Emotional Intelligence at work

You might have heard of this concept before. I started hearing people talking about it years ago and it is becoming more important as a conversation element when talking about talent and leadership. In fact I believe it is a critical competency I’m the work place, even though it doesn’t necessarily float to the top when we list out the key competencies of our organisation’s future leaders. That is an oversight.
So what is Emotional Intelligence?
The most basic definition is the ability of someone to sense or understand how the people around them feel and how their actions/words impact those people’s feelings/state of behaviour.

Many people smarter than me on the subject have written books on the theme, most notably the 1995 book of the same name by Daniel Goleman. So it has been around a while. Go check it out.

While there are many people that have criticised the concept, I have been discussing it with colleagues and evaluating the behaviour of some leaders in my organisation and I have become convinced that it is an essential trait of a great leader and great organisations.

Let’s look at the concept of motivation first as being motivated is key to driving employee performance, productivity and greater longer term profitable growth. Motivation of employees is key for any organisation. Motivation may even be more important than intelligence or skill.

An old school friend of mine recently Stand Up paddled across the Atlantic over a 3 month period unassisted. Just take a moment to think about that. Across the Atlantic! On a paddle board! And with nobody to help him. Of course he trained for it, he poured over maps of ocean currents, he made sure he took exactly what he needed. He planned for the unexpected but when you read his blog of his way across an ocean what becomes clear is that he believed above everything that he could do it. He was incredibly motivated to get to the other side. Without this motivation and self belief I doubt he would have been able to dig deeper into himself to keep pushing forward.

Check him out on http://chrisbertish.com/

So motivation is undoubtedly important but how do you motivate someone?

It is not all about the money : money just breeds the desire for more money. It is important but doesn’t motivate in the long term. It doesn’t stimulate your creativity or analytical thinking.

It is all about how they feel: you can scare someone into doing something. You can help them find passion about a project and see them excel in it. You can out them against a competitor and jealousy or pride can I instill in them that extra energy to step out above the crowd.

We have all felt how those emotions inside us can push us to go beyond what we are capable of doing. So the best way to motivate people is to work with their emotions. I wouldn’t necessarily lean toward using fear but I would use positive feedback about achievements. What do I mean by that?

When someone does something well, they like feedback. Think about your children if you have, or your time at school and the marks you were given for your effort. There was a certain pride when you got good marks, perhaps when you got the best in the class. Often those who didn’t get top marks felt jealous and motivated to work harder. Your child does something well and you clap and tell him or her they’ve done a good job and they smile and relish in that feedback.

So celebrate success! Achievements breed the desire to achieve more. Progress is exciting and excitement is emotional.

Give positive feedback and don’t focus on what is not working all the time. Do you really believe that by pointing out everything someone is doing badly will motivate them? Try it, get someone to sit for 30 minutes telling you everything you do badly and see how you feel after that. I bet you won’t be bouncing around all filled with positive vibes afterwards!!

Best to get a spouse or friend to do that by the way – if you do test this. Believe me : negative feedback is a motivational killer and modern organisations have somehow convinced themselves that people need it to improve. That’s an illusionary joke we are playing on ourselves.

So you might now be thinking how did I go from Emotional Intelligence to motivating people. Perhaps you got the link already, but left me spell it out anyway.

To understand how to motivate people you need to have a high degree of Emotional intelligence. If you are the type of leader who gives critical negative feedback all the time, your level of emotional intelligence is probably very low and I would dare to say you probably got where you are by being technically very competent or you rolled a lot of people. People aren’t motivated by negative things. Read that again and again.

So to build high performing organisations that are profitable we need leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence. We are all people working together and what gets us moving and progressing is our emotions.

So be aware of your emails, your words and how they impact your team and your peers. Try to understand and get to know the people around you at work. It is only by knowing them that you can start to become aware of how they feel about things. You can’t spend one hour a month with someone in your team and think you know what motivates them or gets them moving. You can’t have a relationship built on an hour every month. Spend time on it and you’ll start knowing your teams and peers. Once you start knowing them, you can start adapting your communication in a way that boosts their motivation and you’ll be on your way building a strong, high performing organisation.

Emotional intelligence is critical to high performing leadership. Don’t underestimate it.

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