It’s not news that things are a-changing, the world of work included. Once upon a time, when someone was hired to management, the big focus was on their IQ and their qualifications. How prestigious is their degree? How intelligent are they?
Historically, workplaces have focused on IQ as the main predictor of performance at work, trusting that this element of intelligence would guarantee success. However, the tides have changed markedly in recent years and respected US consulting firm, TalentSmart, reports that emotional intelligence (EQ) is the top predictor of success at work. EQ includes your levels of self-awareness, your ability to manage yourself (your emotions and behaviours in particular) and your awareness of others – including their emotions, behaviour and needs.
The research suggests that 90% of high performers have high EQ, and people with high EQ earn on average nearly $30K more than their (lower EQ) peers. Not bad.
These kind of stats are often followed by a shoulder shrug from the average manager or business owner. But guys, this is not tree-hugging, ohhh-you-really-should-consider-emotions-at-work-more situation – this is about having leaders in your organisation who can lead people. Relate to people. Understand themselves. Understand others.
And the enduring irony of this is that we wrap up these capabilities into the category of ‘soft skills’ when for many people they are the hardest of all.
What a lark.
The potential an emotionally intelligent leader has to build teams, strengthen client relationships and build culture is not to be underestimated. In an increasingly information-based, relational work environment, our ability to understand and manage our emotions is already what makes the biggest difference at work.
As a leader, your level of self-awareness, awareness of others and your ability to respond flexibly to various situations can set you apart from the pack; and help you to enjoy your leadership role even more. For instance, I notice that when people in leadership positions are able to tame their stress response or their temper and take a more considered approach they feel more pleased with the impact they’re having and better about themselves too.
Own it, baby
To truly be brilliant at work and happy in life, we must own how we are feeling and how we are responding in various situations and contexts: this is the heart of emotional intelligence.
Taking ownership for our responses – both internal and external – puts us back in the driver’s seat of our lives so that not only can we more easily take charge of what is happening inside ourselves, but also more easily influence what is going on around us.
So what is the one thing that most often gets in the way of having high EQ and being brilliant at work? Stress. And the more aware we are of our stress triggers and the more often we interrupt these responses, the more likely we are to be in a wise, resourceful state. More on beating stress here.
When you know how you do what you do,
you can do what you want.
It’s (almost) all about self-awareness
Awareness takes us from potentially blindly moving through our day immersed in our to-do list or concerns, to having a wider awareness of how we are going through our day, how we are doing our thinking, and how that is working for us.
Awareness is the doorway to change (if you’re at a party with some hors d’oeuvre smeared on your cheek, you’re not going to wipe it off if you don’t even know it’s there). With awareness we regain choice about how we are being, moment to moment. It helps us be more in charge of what it is we are thinking and feeling. We can’t always change what is happening around us, but we can change the response we are having to it. That is where we take control back. Do you really want a missed deadline to wind you up that much?!
Moshe Feldenkrais said “When you know how you do what you do, you can do what you want”. It’s easy for all of us to default to our already-always-way-of-being. Our brain loves going down the same old neural pathways. We’re habit-forming creatures. If we want to be truly effective leaders, though, we need to be able to flex and adapt our approach, and evolve ourselves. Leaders who notice the impact they have on others will make more emotionally intelligent decisions about how to respond next – whether it’s to do more of the same if the impact is positive, or adjust their approach for next time if they want to have a different impact.
So are you at the mercy of your defaults, or are you an evolving leader?