When I first learned about emotional intelligence, it was a niche subject predominantly compartmentalised within specialist or clinical areas such as psychology, psychotherapy and the like. And if you didn’t have an ‘ology’, you had no real business to be broaching into its territory!
But it is now considered a fundamental competence for getting along in the workplace, particularly among leaders and managers. It is highly sought after by organisations and, once attained, enables the fostering of a more emotionally intelligent workforce. One that is built upon a stable foundation that empowers employees to flourish and grow throughout all levels of the organisation.
What emotional intelligence is
Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. Basically, it is a predictor of success in life and work.
In order for leaders to attract and retain staff who are ‘EI savvy’, they need to engage and explore EI for themselves. And in doing so, they will acquire a symbiotic emotional quotient assessment tool and knowledge platform – used to measure an individual’s adequacy in areas such as social responsibility, self-expression, empathy and decision making – to recruit, induct and develop their workforce.
This will ultimately enable an organisation’s employees to meet and exceed the challenges faced within an ever-changing economic and industrial landscape.
Building your emotional skills
Building your emotional skills is essential to understanding your own feelings and attuning yourself to the feelings of others. If you are attuned to such feelings you can use your understanding to enhance your own performance and manage and support the performance of others (if in a managerial or supervisory role).
To better understand your emotional skills, the first step to take is to familiarise yourself with the four basic components of emotional intelligence.
This is considered the foundation for all the other components of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness means being aware of what you are feeling; being conscious of the emotions within yourself.
People who are in touch with their emotions are better able to guide their own lives. Team members need to be in touch with their emotions to interact effectively and appreciate emotions in others.
Those with high levels of self-awareness learn to trust their ‘gut feelings’ and realise that these feelings can provide useful information about difficult decisions. Answers are not always clear regarding who is at fault when problems arise. In these situations, team members have to rely on their own feelings and intuition.
This is the second key component of emotional intelligence in managing emotions. Operationally it means that team members need to be able to balance their own moods so that worry, anxiety, fear or anger do not get in the way of what needs to be done.
Those who can manage their emotions perform better because they are able to think clearly. Managing emotions does not mean suppressing or denying them but understanding them and using that understanding to deal with situations productively. Team members should first recognise a mood or feeling, think about what it means and how it affects them, and then choose how to act.
3) Social awareness
Being socially aware means that you understand how to react to different social situations, and effectively modify your interactions with other people so that you can achieve the best results.
It also means being aware of the world around you and how different environments influence people. Increasing social awareness means improving your skills to connect with others verbally, nonverbally and in the community.
4) Relationship management
The final component of emotional intelligence is the ability to connect with others, build positive relationships, respond to the emotions of others and influence others on the team.
Relationship management includes the identification, analysis and management of relationships with people inside and outside of your team as well as their development. It is also vital in negotiating successfully, resolving conflicts and working with others toward a shared goal.
Top tips for improving your emotional intelligence
Once you have familiarised yourself with the four basic components of emotional intelligence, there are many actions you can take to build upon your social and emotional skill sets:
Undertake an emotional intelligence assessment and one-to-one feedback session to gain real insight into your EI profile
Get a coach or engage in a coaching partnership to help you work on and improve your skills gaps
Learn what triggers are and how they can impact your emotions
Ask for constructive feedback from others to enable growth in knowledge and competence
Actively listen to others, stepping back in order to observe in an objective manner
Practice deep breathing and other relaxing exercises to keep a clear mind
Foster and build upon relationships, acknowledging others’ needs and feelings
Conduct regular temperature checks on your knowledge and understanding, undertaking further development if necessary
Build your knowledge then use it
How you choose to think, feel and act in relation to life’s challenges will often impact your health and wellbeing, as well as your mindset. By tapping into your emotional intelligence, you can learn from difficult situations and better prepare yourself for future challenges.
It’s not simply about what knowledge you gain on emotional intelligence. It’s about what you do with that knowledge that makes the big difference.