• Kathy Miles

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace


While it is true that the phrase Emotional Intelligence (also known as Emotional Quotient or EQ) has only been floating around the corporate lexicon for about two decades, the universal truth behind the concept has been played out over, and over throughout many workplaces for a much longer time.

Since the early '90s, when the phrase Emotional Intelligence was coined, many leaders of industry have adopted this as one of many tools in their arsenal and have been tweaking the concept into their own brand of leadership.

What is EQ?

Emotional Intelligence is one’s ability to be aware of, identify and manage their own emotions, and the emotions of those around them.

Emotional Intelligence is often said to consist of four major skill sets:

  1. Self-Awareness – Being aware of our own emotions and the impact these emotions may have, as well as having an understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Self-Management – Being able to have emotional self-control by reigning in runaway emotions and acting rationally and logically so as to do things like problem solve. Being flexible in our approach and adapting to change and obstacles, whilst still being driven to improve and act with honesty and integrity.

  3. Social Awareness – Being aware of other’s emotions, recognising other’s needs, understanding their perspective and taking an active interest in their concerns.

  4. Relationship Management – Being able to build and maintain effective, positive and mutually beneficial relationships with others. Providing inspirational leadership, being able to persuade others, build teamwork and collaboration, manage and lead in times of change, resolve conflict and develop others.

All of these skills help work towards a more productive and well-oiled workplace.

Why is EQ an Important Asset for a Leader in the Workplace?

Essentially, someone who is emotionally intelligent, is thought to have a good awareness and understanding of thoughts and feelings, behaviours, intentions, actions and reactions, dreams, desires and goals and strengths and weaknesses in themselves, and those around them.

Understanding these things in others is a particularly good skill to master, as it will help you predict how your team and colleagues will react and behave in various situations. Knowing this allows us the opportunity to adjust our own behaviour accordingly. For example, we might approach them with a new task in a different manner so as to get the best outcome.

By developing our Emotional Intelligence, we can become more productive and successful at what we do. We can also gain a better understanding of those around us which will allow us to utilise their individual strengths to greater advantage. Improved Emotional Intelligence can result in reduced stress, decreased conflict, improved relationships and understanding and increased stability and performance.

While it is important, as a leader, to have a clear understanding of our own emotional intelligence, studies have shown that making a point of looking for EQ when hiring can lead to the creation of a more productive, proficient and harmonious workplace. Employees that have a high degree of emotional intelligence find it much easier to fit in, and work as part of a team, are more flexible and able to adjust to change.

Having a well-developed EQ in the workplace can assist with adapting to new technology, accepting innovation and being flexible enough to move along with the ebbs and flows of everyday work life.

What Skills Does a Leader with High EQ Possess?

Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence possess the following skills (among others):

  • Good at Building Relationships – They understand others, this includes their thoughts, feelings, goals, responses and behaviour. They have respect for the emotions of others (empathy) and they foster team work and collaboration.

  • Motivators – They are naturally self-motivated, not by money, titles, or benefits, but by their own resilience and inner ambition. They also motivate and inspire others around them, offering encouragement and support, development opportunities and plenty of feedback.

  • Self-Awareness – They are self-aware by nature. This is a fantastic asset to have in the workplace, as they will understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and how to build off both.

  • Consistency – They are consistent in their approach, their behaviour, their reactions and their interactions.

  • Self-Discipline – They are self-disciplined in their beliefs, their actions, their judgements and decisions.

  • Stability – These leaders offer their teams and workplaces stability due to their consistent nature. This can assist with fostering the same behaviours in those that they lead.

  • Problem Solving – They are great at problem solving due to their ability to manage their own emotions and those of others. They also look at things rationally and logically.

  • Adaptability/Flexibility – They are highly flexible and adaptable in times of challenge, change and uncertainty. This provides reassurance, support and balance to those around them.

How Can One Improve their EQ?

Unlike our IQ, our EQ is something that can be developed throughout our life. Continuing to enhance our Emotional Intelligence is beneficial; not only to ourselves, but to our teams and workplaces.

Here are some tips to help with improving Emotional Intelligence:

  • Develop Awareness of Your Reactions – How do you react when placed in a difficult situation? When you encounter an obstacle or a challenge, do you make snap judgements, do you get stressed, or do you rush in before you know all the facts?

  • Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses – Understanding your strengths and weaknesses in each of the EQ domains is an important first step in understanding where you need to improve. Take one of the many free tests available online.

  • Understand the Impact of Your Reactions and Weaknesses – Once you have gained an understanding of your reactions and weaknesses, next you need to ask yourself how these behaviours impact on those around you. Be totally honest, delve deep and ask yourself the hard questions. For example, when I blew up at the team for a mistake they made – what consequences did that have? How did I look in their eyes? How did I make them feel? What was the impact of those feelings?

  • Develop an Action Plan – Now comes the hard part, once you know your weaknesses, and the impact they have, you need to implement ways to improve. If you find that you need to improve on how you handle stressful situations, your action plan may involve taking a few deep breaths and allowing at least 10 minutes before you do anything. This will give you a chance to think properly (without your flight or fight response) and come up with a rational plan of attack. Practice makes perfect, so you need to practice these skills over and over again until they become second nature.

About PDI Solutions

PDI Solutions can work with organisations to develop and deliver training solutions tailored to your particular organisation around leadership, team building or any other professional development. Contact us today for a free consultation at info@pdisolutions.com.au or visit our website at pdisolutions.com.au

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© 2015 PDI Solutions (Trading as Kathleen J Miles)

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