Whilst there is compelling evidence that emotional intelligence (when understood properly) is very relevant to the workplace, many people struggle to understand this in practical terms.
Two key challenges for many of our clients around emotional intelligence are: “what does it actually mean?” and “how can I understand the link between emotional intelligence as a concept, and how it might affect my performance at work?.”
In this blog we will use three scenarios to highlight the importance of emotional intelligence, and in so doing point out some key areas that make a difference. The scenarios relate to:
- managing your staff;
- sales; and
With each of these scenarios, we will pick out some key facets of emotional intelligence that are relevant, in order to help you see, in a practical sense, the potential impact on the outcome.
Before diving in, it’s important to note that there is no set definition of what emotional intelligence is. At Sport and Beyond we tend to focus on two main concepts to help bring clarity. The first is an ‘anchor’: emotions drive thoughts, thoughts drive behaviour, and behaviour drives performance. This is why it matters. The second is a definition that seems to create most resonance with our clients: an ability to understand and control your emotions and those emotions of the people you are working with and manage your relationships accordingly.
Managing Your Staff – An Appraisal Meeting
You are a manager, and are about to sit down with one of your reports for their half-yearly appraisal meeting. If you do your job well, you should have taken the time in advance of the session to prepare: looked at any relevant documentation; thought about your aims for the session; what questions you are going to ask etc. But have you also taken the time in advance to think about the ‘emotional’ side of things? If you haven’t, all your carefully prepared plans could go out of the window, and the outcome could be very far from what you have hoped.
What do we mean by this?
Let’s start with you. What are your levels of empathy like? This is your ability to see the world from someone else’s point of view. If low, you might struggle to see the situation from the other person’s shoes. Perhaps you gave them a hard time in the last appraisal. This might have knocked their confidence, and they might be coming to the session feeling pretty nervous. Good empathy levels would enable you to realise and appreciate this, and so set a better and more constructive ‘environment’ for the meeting. What about your levels of emotion expression? This is how fluent you are at communicating your emotions. If you sit low down the scale on this facet, you might come across as aloof and cold. Equally, if you sit high up on the scale on this facet, your face might give away your emotions too easily, having an adverse effect on the meeting.
What about the person you are appraising? If their levels of self-esteem are very high, they might come across as over-confident, and not be particularly interested in any suggestions you might have for self-development. If their levels are very low, you may have to adapt your style to ensure you are doing all you can to give them the necessary confidence-build that they require. If their impulse control isn’t that great, they might blurt something out that in retrospect they wish they hadn’t. If, as a manager, you can recognise that that was down to poor impulse control, that might be something you can help them with.
Sales – Meeting a Prospective new client/customer
So you’re fairly new into your sales role, and you are meeting with a prospective new client/customer. Your levels of stress management could be very relevant to how you perform in the meeting. Equally, your levels of optimism could make a difference – if you are very optimistic, yes you might come across as confident, but you might not have prepared as well as you should have done. If you tend to sit lower down on the optimism scale, you may well have taken a much more thorough approach to the meeting. Where you sit on the emotion regulation scale could also have a big impact: this is your ability to control your own internal feelings and emotional states.
Looking outward, your levels of emotion perception are key. How good are you at recognising emotions in others? Can you see that the person you are meeting with is particularly upset/anxious/happy/overjoyed today, and if so, how are you going to adapt your style accordingly. Let’s say that they are having a bad day, and feeling particularly anxious about something. If you go in all guns blazing, full of the joys etc, and don’t ‘dial down’ your approach, you might put them off completely.
How can emotional intelligence impact on your performance when giving a key presentation? One of the key facets here will be emotion perception; how good are you at picking up on what you are feeling? Can you recognise that you are nervous? Can you recognise that you are feeling the pressure, and desperate to do a good job? Only by picking up on this can you start to deal with it (and there are some great tools that can help you to deal with these emotions). Stress management might again be relevant, as might your levels of social awareness – how you are able to perceive and adapt to the ‘feeling’ and atmosphere in the room. Knowing what your levels of self-motivation are could also be relevant – will it be better for you to have some kind of external motivation to get on with the preparation for the presentation, or are you someone who has good internal drive?
Hopefully these scenarios help to give some practical context to the importance and relevance of emotional intelligence in the work place, and highlight how it can be such a game changer.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01904 737007.