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Can your managers manage… emotional intelligence?

A recent survey by recruitment firm Robert Half UK, finds that 25% of business leaders think emotional intelligence is undervalued in the workplace, all part of a report that emphasises the value of more social skills at work.

What is EQ?

An individual’s emotional intelligence (often referred to as their EQ) refers to their ability to perceive, assess, understand, and manage emotions – their own and others’. That “manage” means to adapt their behaviour and thinking in response to this emotional information to achieve a better result.

In his 1998 book, “What Makes a Leader”, Daniel Goleman breaks EQ down into five elements:

  • Self-awareness – knowing yourself, your emotions, values and drives, your strengths and weaknesses, and understanding the impact of all this on others.
  • Self-regulation – controlling your own negative or disruptive emotions; adapting to circumstances.
  • Social skill – interacting with others successfully.
  • Empathy – taking other people's emotions into account.
  • Motivation – your drive to achieve.

The good news is that EQ and these various subheadings are all skills that can be learned. Yes, some people will find this comes naturally but anyone can raise their EQ.

Benefits of EQ in the workplace

Respondents to the above survey cited motivation, leadership and collaboration as all benefiting from the application of emotional intelligence.

  • Teamworking – Higher EQ is associated with more effective communication, better collaboration and increased trust, all of which are the bedrock of teamwork.
  • Less stress – The workplace can undoubtedly be stressful. Improved EQ encourages an environment of cooperation and respect; definitely a mentally easier place to be.
  • Easier change management – Businesses change, they expand, consolidate, diversify… and successfully guiding your team through big changes like this can be fraught. Emotionally intelligent people tend to be better at handling change.
  • Competitive advantage – Every company wants a focused, cohesive, supportive and productive team of people but not every company has that. Achieving some of the benefits of emotionally intelligent management can put you ahead.

Using EQ in the workplace

Self-awareness – Throughout the day, stop to ask yourself, how am I feeling? What effect do your emotions have on what you are doing and the people around you? Do some self-assessment: How effective is your communication with others? How do some of your emotions hold you back?

Self-regulation – Practice stress-reduction – this may be physical exercise, a better diet, or making time for a non-work activity. Focus on the fact that some things are beyond your control – when they occur, look for a response that doesn’t make it worse. Practice taking a moment (or more, if needed) before making decisions. Snap decisions are more likely to be fuelled by an unhelpful emotion.

Social skill – Practice listening to others, not just ‘hearing’ but actively paying attention, asking questions and checking you’ve understood. Also notice other people’s non-verbal communication, their body language and other cues. Brush up your conflict management skills – a disagreement between two people is often driven by emotion.

Empathy – Notice how open you are to others. In conversations or meetings with you, do they get a chance to talk, share an idea, have their say? When they do, how do you respond? Are you appreciative of the input regardless of whether you agree with it. When faced with a different point of view, step back and try to see the situation from their perspective. What’s behind what they’re saying and doing? That understanding is the best starting point to prevent conflict escalating.

Motivation – Work on your ‘intrinsic’ motivation, your inner drive that doesn’t depend on rewards, just the pleasure of achievement. In the workplace, this means looking for those parts of your job that you enjoy. Focus on those as your motivators and use them to help you do the parts you don’t enjoy so much.

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