Emotional Intelligence – a Critical Workplace Skill
For many decades, it has been the view of the majority of people in senior leadership positions that individuals should be promoted mainly based on their knowledge and general intelligence. This suggests that it is mental capacity that been has been often most highly valued when it comes to considering individuals for promotion. However, in the last 20 years or so, another factor has been increasingly in the mix – not so much mental intelligence but emotional intelligence. So, what specifically do we mean when we talk about emotional intelligence? Although it continues to evolve, one definition is that emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, use, manage and control emotions. This includes not only our own emotions but also those of others.
Although it has strong links with the work on social intelligence carried out by Wilson learning in the late 1950’s and 60’s, the original research on emotional intelligence was carried out by the two psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer in the late1980’s and early 1990’s. They suggested that emotional intelligence has three main branches: 1) The appraisal and Expression of Emotion, 2) The regulation of Emotion and finally 3) The utilization of Emotion. Under this key third branch they list four more categories. Each of these categories encompasses one way that we can utilize our emotions. These categories or skills are: 1) Flexible Planning 2) Creative Thinking 3) Redirected Attention and 4) Motivation.
Although Salovey and Mayer’s work made a significant impact in psychological circles in was left to others such as Goleman, Bar-on and Seligman to popularize the concept in relation to the workplace in particular. These writers broadly suggested that in application terms a more useful and less academic model is that there are four attributes that make up emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Let’s therefore briefly look at each of these parts of emotional intelligence in more detail.
Being completely aware of yourself and your emotions is naturally difficult. However, spending more reflective time on better understanding how you think and act can help every individual to not only become more in tune with how he or she sees him or herself but also with how he/she reacts to others in the workplace.
Self-management is clearly tied to self-awareness and is all about is a person’s ability to control impulsive feelings. The theory here is that once you’re aware of how you react to others, you’ll be better equipped to deal with some of the most challenging aspects of managing your emotions.
This is the ability to understand the needs and concerns of others or being in emotionally in tune with the feelings and issues raised by others. Increasing skills in this area will help to make you a person a better manager, because he or she will have heightened levels of empathy.
This is the ability to nurture relationships and inspire people. With relationship management as one of your skills, an individual is better placed to create the culture or climate in which a reporting team can do their best work.
None of the above are taught as specific subjects in college or even very often as part of a training course curriculum, but are critical subjects nonetheless. Each and every one of the above is integral to individual success and especially when leading others directly in any kind of informal or formal supervisory or management role. The ability to express and control the emotions of both ourselves and others is not only critical for our own success as a leader but helps us to better understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of those who we lead too.