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Emotional intelligence in the workplace: What, why and how?

Emotional intelligence in the workplace: What, why and how?

Emotional intelligence (EI) has been a big word in the realm of leadership as of late. Businesses are increasingly seeking leaders and professionals with high levels of EI. But what exactly is emotional intelligence? Why does it matter? And how can you learn to incorporate EI into your professional practices?

Defining emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a relatively new buzzword because the concept itself is only a little over two decades old. In 1990 psychology professors John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey created the term. In their words emotional intelligence is as follows:

From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others' emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others' emotions. It doesn't necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.

Yet, it wasn't until years later that the connection between emotional intelligence and good leadership was made. Psychologist Daniel Goleman has largely led the charge for EI and good business practices.

Emotional intelligence is equally as important to leadership as IQ. x 0 0 0 14108817 800 Emotional intelligence in the workplace: What, why and how?Emotional intelligence is equally as important to leadership as IQ.

Goleman believes that emotional intelligence is the common denominator between all the highest performing leaders. In a contributing article for Harvard Business Review, Goleman asserts that while IQ and technical training are valuable leadership qualifiers, they are merely an entry point. EI is what enable leaders to effectively lead.

"Without [emotional intelligence], a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won't make a great leader."

Goleman dictated five components of EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy for others and social skills. These specific areas allow professionals to recognise, connect and learn from individual and collective emotions.

Understanding the importance

Emotional intelligence is important because it is often the bridge between leaders and their staff. Being exceptionally skilled means nothing in terms of leadership if you can not inspire your team to follow in your path.

Emotional intelligence is important because it is often the bridge between leaders and their staff.

But the the importance of EI extends further, Goleman goes on to link critical functions such as motivation and sustained focus to a person's individual emotional intelligence. EI can also be a key determinant of executive success and an individual's overall financial prospects.

Research backs these claims. A study by the Carnegie Institute of Technology found that 85 per cent of financial success was determined by skills tied to EI such as personality and communication while only 15 per cent was due to technical skills. An analysis by Egon Zehnder International, a global search firm, found that executives with the highest levels of emotional intelligence had a better chance of success than those who only had high levels of IQ.

In essence, emotional intelligence is closely tied to success on multiple levels. Whether it be the ability to lead or the ability to turn a profit, professionals with high levels of EI are better placed to excel.

Improving emotional intelligence

While some people are more naturally inclined toward emotional intelligence, it is a skill that can be learned. According to Inc. contributor Justin Bariso, there are some key ways to improve your EI as a professional:

Understand your emotional responses: Emotional intelligence isn't just about being in tune with the emotions of others. In fact, it is rooted deeply in understanding your own emotions. Pay careful attention the different ways you respond to stressors, successes or inconveniences throughout the working day. By having a solid grip on your emotional responses, you may gain deeper insights into the emotions of others.

Taking the time to understand your emotions is important to development. x 0 0 0 14101074 800 Emotional intelligence in the workplace: What, why and how?Taking the time to understand your emotions is important to development.

Explore other people's motivators: We have all heard the expression "put yourself in somebody else's shoes" but how often do we take the time to do this in the workplace? Emotional intelligence relies heavily on empathy which starts with a deeper understanding of others. Instead of writing off a disgruntled coworker, have some compassion and trace the problem to its source. Leaders that stop to understand the reasons behind the various actions of their employees are already a step above the rest in terms of EI.

Keep up the practise: As with any leadership skill, emotional intelligence is something that needs to be continuously worked on. In order to ensure your EI is up to par you should be constantly practising and revising your approaches. Here at LMIT, our Diploma of Leadership and Management helps professionals develop and use their emotional intelligence skills among other key functions. To learn more, contact one of our reps today!

Published by: LMIT