We want to be healthier so we replace our afternoon coffee with green tea. We want our world to be healthier so we start measuring our carbon footprint and pondering such questions as “Do I really need to drive my own car to work every day?”
It makes sense to want our organizations to be healthier too – functioning on all cylinders, as it were, from the quality of our leaders to the cooperative spirit of the workforce. We want a workplace that becomes more effective by bringing out the best in ourselves and others.
For that, many organizations are looking at the benefits of emotional intelligence (EI). Similar to green tea or ginseng, it’s not clear which exact EI ingredient leads to organizational success but we do know that emotion has an important role in the workplace. Generally speaking, EI is defined as an individual’s ability to:
- See emotion in others
- Integrate emotion into decisions
- Understand the implications emotion can have
- Manage emotion/take action
Emotional intelligence broadens our understanding of what it takes to be “smart” and is applicable across an organization. For individuals, EI can be a vehicle to upward mobility. For organizations, it can help take you from good to great, particularly in two areas:
Leader development — Poor management results from poor interpersonal skills. Organizations need managers who are more interpersonally aware, not out of social benevolence, but because it is essential to attracting and retaining quality talent.
Workforce collaboration — Collaboration among workers drives the development of new and innovative knowledge that helps ensure the sustainability of organizations. The ability to “play well with others” absolutely depends on the ability to recognize and understand the underlying emotions that fuel every human interaction.
Emotional intelligence is particularly vital in jobs that are more likely to involve negatively emotionally charged situations such as customer relations, public safety, health care, HR, and, most importantly, leadership. We also know that EI is important when forming action teams and task forces that require individuals to come together and collaborate to solve critical organizational issues. EI is also critical to individuals doing business globally. Given the complexity of cultural differences in communication, EI becomes particularly relevant to achieving important business goals across global regions.
Some organizational examples come to mind. One company had begun defining competency models for the organization and for leadership roles. In discussing what “success” looked like, the topic of emotions in the workplace came up. Looking at the recent past, the group determined that EI had played a critical role in the success (and failure) of some organizational leaders, the promotability of several key hires, and the fate of a number key initiatives (due to the EI, or lack thereof, of their champions). Consequently EI became an integral component of all competency models and of all of the organization’s HR programs from hiring to succession planning to retention.
Another company identified a gap in their learning and talent development offerings, which we defined as a lack of resources around “the ability to interact professionally and emotionally appropriate during times of stress.” For this organization, we developed a one day EI training program to help employees assess their current level of emotional intelligence and learn strategies for managing and improving this vital resource.
Emotion is an essential component in the workplace and should be recognized and considered as you revamp, retool, and revisit your talent management systems. Focus on where and how EI is important in the functioning of your teams and your organization. Think about where emotion has caused some of your key leaders to derail. Where has emotion been a critical driver of the service your customers receive? How can you define EI in terms that are real for your organization?
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