Emotional intelligence (EQ), a term often banded about on LinkedIn and in articles. What is it? Why emotional intelligence matters at work: it is the ability to understand and control your own emotions and to deal with those of others. In a nutshell, it is about our human side – how we relate to other people. Many of the clients I work with have had great careers, have amazing knowledge and expertise but find, as they progress their careers, they have challenges with those around them.
This is usually due to two reasons. Firstly, they are involved with more of the below interactions:
- Managing other people (internally and potentially suppliers).
- Managing client relationships.
- Dealing with senior internal stakeholders.
- Bringing in new clients.
Secondly, these types of interactions often bring greater challenges, different power states and expectations, so emotional intelligence is needed in bucket loads. Travis Bradberry’s research says that emotional intelligence accounts for 58% of job performance, so is not a skill to be ignored. Read what Travis Bradberry has to say about EQ in one of his articles.
People are not simply logical beings; not simply robots who are programmed to do tasks. Think about each of the situations above – trust is necessary for relationships to be maximised. Therefore emotional intelligence matters at work.
The book Trusted Advisor features a great formula to explain what contributes and detracts from building trust:
Going through each of these aspects is a job for another day. I’m sure you can see that very little about the above equation is about knowledge and technical skills. The aspects are related predominantly to your human skills. Perhaps the exception is Credibility, where some of your knowledge could be included but credibility is not solely built on this. It also involves elements such as speaking up at the right time (not just for the sake of it), looking like you do what you say you do and displaying personal confidence.
How to work on your emotional intelligence – 7 top tips
To put it simply, think about being more relational at work. Think about how you engage with people and what you engage with them about, rather than just focusing on work tasks. Here are some easy ideas to help you become more emotionally intelligent:
- Understand what your triggers are. Perhaps there are certain topics or mindsets that are more likely to make you angry/upset.
- Take your time to react to others. Very often your first reaction to something they say is not the one to best support the relationship.
- Have in mind people are different. They have not only different ways of doing things but varying beliefs, values and motivations.
- Put yourself in others’ positions more frequently. What is top of their mind that may not be top of yours? What assumptions could they have so they see things differently? What is their personal situation and what effect could this be having? If you just react from your position that is unlikely to have a good outcome.
- Listen. What are people really saying? What are they not saying that is important? Listening alone will help people feel you are interested and bothered. For example: if someone is angry, just making them feel heard can often decrease their state of anger dramatically.
- Empathise. You don’t have to agree with someone to empathise about how they feel in a situation.
- In the everyday, take time for people. It could be by, simply greeting them, enquiring how they are and sharing some ‘human’ conversation (not just about the latest deadline). It might feel like ‘a waste of time’ but will be worth it.
Small steps build your emotional intelligence and your relationships. Relationships matter at work as we don’t work in a vacuum, even when working remotely. Positive professional relationships make day to day work easier and more fruitful as well as facilitating difficult conversations when they need to happen.
I do a lot of work with my clients on navigating ‘Office Politics’ which involves emotional intelligence. You can read more about that topic in my ‘Office Politics’ guide.
If you want to read more on key skills beyond your expertise and technical ability, that are essential for career progression but which are often neglected, sign up to my short email series and eBooklet below.