15 October 2018

5 Ways to Develop the Emotional Intelligence of Your Workforce

Soft Skills / Talent Development


Vanessa Paisley

High IQ is not the key to success. In fact, research by Dr T. Bradberry, author of the bestseller, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, found that people with average IQ scores outperformed those with higher intelligence. Further investigation revealed that this anomaly can most frequently be explained by higher emotional intelligence. If this ability helps us perform at a higher level, we need to ask ourselves: how can L&D and HR professionals help their employees to develop emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a transferable skill that is currently in demand across all strata of the workforce.

It is a term created by two researchers – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer – and promoted by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name. It is defined as having the ability to understand and manage our own emotions.

leading multicultural teams
Leading Multicultural Teams in Virtual Environments
Equip yourself with the tools to navigate managing multicultural teams across borders and timezones
leading multicultural teams
Leading Multicultural Teams in Virtual Environments
Equip yourself with the tools to navigate managing multicultural teams across borders and timezones

Just as with other forms of intelligence (IQ and CQ – cultural intelligence), there is debate over the nature vs. nurture question, but most experts agree that there are elements of EQ that can be cultivated.

There are specific ways to develop emotional intelligence skills within your organization. These strategies will ultimately lead to employees being happier at work and more successful at their jobs.

Consider these five techniques that you can use to boost your and your employees’ EQ.

1.  Stop and think about feelings

Emotional intelligence starts with self and social awareness, the ability to recognize emotions (and their impact) on both you and others. Through this awareness, emotionally intelligent people don’t let their feelings rule their behavior.

This awareness begins with self-reflection.

Encourage employees to ask themselves questions such as:

  • What are my emotional strengths and weaknesses?
  • How does my current state of mind influence my thoughts and decision-making?
  • What is going on beneath the surface that influences what I say or do?

Reflective questions like these reveal valuable insights that can be used to develop new interpersonal skills. Over time they will develop a greater awareness of how they come across to other people and learn how to intercept the negative influences, enhancing the positive influences.

Further reading

2.  Show empathy towards others

Empathy is not just important for leaders, but for any member of a team.

Empathy is about recognizing and responding to the feelings of others and thinking about how it feels to be in their shoes.

According to a recent article in the HBR it is about reaching a resonance with someone even if you will never see eye-to-eye on some issues. If you reach the “I get you” level, it is enough!

Emotionally intelligent people ask themselves questions such as:

  • Do I use the platinum rule, i.e. treat people the way they want to be treated (not the way I would like to be treated)?
  • Do I question my gut reactions to people and ideas?
  • Do I find it difficult working with people who are not like me?

An empathetic person doesn’t always agree with other people’s ideas.

Sometimes gut reactions are flawed, resulting from unconscious bias.

Showing that you are trying to understand their perspective will help build deeper connections with colleagues. This is particularly helpful when you are dealing with someone who is challenging to work with.

3.  Listen to understand and not to answer

Listening is a valuable competence but often neglected. Even if you don’t agree with your colleague’s point of view it is important to acknowledge what they are saying and say, “I hear you”.

Oprah Winfrey’s amazing success is based on this skill.

She doesn’t have copious lists of interview questions when she talks to people. She actively listens and allows her next question to flow from her interviewee’s response. Easy. Through this simple method, she establishes trust and rapport.

Encourage your employees to develop emotional intelligence by asking themselves these questions:

  • How do I come across to the person I’m talking to?
  • Do I genuinely follow the dialogue?
  • Do I interrupt people?
  • Do I listen so I can talk next, or do I listen to understand?

Reflecting on your answer to these questions is even more important when working in international teams.

Language or cultural barriers may cause miscommunication and slow down the communication process further and inflate emotionally unintelligent responses.

4.  See challenges and criticism as a learning opportunity

Encourage employees to look at how they deal with criticism and try to deal with the feedback in a positive way.

This means addressing the emotions they feel on receiving the feedback and focusing on how they might deal with a similar situation in the future.

It may be that the feedback was delivered in a brutal way but still had a core of truth to it.

Emotionally intelligent people have taught themselves to reflect:

  • Why has this upset me?
  • How did I react?
  • What can I do without blaming someone else or finding excuses for why I did it this way?

As you become more emotionally intelligent you will be able to motivate yourself more easily and respond well to a challenge. You will remain motivated to reach goals even if the path isn’t smooth.

leading multicultural teams
Leading Multicultural Teams in Virtual Environments
Equip yourself with the tools to navigate managing multicultural teams across borders and timezones
leading multicultural teams
Leading Multicultural Teams in Virtual Environments
Equip yourself with the tools to navigate managing multicultural teams across borders and timezones

So, take time to deconstruct any negative feedback, verify it and evaluate it for the future. And once you’ve processed the feedback and acted on it, move on and don’t dwell.

5.  Manage your relationships well

Once you have practiced the first four techniques, the final step in developing your emotional intelligence is managing your relationships well.

Good emotional intelligence leads to improved social and networking skills.

People who have built up a high emotional intelligence are able to communicate effectively, deal with conflict more smoothly and encourage more trust in colleagues. They are able to let others celebrate success.

When looking at how you deal with people at work, ask yourself:

  • Have I neglected anyone’s needs in my team?
  • Have I been too direct or indirect when communicating with someone from another culture?
  • Do I praise people and acknowledge them for their contributions at work?

Techniques like these build trust and inspire others to follow your lead when it counts. Learning how to develop emotional intelligence is a crucial part of every professional’s career path and it is something that improves with age and experience. In a fast-paced world, it’s important to fast-track your EQ as it effectively leads to less stress and anxiety, providing you with better coping strategies and greater resilience at work.

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