Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace

Developing emotional intelligence

31 Oct 2018

Emotional intelligence (EI) is proven to have a positive impact on performance. 

There is evidence to support the correlation between EI and high performing managers leading their staff well.  Church (1997) identifies a direct relationship between a manager awareness of self and thier performance as a leader.  Another study involving naval officers demonstrates that successful performance is correlated with self-awareness (Bass & Yammarino, 1991).  Yet, despite this growing understanding, EI has only become an aspect of postgraduate leadership programmes in the last few years and is a long way off inclusion in undergraduate/ school education.

This lack of available education and training contributes to a lack of emotionally intelligent leadership in the workplace, and a lack of EI in managers and leaders means a lack of role models for others to follow.  A recent article by Eurich (2018) suggests EI is in short supply in the workplace; 95% of managers describing themselves as being self-aware as opposed to 15% actually demonstrating self-awareness when put to the test.

So, if we are as a general rule, under a misapprehension as to how we come across to others, what can we do to become more self-aware (without undertaking a postgraduate leadership programme)?
There are many steps one can take to become more self-aware, some requiring the support of others and some we can do ourselves:

Baseline your attitudes & behaviours

What are the attitudes and behaviours you would want to see in others in a role similar to yours.  This is not a list of knowledge and skills (aspects of cognitive intelligence) but attitudes and behaviours (aspects of EI).  Once you have that list of desirable attributes, ask yourself how you would recognise these in yourself and monitor how often you display those characteristics.

Reality check how others might see you

Use a few key words or phrases to describe how you believe you are perceived in a given context (e.g. when leading others); confident, compassionate, concise.  Stop for a moment and consider in support of your perception; what examples do you have that exemplifies that perspective, who would say that of you, etc?

Now argue a contrary view (devils advocate).  Consider examples where someone might say you didn’t demonstrate the approach you believe you have. 

Is there someone you can ask for an honest opinion?  What might you be able to observe in your behaviours and interactions that support or refute your current perspective?

Seek feedback

Feedback, solicited and un-solicited, can be useful to help you understand how you come across to others.  This is valuable feedback although should be taken in context of who the other person is and what is motivating/ forming their perspective.

360º feedback

360º feedback, gaining feedback from seniors, peers, subordinates, clients, etc. is most effective as part of a managed process – this offers support and guidance for interpretation of the results.  360º feedback should be part of a process which includes post-feedback mechanism to support change such as coaching and action learning sets.

Emotional intelligence is a skill-set to be developed.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  If you are looking to enhance your EI you will need to plan for that change and work persistently at it. Whatever skill you decide to improve, use every opportunity to practice it, no matter how small.

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