Despite proof that EI is a key characteristic of motivated, productive, innovative employees, employers are playing with fire by ignoring it.
Imagine this scenario: Bob has been working tirelessly on a proposal for a new project. He’s put countless hours into this, and he feels passionately about it. Finally, it’s time for him to present his proposal to management. The finance VP expresses some serious concerns about the budget. Bob gets upset and storms out of the meeting. As a result, the project is delayed and eventually turned over to another employee.
Intelligent people can do stupid things when they let their emotions get the best of them. Lacking emotional intelligence (EI), the ability to process emotions and demonstrate self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and social skills, is a problem for leaders and their teams, even if every person involved has higher than average IQs. One recent survey suggests companies that embrace EI have greater productivity and employee engagement. Organizations that promote EI also have higher customer experience ratings than their counterparts (37% versus 8%) and greater customer loyalty (40% versus 12%). These companies also are more effective at managing risk and have a greater degree of communication, collaboration, and innovation.
The word about EI seems to be slow in getting around. Under 20% of survey respondents say they have embedded EI into their organizational cultures, and one-third say they don’t believe in EI’s benefits. Fewer than one-third of respondents say they require EI skills for new hires, although nearly half (40%) say they offer training and online courses addressing it.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employers surveyed say that, by way of promoting EI, their organizations “offer a high degree of empowerment with clear decision rights, incentives, and risk tolerance.” At the same time, researchers suggest that employees with EI are more likely to form creative teams, bring multiple perspectives to challenges, and find innovative solutions.
Having EI requires more than just being a nice person and not a hothead. It’s important to take a few steps to ensure that emotions don’t interfere with sound decision-making:
1. Practice self-awareness. Be conscious of what you’re doing, how you feel about it, and what you don’t know about yourself. Particularly when you are under stress, remove distractions such as unnecessary phone calls or texts. Occasionally seek solitude and self-reflection.
2. Channel your emotions. There are times when you will feel anger. It’s not necessarily the emotion that’s bad; it is what you do with it. For instance, don’t take out your anger about a situation on your people. Channel that anger into energy to create a positive change. Seek support or EI training if you need it.
3. Motivate yourself. Don’t wait for inspiration; push yourself to get started on projects and assignments. Don’t wait until the pressure makes you anxious, frenzied, or upset.
4. Recognize emotions in others. Make it a habit to connect and empathize with others. Be a good listener, and share yourself honestly with others.
5. Put value into your emotions. Be clear about what you value as an organization and stay true to those values in your words and actions.