Understanding Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is attributed as a concept to an important study by Peter Salovey and John Mayer in 1990. They saw Emotional Intelligence as a set of skills that involve both being able to appraise and express emotions in oneself and in others. While many individual tasks within the business world do not involve interactions between individuals, some of the most important moments, from leading employees to interacting with clients, require a skillful understanding of what emotion is affecting another individual, and how your own emotional expression in affecting them as well. Being able to understand and interpret emotions can help you to offer the specific reassurances, information, or active listening that a person needs at that moment. On the other hand, not having emotional intelligence can leave a leader baffled as to why a deal could not be struck or an employee seems angry and hurt after a meeting.
Reading Clients and Staff Using Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is, like other intelligences, seen as innate, but it is actually possible to develop it in adults, and those adults who achieve competencies in EI tend to be effective as professional leaders, according to Boyatzis (2009). Research building on the decades of EI research has established that it is possible to bolster one’s emotional intelligence and also follow authentic leadership principles (Miao et. al. 2018). Some of the many contexts in which Emotional Intelligence can be useful include the following:
- Non-Work-Related Emotions: When you notice emotions that seem out of place for the context, such as sadness at a celebratory luncheon, you can practice offering empathetic concern and asking a discreet question about whether or not the individual needs anything, such as time to resolve a situation outside of work or a chance to speak with a counselor. These few moments of showing concern and compassion can lead to greater loyalty from your employees or clients, as well as a reputation for being a caring company.
- Frustration at Workload Issues: While there may be an expected level of grumbling when a workload increase happens, sometimes the responses are out of proportion and deeply despairing. An important emotional-intelligence move in such contexts is to meet with team members briefly to ask, “what is it that is causing you the most stress right now?” or “do you feel recognized and respected for the work you are doing?” Often, employees can understand a workload increase if they feel that their work is valued and respected, but they will have an entirely different reaction if additional work seems neverending and unappreciated.
- Emotional Obstacles to Deals With Clients: There are often legitimate obstacles that hinder the completion of a major contract or other business deal, but emotional intelligence can help you get over the last hurdle or two. If every possible question has been answered to the client’s satisfaction, it can be appropriate to ask what is holding them back or what concerns they have. This question is scary, since no one wants to hear that their efforts have fallen short of excellence, but sometimes, simply getting to voice a complaint and be told that it will be handled can be enough to get a major deal moving forward. Vulnerability, when coupled with excellence in as many aspects as possible, is sometimes the right emotional move to bring a client onboard.
Developing Bravery For the Ups and Downs of Business Success
Vulnerability is important in the contexts of working at the high levels of a company in general. This is where Intrapersonal Intelligence becomes important. Business executives have a tendency to conflate their worth with the worth of the company. Self-awareness is more than just noticing how you interact with others, but also understanding when you are in need of a variety of emotional assistance: time away from the office, more rest, advice from trusted mentors, or any of a variety of other emotional bolsters. While most business executives have a tenacious ability to persevere, the best move for your emotions may be to strategically delegate items on your to-do list that are eroding your ability to be effective in the tasks that only you can do.
When the business is not doing well, you need the emotional awareness to be able to step back from those challenges, see them as external to you and your worth, and make systematic plans to address them. In so doing, it can be very helpful to showcase your own emotions of disappointment or frustration in a measured way; doing this can help your employees see that being honest about feelings at work is important and valued. In the same way, emotional intelligence allows you to take a step back from the high-riding successes of your business, notice who all has contributed to these successes, and use this time to be grateful to your team in a way that will boost their spirits. Being grateful and implementing changes in response to feedback can be excellent ways to address the emotional needs of your employees and yourself during times of great success.
Aiming For Growth? You’ll Learn to Surrender Control
One emotional response that many leaders must fight against is the opportunity to weigh in on every decision being made at the company. Getting high-level feedback is possible when the company is smaller and less complex, but eventually, very strong delegation skills become necessary. It is important to invest highly in training and hiring practices, but then to truly trust those you hire and train to carry out the vision of the company. Many leaders don’t have the emotional self-awareness to recognize when their controlling instincts change from being a good, hands-on leader to being overbearing or micromanagerial.
Especially when your company is entering a season of intensive growth, when you will be onboarding many new people and having to trust a sea of new faces to do a great job, do a serious self-audit about the way you spend your time.
- Are you focusing on minutiae when you could be pouring more energy into big-picture choices?
- Are you delegating tasks that you have hired someone to handle, or continuing to control them yourself?
- Are you assessing how different tasks and projects are making you feel? Which items are you unconsciously avoiding?
- Can you proactively get more involved in training or hiring rather than over-managing individuals at their work?
Takeaways About Emotional Intelligence
There are a variety of ways to train yourself to be more emotionally intelligent, but one of the best ways is to have candid conversations with others about how you could improve in your emotional interactions, and then to journal about your own reactions to those statements. Rather than becoming defensive when someone points out a way you could improve in empathy or emotional responses, thank them for their feedback and take time to reflect on the statements. You are still allowed to disagree with them, but you should recognize that they may not be the only one having that reaction.