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Exercise Your Emotional Intelligence

A 72 out of 100?! I was confident I would score higher. After all, I have worked in the field of human resources for over 15 years. I felt I had been managing employees and employee issues with disciplined, controlled compassion. I’ve been a good listener, empathetic, politically savvy (mostly), and had done a great job at not losing my cool at work. The Emotional Intelligence (EI) test took approx 10 minutes, and after receiving the results, I learned that I had a lot of unfinished business in the area of my personal EI.

According to TalentSmart, a premier provider EI services and training tools, EI is the “something” in each of us that is intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is based on skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence. Decades of research now point to EI as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.

As per Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, “EI is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” EI is the balance between the rational and emotional brain. This balance can be an extremely useful tool in business. EI qualities include the ability to select work that is emotionally rewarding to avoid procrastination, self-doubt, and low achievement and a balance between work, home, and recreational life.

When understanding EI, it is important to understand the difference between personality and EI. An employee with a “great” personality may be fun, social, energetic, and outgoing. However, having a “great” personality does not necessarily equate to success in the workplace. A “good” personality does not prevent errors in judgment due to lack of clear decision making skills. What is important is the ability to exercise clear and sound judgment in situations their role presents on a regular basis. An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her own impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations. These employees also have empathy, remain optimistic even in the face of adversity, and are gifted at educating and persuading in a sales situation and resolving customer complaints in a customer service role. This “clarity” in thinking and “composure” in stressful and chaotic situations is what separates top performers from weak performers in the workplace. Have you ever asked yourself why some employees behave appropriately and others inappropriately in the workplace? In many cases the answer to this question lies in EI rather than the individual’s “personality type.” According to EQI.org, unmet emotional needs cause the majority of problems at work.

Since EI has such a strong impact on professional success it is crucial as HR professionals and talent managers that we learn to understand and promote the development of EI in ourselves and our employees. I have practiced sharing EI with employees as I learn more about how to strengthen my own EI. This awareness is a powerful way for employees to focus their energies in one direction with tremendous results. EI is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. The ability to self regulate is important in the workplace for self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability and innovation. The bottom line, is that EI impacts productivity which impacts the bottom line. To follow are a few day-to-day practices to strengthen Emotional Intelligence:

  • Practice deep and focused listening when communicating with another employee. Instead of rehearsing your response while the other person is speaking, focus your mind and attention on asking questions to clarify and understanding what the person is saying.
  • Ask questions to identify emotions and feelings. Ask the employee how he or she feels about the information provided to you. Ask for their gut feeling about how things are progressing. If you have difficulty reading how the employee is reacting to a situation emotionally, ask to discover.
  • Practice noticing body language or nonverbal communication. Stop long enough to recognize when body language is inconsistent with the words spoken. Get used to interpreting body language as a means to understand an employee’s complete communication.
  • Observe your own reactions to an employee’s communication. Make sure that you react on two levels. You need to react to the facts and to the underlying emotions, needs, dreams, and so forth that are expressed in most communications, if you are observant. If you don’t get the second level, that involves emotions, ask until you understand.
  • Pay more attention to your own emotions. Analyze how you respond in emotional situations. Seek feedback from employees whom you trust to react with some degree of unbiased, unprejudiced response. Seek additional feedback from a boss or mentor.

Emotional intelligence is a hallmark of an effective manager or leader. The great news is that EI can be learned and strengthened. So let’s begin exercising our EI today! For more information on EI and taking the EI test, visit TalentSmart.com.

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