has become key to successfully running an organisation.
Since emotional intelligence is based on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management, these skills help you easily adapt to situations and constructively express your feelings. It also benefits physical, mental and emotional health, thus playing a key role in improving your well-being.
Not only does it help you as a leader, cultivating emotional intelligence within the workplace also creates high performing teams. Emotional intelligence is needed to build the foundation of trust within your team, which opens up to positive behaviours in the workplace. When you learn to lead and communicate with empathy, your team will instantly be more comfortable in asking for help and offering feedback to improve both team and personal excellence.
Identifying Emotional Intelligence in Prospective Candidates
We have witnessed how emotional intelligence has evolved into a must-have skill in our world today. While technical abilities are important, EQ skills in prospective candidates are also a huge plus. These few interviewing tips can help you identify candidates with high EQ.
Candidates are always prepared for the stock questions. If you want to see how genuine they are, ask them questions they would not expect.
Describe real workplace scenarios and see how they respond. This helps check how well the candidates differentiate between the analytical and the emotional network.
Avoid asking questions about the organisation that can be studied in advance. Instead, present them a situation and ask how they would react when put in that position.
As a leader, you’re constantly communicating with others, and interacting with human beings is a very intimate and diverse skill to have. With different characters in a team, a leader should be able to adapt to bring out the best in each one of their members.
While technical skills are important as well, leadership is very much a collaborative role that taps into human emotions. Diversifying your emotional intelligence is an excellent way to improve learning and development as an individual and as a team.