Key Learning Outcomes
- Define “emotional intelligence” as the level of awareness of your own and other people’s emotions.
- Understand that emotional intelligence is a key skill requirement for those in leadership roles, and is equally important in large and small businesses where you need to lead by example and develop your team’s emotional intelligence skills.
- Learn about the key dimensions of emotional intelligence as defined by psychologist, Daniel Goleman.
- Identify how you can of improve your level of emotional intelligence.
We have all worked with someone who seems to rub everyone up the wrong way, or someone who always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, but fails to recognise it. Usually these types of people lack what is known as “emotional intelligence” or EQ. EQ has nothing to do with how smart you are or how well you can technically do a job; EQ is about how aware you are of your own and other people’s emotions, and understanding how the way that you deal with emotions can affect others.
There have been many academic studies on EQ over the past few decades but the best-known work is by psychologist, Daniel Goleman. He outlines a framework for the stages of EQ and outlines how we can work to improve our level of EQ. Many large organisations now look to a high level of EQ as an essential skill when hiring for positions where interpersonal skills are required, such as leadership roles. In small businesses we often work in close-knit groups and the impact of one or two people can have significant ramifications through the entire organisation. It is important as a leader to work on your own EQ skills so you lead through example, and to understand how you can work with your team to improve their EQ skills.[wlm_ismember]
Dimensions of EQ
People with a high level of EQ tend to be very self-aware. They understand the meaning of their own emotions and do not let them get out of control. People with a high level of self-awareness are able to look inwards and acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses and use this as a basis for self-improvement.
Self-management is the ability to not just understand our emotions but the ability to manage them. People with a high level of self-management keep their impulses in check and they do not make rash or careless decisions based on emotion. People with a high level of EQ are able to use their positive emotions to motivate others and likewise are able to suppress negative emotions when necessary.
Social awareness is the ability to perceive and understand others’ emotions. Having empathy is essential to having a high level of EQ. It is the ability to recognise and understand the feelings of others even when they are not obvious, that enables you to understand how someone might feel in a certain situation. This is an essential skill when managing a team as you need to be aware of how groups or even the entire company might be feeling.
In this dimension of EQ you are managing other people’s emotions. It may be dealing with someone who is troubled by an issue outside of work, or motivating a group to perform a difficult task or helping a new member of the team to feel welcome. As a small business owner this is an essential skill when dealing with employees who are under pressure or with a customer complaint or conflict.
Hierarchy of the dimensions
Goleman ranks the four dimensions in a hierarchy with self-awareness at the lowest level. This makes sense, as without self-awareness you cannot move onto the other higher dimensions such as self-management. Relationship management is at the highest level as it relies on the other three dimensions. To be aware of and manage other people’s emotions, you need to be aware of and in control of your own emotions.
Improve your EQ
Like almost anything with a little time and effort we can work to improve our EQ. The most important step is to be aware of how emotions can create havoc in a small business if they are not managed well.
- Build your self-awareness – Look at your strengths and weaknesses when managing your own emotions. Last time something happened that upset you, how did you handle it? Did you think before reacting or did everyone in the business know that something was wrong? Too often we see business owners come into work in a bad mood, not speaking to anyone, and this then affects the morale of the whole team. As we know self-awareness is the first step in developing EQ. Start thinking about how you are feeling and what the most appropriate response or behaviour might be. Most importantly reflect on what you can do better the next time.
- Work on your active listening skills – People with high levels of EQ are good listeners; they listen to understand rather than listen to respond. By practising good listening you will be able to understand how the other person is feeling and think before reacting.
- Look before you leap – Before you make a decision take a moment to think about the impact it will have on others. Think about how they might feel and what actions you can take to minimise any negative impact. For example, perhaps you want to extend your trading hours. While this might mean additional revenue or service to customers, think about what impact this will have on your employees and how you might be able to manage it.
- Learn from your mistakes – No one deals with everything perfectly every time. The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and improve the next time around. If you have dealt with something badly, acknowledge it to those around you and if necessary apologise.
As a business leader it is essential to work on developing a high level of EQ. This will allow you to not only manage those around you more effectively but also assist those around you to build on their levels of EQ. The benefits of having a high level of EQ are felt far beyond the workplace. People with high levels of EQ tend to have happier and more harmonious personal lives as well.[/wlm_ismember]
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