I’m often asked about how emotional intelligence is being used in the workplace today. Why does it matter? Many organizations from Fortune 500 companies through to small not-for-profits are leveraging the benefits of EI by using assessment to determine any number of elements from organizational “fit” to leadership promotion or as part of a robust catalogue of professional development options. It is important to recognize that when using assessment as part of an organization’s decision-making platform they are likely using more then one type of assessment coupled with other data gathering methods (like questionnaires, interviews, prior work performance, etc.). More and more you will find EI is in the mix.
This points to emotional intelligence’s value in the workplace. To illustrate this in more of a day-to-day context think of someone you know who enjoys a high degree of professional success. Someone who seems to effortlessly find herself/himself on the right projects or teams, who clearly loves their work, who seemingly has little professional stress and handles herself/himself really well in meetings, navigating office politics effectively and who is well thought of by the majority of their colleagues. I know a handful of people like that – there are not very many. It is the “ideal” to be sure and while we seem to only see these individuals on their “best days” these professionals have the same hurdles and grief occurring in their work and careers as we do. So what is the difference?
Much of it has to do not only with how well they handle themselves, and being very self aware, but how effectively they handle the myriad types of information that are coming to them from other people. They can take in mood, context, pressing concerns, non-verbal body communication, verbal communication and many other bits and pieces of data and synthesize them in a time frame that works for others as well as themselves. That is the value of emotional intelligence in the workplace; being able to be present for ourselves, and for others, consistently creating an environment where everyone feels valued. Sound utopian? It is a bit and that is why most of us can only point to a few individuals who have completely mastered the complicated and nuanced environment that is the workplace today (and truthfully it doesn’t happen overnight, not even for the handful we know of). But the science is catching up with today’s workplace reality making assessment and coaching approachable and accessible to individuals and organizations alike. Is it going to fix every problem? Nope. Is it going to better equip us to face stress, change, tedium, duty and accomplishment in our careers with a positive outlook and professional energy? It offers that potential to everyone who invests in it.
Working with emotional intelligence is an incredible opportunity to see how flexible this tool can be. Whether you are able to find new opportunities and ways of working that benefit your professional life through self-study or through the use of assessment and coaching it’s worth the investment. In practice emotional intelligence can provide very real and sustainable benefits at work. However, anyone looking at this tool, especially in the context of a monetary investment in assessment and coaching, often look to understand how that transpires. It will be different for everyone who chooses to spend a measure of time (or money) on this – no two journeys are the same.
One of the most often remarked upon result is that it gives individuals the opportunity to “respond not react”. For many this means they are consistently in control of the most powerful resource they possess, themselves. In meetings they are able to present a calm and assertive presence under fire; with subordinates they can provide guidance in the form of facilitative leadership rather then blunt direction. The possibilities of what that one simple thing can do in a professional context are endless. One client described it as “…having the ability to take on a stressful event like it was happening in slow motion, thinking things through and formulating the most appropriate response – the first time in real time”.
For others the results are found thorough acquiring a deeper measure of self-awareness, and being able to use it to its fullest extent. One client remarked that he was able to figure out the few subtle things that had likely been holding him back throughout his whole career; “I didn’t realize that my drive to be really effective was creating circumstances where I wasn’t making the decisions my organization needed…I thought I was being very through. Turns out I was stuck in a loop of trying to be perfect and missing critical opportunities.”
Emotional intelligence is an incredibly flexible tool that allows anyone the opportunity to pursue the right changes while also examining their strengths. Assessment creates a balanced portfolio allowing individuals to clearly see what to stop, start and continue doing in their current work. This level of awareness brings efficiency as well as results, propelling professionals forward on their path to realizing their full potential.
What is “emotional intelligence”? It’s important to clarify what is meant by the term – it’s a big phrase. In speaking to others about emotional intelligence you may receive responses like “it is someone’s’ level of maturity” or “they way they work with others”; these are all aspects of emotional intelligence, but they don’t fully capture the spectrum of what emotional intelligence can influence in your career or how it is best applied.
If you Google the phrase you’ll get a lot of hits. All of them represent similar themes but you’ll also notice subtle differences in emphasis. It can be confusing. One of the reasons for this is that emotional intelligence touches on so many aspects of our professional and personal lives that it’s represented many different ways through many different “lenses”.
A definition I find useful comes from one of the most widely used tools in emotional intelligence assessment, the EQ-i 2.0 from Multi-Health Systems (MHS); they define emotional intelligence as “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”
Awareness is a key component of EI – it’s hard to use a strength to it’s full potential or improve something when you don’t have a clear picture of what it is and how it’s either helping or challenging you in your professional life. Many of us have faced this task and may feel that no matter what changes we’ve made it hasn’t been as effective as we’d like it to be (or worth all the effort). An EQ-i assessment can build this level of awareness and provides a solid base line so you clearly see what to focus your energy on, informing your strategy moving forward to get results. There are many ways to build self-awareness; seeking direct feedback, debriefing critical points of work and/or assessment are great options. Assessment provides a keen advantage, as it is less time-consuming then capturing this “snapshot” one-on-one with colleagues and managers; it also allows you to pursue this privately, rather then through the medium of direct feedback (and the discomfort that sometimes follows a professional feedback request). Assessment provides a documented and objective snapshot of the many facets of your emotional and social skills and how effectively you are applying them in your professional life.
When thinking about your EI development consider the definition of EI and what strengthening these skills could mean for your career. Consider the value of a comprehensive base line from a recognized assessment tool as a way to help you on a productive path towards increasing (and showcasing) your full professional potential.
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.