Lead with your head and heart ￼￼
Emotional intelligence is essential for effective leadership, and ROSE BRYANT-SMITH reveals five reasons why it’s paramount for successful management.
Anyone who pretends that emotional intelligence is a ‘soft’ skill has never managed a bullying claim, told an employee that their position is redundant or been involved in an industrial negotiation.
Many management tasks that are essential in today’s workplace require understanding of the emotional issues that employees and teams face. Resolving them takes strength, decisiveness, compassion, strategic thinking and integrity – and the importance of these skills shouldn’t be underestimated.
Emotional intelligence can be understood as the ability to recognise and understand your own feelings and the feelings of others, and to choose how to respond to them. In 1998 Rutgers University psychologist Daniel Goleman named five elements of emotional intelligence. These are:
- self-regulation – the ability to constructively manage your own emotions, in order to act in your own long-term best interest
- motivation beyond money and status
- empathy for others, and
- social skills – such as managing relationships and building networks.
Other skills more recently discussed as important in leadership include cultural intelligence, which is the ability to adjust to different contexts, and contextual intelligence, which enables leaders to identify and work within implied norms.
These emotional elements of leadership are worth thinking about and developing like a technical skill. Here are five reasons for this:
YOUR BUSINESS WILL BE MORE COMPETITIVE BY IMPROVING EMPLOYEES’ ENGAGEMENT
Whatever your management style, being able to build relationships with your direct reports and the broader team is essential. Inspiring and engaging staff will not only make the company a ‘nicer’ place to work, but it will also make it more competitive. Inspired employees are twice as productive as satisfied employees, and three times more productive than dissatisfied employees (Bain & Company, 2015). Employees’ engagement with their manager and with the workplace is another indicator of productivity; organisations with a high level of engagement report 22 percent higher productivity (Gallup, 2013).
CONFLICT BETWEEN YOUR TEAM MEMBERS IS INEVITABLE
Research conducted in 2016 by Dr Lindsay McMillan revealed that 20 percent of Australian workers had experienced major problems in communication with a co-worker and 50 percent had experienced serious incidents of conflict at work. Conflict is distracting and stressful, and employees look to their manager to help them through it. Low-level interpersonal issues should be resolved by the employees themselves, but if the conflict continues you’ll need to intervene. Hold the employees accountable for their conduct and how it is impacting on the team’s achievement of its objectives, and support them to resolve the issues between them.
CO-WORKERS MAY SUFFER PERSONAL CRISES OR MENTAL ILLNESS
When you employ someone, you don’t just enjoy the benefit of their skills, experience, industry connections and work ethic. You may also manage them through tough times in their lives as they experience personal issues such as illness, divorce or addiction. For example, according to beyondblue, one in five Australians experience a mental health condition in any given year, and 45 percent will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime.
Employees’ behaviours in the workplace and their relationships with the rest of the team – including their happiness, ability to focus, constructive input into interactions and discretionary effort – can be significantly impacted by what is going on outside of work. As their manager or leader, your guidance and support through difficult times can make a profound difference to the individual and the broader team.
YOU CAN’T EFFECT CHANGE WITHOUT ENGAGING PEOPLE’S HEARTS AND MINDS
Change initiatives designed to improve business performance commonly fail, and leadership and people issues are the most commonly cited reasons. A leader who is able to ‘read the room’ and support employees through their fears about the change will be far more likely to create a credible, guiding vision for the future. They can influence the team’s emotional state proactively, building optimism and enabling cooperation during the transformation process.
YOUR WORKFORCE CARES ABOUT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
As younger people join the workforce, the value of leaders’ emotional intelligence will only increase. In a 2017 study by the Levo Institute, 80 percent of the Millennial respondents reported that emotional intelligence is something they actively focus on as they develop their careers, and 87 percent of Millennials indicated a strong connection between their personal motivation to help the company succeed and the emotional intelligence of the company’s leaders.
Emotional intelligence is hard to learn and self-reflection can be uncomfortable, but they are both increasingly important in today’s workplace. Organisations with leaders who demonstrate strong character and emotional intelligence – including letting go of mistakes, showing empathy and genuine concern for the common good – have been found to have an average return on assets (ROA) of 9.35 percent over a two-year period, which is almost five times the ROA of organisations with low-rating leaders (KRM International, 2015). Leaders, can you afford not to build the emotional intelligence of your leadership? ●
Rose Bryant-Smith is a founding co-owner of workplace advisory firm Worklogic, and the author of Fix Your Team and Workplace Investigations. Worklogic works with companies and leaders across Australia to minimise bad behaviour in the workplace, address conflict and help teams to thrive. For more information visit www.worklogic.com.au.
This article also appears in the October/November issue of FM magazine.
Image: 123RFs Ion Chiosea © 123RF.com