Emotional intelligence and business – what can we learn?

OBI | 13 March 2018


A recent article by Forbes piqued my interest, inspiring me to have a deeper look at the topic of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence can be defined as the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relations judiciously and empathetically. Emotional intelligence, it is said, is the key to both personal and professional success.

The Forbes article was focused around high potential employees. The thinking around high potentials is that these are the ‘ones for the future’ – the employees who can go on to be key players, and are therefore worthy of investing time in developing, so that they can at some point replace your top talent – a more sustainable, affordable way of doing things than external hiring.

Forbes cited a recent industry report by the Corporate Research Forum that indicated that 53% of organisations are not satisfied with their ‘HiPo programs.’

In addition, the article highlighted that there are four common mistakes organisations tend to make in their HiPo programs;

– Performance is not potential – removing people from a role they’re good at just to promote them might not always be for the best

– Emergence is not effectiveness – confident, charismatic types may be too self-focused to lead effectively

– Development is universal – everyone is different

– Every HiPo has a dark side – the vital few are often the painful few, those who are difficult to manage can often be the most brilliant

There are some interesting points made, but I’m also interested in exploring not just the programmes being developed by businesses for high potential talent, but on the leaders of the business world – how emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect in attracting, developing and retaining talent.

A lot of the coverage of emotional intelligence has looked at the potential negative side – where narcissistic leaders will use emotive language to try and manipulate their workforce for their best interests. University College London professor Martin Kilduff’s team of experts suggest emotional intelligence helps people disguise one set of emotions while expressing another for personal gain.

This can certainly be damaging to a business – it could not be truer that people leave managers or directors, rather than businesses.

text-1But on the flip side of that, a strong emotionally intelligent leader can transform the performance of a workforce. It’s important to create a culture within a business where people feel valued, respected and still able to achieve their personal goals – all of which can be fuelled by an emotionally intelligent leader.

I have been fortunate to be trusted and had investment in me since day one however all are not so fortunate. Here is what I believe characterises a strong emotionally intelligent leader;

1 Provide a space to grow – Your employees need a platform to grow. It’s important to invest in your people. There’s only one winner in the following debate: ‘What if you invest in your people and they leave?’ versus ‘What about if you don’t and they stay?’

2 Open career doors – It’s important to give your employees access to new networks and with that more responsibility in their respective roles.

3 Defend and forgive us when we need it – Those starting out in their careers will make mistakes – it’s important that there is an arm around the shoulder to advise where things went wrong.

4 Recognise and reward us – Being from a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture myself I know it is important to have the good times to complement the dedication.

5 Develop us as leaders – A fundamental reason why employees join a business is because of the leaders of that organisation. So to develop talent and improve business performance, emotionally intelligent leaders set time aside to provide their knowledge and expertise to their workforce.

6 Inspire us to push boundaries – An emotionally intelligent leader will put you in potentially awkward and uncomfortable situations for your development. These leaders will make sure you are well equipped and give you the belief required to hit higher heights.

7 Tell us our work matters – Leaders can come from any part of the business and it’s always nice to give recognition to the people that deserve it. Recognition is a simple but highly effective method of people feeling valued within the business.

Emotional intelligence is vital and hugely underrated when it comes to developing and retaining talent. All of these factors executed well lead to a strong emotionally intelligent leader.

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