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Why You Should Care About Emotional Intelligence

Our business training efforts often concentrate solely on job, product or process issues. Sometimes we include team building or productivity skills in our training plan. It’s unfortunate that too many companies fail to include soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, in their training. Emotional intelligence is an incredibly beneficial, if under-taught, soft skill that all employee development plans could benefit from.

Contributing to Success

Cited by gurus such as Jack Welch, Dr. Stephen Covey and Warren Bennis, the role of emotional intelligence in business success is not a new topic. Studies have shown that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of performance in all types of jobs. In fact, 90% of top performers rank high in emotional intelligence. While this information isn’t new, it often falls to the wayside in favor of other skills that leaders need when meeting the multifaceted demands they face.

What is emotional intelligence?

While it’s somewhat difficult to define, but we can start by understanding its scope. Travis Bradberry suggests that emotional intelligence “affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.” To put it another way, emotional intelligence is all about being aware of emotions, both yours and the people around you, and appropriately managing your responses to improve your performance and interactions.

The common understanding of emotional intelligence presents itself as the combination of one’s personal and social competences. Those two broad competencies are made of four key skills:

Self-Awareness

Emotional intelligence begins with accurately recognizing your emotions and remaining aware of them as they happen. Most of us can perceive the emotions we felt after an emotional moment has passed, but identifying them as they happen is a skill. It’s only then that we can choose the most appropriate response, which leads us to:

Self-Management

This is the ability to use your emotional awareness to positively direct your behavior. For example, in a stressful moment, noticing your anxiety is rising and having enough self-control to manage your behavior instead of impulsively acting on that anxiety. Failure to effectively exercise self-management has the potential to destroy our credibility and can negatively impact other peoples’ trust in us.

Social Awareness

Here we turn the focus from ourselves to the people around us. Social awareness is the ability to read other people and accurately identify their emotions as you interact with them. For example, the ability to notice when a team member is feeling anxious, overwhelmed and upset by their workload.

Relationship Management

The three previous skills all feed into the final one: relationship management. This involves using the awareness of your emotions and others’ to successfully manage interactions. By identifying others’ emotions, you can adjust your communication with them to achieve a more positive outcome. This often involves listening attentively and fostering an environment that encourages positive, open, constructive conversation.

The Business Impact

Reflecting on the four skills above, imagine two types of employees: ones who possess those skills, and ones who don’t. Between someone who addresses issues calmly and someone who goes on an angry tangent when they’re upset, which would you rather work with?

Lack of emotional intelligence throughout a workplace can quickly turn a once-pleasant environment into a toxic one where employees feel insecure and unsure. This type of negative environment can adversely impact productivity, quality of work, employee turnover rates, and nearly every measurable outcome.

Leaders with higher emotional intelligence get better results, especially long-term results. Open, honest, adult communication creates a positive work environment and promotes greater productivity, satisfaction, innovation, and teamwork. And it doesn’t just affect the company’s internal atmosphere, but also the way teams interact with customers. Their ability to listen, understand and empathize with customers helps to build trust and sets up a more satisfying customer experience.

Some Final Thoughts

High emotional intelligence doesn’t happen by chance. A move toward greater emotional awareness in our organizations must be strategic and intentional, offering tools and training to aid in your team’s growth.

High levels of emotional intelligence in our leaders and managers has shifted from something that’s “nice to have” to a requirement for success in high-stress, highly-competitive, quickly-changing environments. Making emotional intelligence part of your employee training and development plan will pay huge dividends in terms of greater productivity, engagement and customer satisfaction.

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