Why the Business World Needs More Emotional Intelligence
It’s safe to say we’ve all been under a lot of stress these last few months. Living through the never-ending changes brought on by a global pandemic has been challenging, exhausting and overwhelming. As we continue to transition, soft skills are more important than ever in helping people adapt, connect and pivot. In this new reality, the business world needs more emotional intelligence.
For many years, the term emotional intelligence has divided the room. On one side you had the traditionists who believed emotions had no place in the business world. Rather, success is based on cold hard facts, figures, policies and procedures.
On the other side you had leaders who recognized we’re emotional beings. By tapping into, instead of ignoring these emotions, we’re able to bring out the best in people. And this best is key to improving productivity and innovation.
So, what does emotional intelligence look like and how can we harness it to transform our work and lives?
It’s starts with seeing your coworkers, customers and people you interact with as individuals. Individuals with their own unique story and experiences. It means letting go of any assumptions and taking the time to get to know people.
Start by looking at the people you spend the most time with. How well do you know them? What’s their personality? What motivates and excites them? What are their stressors (both at work and in their personal lives)?
It’s amazing how little we know about the people we spend hours with each day.
Getting to know someone can be as simple as taking them out to lunch and having a casual conversation instead of talking about work. By doing more listening than talking you’ll not only learn more about them but also gain a bit of respect.
Being an active listener is a key element of emotional intelligence. This involves listening to what someone is saying to hear their thoughts versus looking for an opportunity to speak. And with so many people feeling they’ve lost their voice during the pandemic, we all want to feel heard.
It’s amazing how much can be learned when we hold space in a conversation. Space for people to think through their thoughts, reflect on what’s been said and work through a problem.
As a consultant working with a First Nation band, I’ve gained a new understanding and respect for holding space. In our meetings, there are many pauses where no one is speaking. At first, I found this uncomfortable, used to meetings where people talk over each other and there’s never a quiet moment.
But I’ve since discovered the power of silence. It’s in this silence that we’re able to go inward, reflecting, and thinking instead of charging ahead. This space always results in a fresh perspective, new ideas and a clearer path forward.
In one-on-one conversations, holding space means not talking when the other person has stopped speaking and being comfortable with the silence. Most often, the other person will not only appreciate the space, but also use the space to positively add to the conversation.
Bring out the best
Emotional intelligence involves tapping into the needs of others. What do people need to be their best? Is it a word of encouragement, a quiet space to work, flexibility in their schedule? By taking the time to get to know the individual you’ll be able to understand and adapt to the needs of those around you.
While it does take time to create the foundation needed to fully practice emotional intelligence, this time is often returned in employment retention, increased productivity, and improved workplace culture. With so many skilled employees leaving the workplace, businesses need to practice more emotional intelligence to retain the best and brightest.
How can you practice more emotional intelligence in your professional and personal life? Do you truly know the core people around you or are you working off assumptions you’ve made? When was the last time you had an open conversation where you spent more time listening and gave space for reflection?
Now is the time to embrace soft skills to help make a personal connection and be the leader our organizations need.