How to Deploy Emotional Intelligence for Work Success

8, 2021

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) has been studied for decades. It wasn’t until 1995, with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence ,that EI was pushed to the forefront.

At the same time, employers still didn’t embrace EI in the workplace. Maybe it was because they believed that emotional intelligence myths like the idea that there actually isn’t such a thing. That has changed as research has found that emotional intelligence was the strongest predictor of workplace effectiveness.

Additionally, McKinsey & Company anticipates that the demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will rise by 2030. And as we begin to embark on a post-COVID world, EI is more relevant than ever.

With that in mind, here’s how you can deploy emotional intelligence to improve both your personal and organizational work success

Create capacity

While “EI is a set of skills, attitudes, and behaviors,” it’s also a variable, states Bill Davies, a Principal Consultant at PSI Talent Management International. “I can be emotionally intelligent one moment and emotionally stupid the next. So, developing EI is about being more emotionally intelligent more of the time.”

Davies continues that whenever we’re tired or irritable, it’s possible to lose our capacity for EI. More detrimental is that these emotions allow us to become easily triggered. As a consequence, this leads defensive habits like micromanaging or aggressive body language.

With that said, “a core starting point for EI is this ability to manage our lives and create capacity,” advises Davies. “Arguably, this means having a more disciplined approach to how we manage our energy and work in a ‘brain-friendly way.”

An easy place to start would be setting aside time each day to calm your mind. If you’re in a leadership role, this could be encouraging your team to frequently take breaks throughout the day and to use their vacation days. Also, when you know that they are unplugging, don’t bombard them with work-related issues.

Practice empathy

“In simplest terms, empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” writes Denna Ritchie in a Calendar article. Possessing this is arguably the most important leadership skill. After all, being empathetic is the foundation when building and fortifying social connections.

What’s more, it can create a more loyal, engaged, and productive team. As if that weren’t enough, empathy increases happiness, teaches presence and fosters innovation collaboration.

So, how can you practice empathy? Here are some areas that you should focus on;

  • Get to know people better, such as their background and interests. You can do this with one-on-ones or less formal lunches.
  • Before rushing to judgment and critique, take a timeout until you’re composed and have all relevant data.
  • Listen more and talk less.
  • Develop your self-awareness muscle through journaling and feedback.
  • Ask others how they’re doing when you’re gut is screaming that something is off.
  • Be genuine and even a little vulnerable.

Related: How to Leverage Emotional Intelligence to Improve Your Empathy

Make yourself vulnerable.

Speaking of vulnerability, psychologist Nick Wignall defines it as “the willingness to acknowledge your emotions — especially painful ones.”

He clarifies “that when we talk about vulnerability, we’re usually referring to emotional vulnerability. When your best friend suggests that you should work on being more vulnerable in your relationship, they’re probably not talking about making yourself more physically vulnerable.”

In short, vulnerability is all about emotions. In particular, difficult emotions like anxiety, frustration, and shame. The other part of the equation is acknowledging these negative emotions and knowing how to address them.

For example, when you’re frustrated with a task, you may go for a walk to clear your head. When you’re anxious, you might recite mantras. And, if you are feeling down, you might call a friend who always makes you laugh.

Emotional vulnerability might be painful or uncomfortable. But, it’s also a valuable asset. It can help reduce anxiety, strengthen relationships, and improve self-awareness.

To become more emotionally vulnerable, Wignall recommends;

  • Labeling your emotions using plain language.
  • Engage in emotion-focused journaling.
  • Practice being assertive by clearly communicating your wants and needs.
  • Consider therapy or counseling.

Overall, this “is simply the skill that allows you to acknowledge difficult or painful emotions instead of immediately avoiding them or reacting to them,” Wignall states.

Focus on mental health and well-being

Not to disparage the damage that the pandemic has done, one silver lining has been that it’s highlighted the importance of mental health. As of January 2021, over 41% of adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. And, when not addressed, this can impact everything from your physical health to relationships to productivity.

The good news? You can use your calendar to put your mental health first by;

  • Limiting social media and screen time.
  • Stepping outside for at least 20-minutes per day.
  • Meeting with a therapist online.
  • Minimizing isolation — even if it’s a quick phone or video call.
  • Spending free time on meaningful activities you enjoy.
  • Making self-care a daily routine.

On an organizational level, leaders can use tactics like;

  • Changing the culture where everyone feels safe to open up about their feelings and struggles.
  • Launching an employee wellness program.
  • Focusing on early intervention/prevention, like advice on how your team members can cope with stress and anxiety.
  • Enforcing working hours.
  • Cultivating a healthy and positive work environment.
  • Granting autonomy and flexible schedules.
  • Helping them solve their time management problems.

Related: It’s Time for Startup Culture to Talk About Mental Health

Change your mindset about criticism and feedback

When it comes to criticism or feedback, many of us quiver in fear. That’s understandable. Does anyone really like to hear about past transgressions or shortcomings?

But, instead of avoiding this, use feedback to your advantage. It’s not an easy feat. However, it’s possible by first using reflection.

What this means is asking yourself questions like;

  • Why the criticism upset you?
  • What was my reaction?
  • What action can I take without pointing fingers?

From there, view negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. For instance, it’s not a personal attack on your skills or abilities. Rather, it’s helping you identify your mistakes.

Moreover, feedback can change your bad behavior or habits. For leaders, it can improve their effectiveness. And, it can even build trust among your customers and employees.

Build social bonds

Now, more than ever, you need to build social bonds with your team. As you’re hopefully well aware, the pandemic has scattered teams. As a result, everyone is missing out on in-person interactions in the office, as well as social isolation both at work and in their personal lives.

To counter this, build camaraderie with your remote team via virtual lunches, game tournaments, fitness challenges and virtual breakrooms.

When you can get together in person, engage in team-building actives, interactive workshops, or holiday parties. And, don’t rule out team service opportunities through volunteer events and donations to charity.

Sharing is caring

Finally, don’t greedily keep your knowledge about EI to yourself. If you’re aware of any articles, books, podcasts, or Ted Talks on the topic, share these resources with others. You could also schedule seminars or workshops for your team to do together.

Another suggestion would be to discuss and model, the core principles of EI during meetings and one-on-ones. And, encourage others to test their emotional intelligence and schedule EI checkups.

Related: 5 Strategies You Can Use to Build an Emotionally Intelligent Team

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