People skills can make all the difference when it comes to carving out a successful career, according to psychologists and career counsellors. In fact, emotional intelligence (EQ) may be more important than IQ when it comes to getting ahead in the workforce.
So, what is emotional intelligence? How do you know if you’re emotionally intelligent or in need of training? We spoke to a psychologist and leadership coach to find out.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
Therese Lardner, Psychologist and Leadership Coach, assists human resources executives to understand and improve their EQ, leading to better leadership and more engagement at work.
“I have explored the impact of emotional intelligence on resilience and mental health in my upcoming book, “How to avoid burnout: the ultimate guide to reducing stress, revitalising energy and re-igniting your career.
“Every manager will have strengths in some areas of emotional intelligence and challenges in others.
“The first step, though, is building emotional self-awareness because this is the foundation of all the other elements of emotional intelligence.
“If you boost emotional self-awareness, it’s much easier then to work on the other elements,” said Ms Lardner.
To do this, you need to support managers to understand the physiological information that their body is sending, explained Ms Larder.
“It could be the knot in their stomach, the tightness in their throat or their racing heartbeat.
“Then, it’s a matter of boosting managers’ emotional vocabulary – the nuanced words they must draw on to describe how they’re feeling.
“Once managers have improved in this area, it’s much easier to coach them around increasing their empathy or emotional self-management.”
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership.
Leadership and emotional intelligence go hand-in-glove, said Ms Lardner.
“Having strong emotional intelligence is vital to being able to communicate a compelling vision for the future, having real conversations with team members around performance and development and ensuring that talent is mobilised within the team to deliver results.
“There is a raft of research to show that higher emotional intelligence leads to better communication and collaboration, improved customer service and stronger job performance overall.
“It also has an impact on resilience and mental health.”
How to Identify If You’re Lacking Emotional Intelligence
It can be challenging to gauge your emotional intelligence, and it may only be after an ‘incident’ that you have insight.
“Individuals will sometimes recognise challenges around their emotional intelligence after the fact, like a conversation not going to plan or missing cues from other people that then lead to conflict.
“Some of us, though, have very little insight into our emotional intelligence and the impact that has on others as a result.
“The most objective way to find out about emotional intelligence is to measure it.
“There are several emotional intelligence assessment tools available on the market. However, you need to choose the test wisely.
“Choose one that is valid and reliable, as well as based on a behavioural model of emotional intelligence.
“If you want to improve the emotional intelligence of your leaders, there’s no use choosing a tool that views it as a fixed ability that can’t be developed.”
Does a Low EQ Score Mean I’m Insensitive?
If the part of emotional intelligence that you find challenging is empathy or awareness of the emotions of others, it can mean that you are insensitive.
“This often means that picking up on emotional cues in others is difficult and that can lead to responses and reactions to others not hitting the mark.”
The Consequences of Leaders with a Low EQ.
If a manager doesn’t have the capacity to manage their emotions, their emotional reactivity will cause problems, explained Ms Lardner.
“If a leader doesn’t have a strong capacity to manage their own emotions, they will tend to be quite emotionally reactive and will say and do things in the heat of the moment that they regret later.
“Managers who find it difficult to communicate emotions in an authentic way will find it hard to engage their teams in change and ‘sell’ people on solutions and ideas.
“Overall, communication, collaboration and decision-making will be impacted by having lower emotional intelligence.”
If you manage others and have had interpersonal conflicts more regularly than most, it might be time to measure your EQ to discover if you need to develop your emotional intelligence to help you be a better leader.
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