EQ can be just as valuable as IQ in the workplace. It is time we put empathy, encouragement, insight and self-awareness higher up the agenda
A good leader should be empathetic and try to understand how others feel.
A good leader should be empathetic and try to understand how others feel.
Softer skills can be dismissed as being irrelevant at work and historically it used to be considered unprofessional to show an emotional side in business. But times have changed and the importance of so-called emotional intelligence, or EQ, is now being recognised as an important leadership skill, helping govern behaviour and influencing our relationships with others, as well as our own performance and results.

In his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, psychologist Daniel Goleman described EQ as knowing how one is feeling and being able to handle those feelings without becoming swamped; being able to motivate oneself to get jobs done; being creative and performing at one’s peak; sensing what others are feeling; and handling relationships effectively.

While we are pretty much stuck with our IQ level, emotional intelligence can be developed until well into our forties. Regardless of whether someone is a born leader or not, most people can bolster their work performance by improving their EQ.

Getting in touch with your EQ
The first step in development is to know yourself – to become more self-aware and understand your strengths and weaknesses. Receiving feedback from managers and colleagues can shine a light on how we come across and provide insight into behaviours we need to develop or change. Some people find it helpful to use a mentor or a business coach to help them too. The key to development is to not be defensive about any feedback and instead see it as an opportunity for growth.

Becoming self-aware means recognising our flaws and understanding how we can improve. However, it shouldn’t be an exercise in self-criticism but an opportunity to address our weaknesses and focus on our strengths – a balance is vital.

Developing greater empathy is essential too. A good way to do this is to put yourself in other people’s shoes and avoid being judgmental. For example, perhaps one of your team has been unproductive for a couple of weeks. When you talk to them, you find out they are devastated by the loss of a pet. While you are perhaps not an animal lover, you may have experienced a sense of loss yourself for a different reason and can draw on this experience to show empathy.

In the past, emotions were often thought of as a set of characteristics that needed to be controlled at work as they demonstrated weakness and instability. It was believed that focusing on the task was the only way to increase efficiency.

However, we now know that to function professionally, we have to acknowledge and manage our emotions and others’ to encourage smooth communication and avoid conflicts.

Managing emotions doesn’t mean bottling them up or ignoring them, as this can lead to stress. It’s about understanding them and expressing them constructively. Emotions used positively can be hugely inspirational and motivational for others.

How to enhance your EQ
Here are some tips to increase your own emotional intelligence and that of your team:

Identify your strengths and weaknesses by asking for feedback and observing other people’s reaction to your behaviour. Instead of blaming them for their reaction, ask yourself what could you have done differently.
Get a mentor or a coach that will offer you honest feedback and challenge your behaviour.
Pay attention to when you feel negative emotions. They are usually a sign. If you are frustrated, ask yourself why. If you have explained the same thing three times and people still don’t understand what you mean, take responsibility. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is Einstein’s definition of insanity. Explain it differently. Don’t change the outcome, change the methodology.
Observe your team closely, notice their mindset and emotional state. Address any issues in a constructive manner.
Be empathetic and try to understand how others feel. You may not feel the same way as they do but you may have experienced the same emotion for a different reason. Use this experience to show empathy.
Have the courage to be wrong. Admitting mistakes and learning from themshows character and integrity.
Encourage open communication by listening and being curious about what is being suggested. People in the workplace can often be defensive and showing you are interested in them can open up better communication.
Take the time to acknowledge and thank your team for their effort, and celebrate success.

Original Article Guardian UK August 2015 Here>