Soft skills are critical for effective people management. Initiative, adaptability, and persuasiveness are some examples of soft skills. But the most essential soft skill you need to be a good leader is emotional intelligence (EI).
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient can be described as the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions and perceive and respond to those of others.
The term was coined by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in their 1990 seminal article “Emotional Intelligence”. They defined it as:
“The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
The term became hugely popular after psychologist Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence in 1995. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence includes the following qualities:
- Self awareness (being in touch with your emotions)
- Self management (managing distressing emotions so they don’t impede your functionality)
- Motivation (being able to stay positive in the face of challenges)
- Empathy (knowing what others are feeling)
- The social skills to use all these traits for productive communication and relationship building
What are the benefits of emotional intelligence in the workplace?
The success of your business does not just depend on technical skills. It also depends on how well you interact with, understand, and motivate your workforce. Effective people management skills will help you reduce conflict in the workplace and increase productivity.
For instance, you need empathy to be able to gauge how your team is feeling about a project or a workplace issue to resolve it or motivate them accordingly. Being able to perceive the emotions of others will help you understand what drives them. This may help you delegate accordingly and get the best out of your team.
Not only should you work on increasing your own emotional intelligence, but also help your staff develop such critical soft skills. Employees with high EI are collaborative, self-motivated, easy to get along with and good at building positive relationships with colleagues and clients. This, inevitably, benefits your bottom line.
How do I sharpen my emotional intelligence?
We’d recommend that you strengthen the 5 core qualities that define emotional intelligence.
Work on self-awareness
Reflect on your emotions and how they influence your reactions and behaviour in the workplace. Conduct a self-appraisal. What are your emotional strengths and weakness? What areas do you need to work on? Do you avoid confrontation? Or do you tend to lose your temper quickly? Do you make decisions in the spur of the moment?
You could practice mindfulness or meditation if it suits you. Another effective way to build self-awareness is to keep a journal where you write your thoughts and goals. This will help you detect and correct unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours. Being able to correctly analyze the reason for how you’re feeling will help you manage that emotion better.
Learn to manage distressing emotions
Are you able to handle difficult emotions effectively? It is important to know how to manage your negative emotions so that they don’t affect your productivity or ability to make sound decisions.
Once you’ve identified the distressing emotion you struggle with, think of ways you could manage it. For example, a little stress can be motivating, but too much of it can be crippling. If stress is your problematic emotion, find ways – such as exercise – to deal with it.
Find ways to stay motivated
People with high emotional intelligence are self-motivated. They are realistically optimistic. They don’t waste their time and energy on needless drama, taking things personally or complaining. Instead, they have a solution-oriented approach to challenges.
Internal motivation comes from having a passion for what you do. To work on your motivation, try and focus on the things that you love about your job. It could be the satisfaction you get from providing good service to your customers or from mentoring your staff.
Remember, you lead by example. Your positivity and enthusiasm towards work will also set the tone for your employees.
Empathy is a quality that’ll benefit both your personal and professional life. Try to consider things from the perspective of your employees and clients, even if you disagree with them. Do so especially before reacting impulsively or criticizing someone.
Try to understand where people are coming from. Think about how their emotions and motivations may be similar or different from yours. This will help you manage people and resolve workplace disagreements or conflicts more effectively.
Reflect on how you interact with others. Do you treat people with respect? Do you listen to them or take their opinions into account? Do you acknowledge their contributions? More importantly, when someone makes a mistake at work, do you encourage them to learn from it?
Polish your social skills
Strong social skills are very important in the workplace. They help you communicate with your co-workers and customers and build positive relationships.
If you feel you need to improve how you interact with others, try zeroing in on the aspects of socializing where you struggle. Do you have a hard time remembering names? Could you be a better listener? Would you like to be more assertive? Does your body language need work? Do you wish to be a better public speaker? Once you know what areas need work, find appropriate resources that’ll help you develop that skill.
Where do I start?
You could start by measuring your current emotional quotient. There are several methods to assess your EI level. You could either consult a mental health professional or find an assessment online. You could also opt for a coaching program to develop your EI.
Research says emotional intelligence is a skill that can get better with practice. It is important that you practice and persist in your efforts to improve your emotional quotient.
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