Unlocking Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Improve Judgment at Work
By Anne Nickerson, Vice President Client Advocacy, Ulysses Learning
Aristotle once said, “Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; that is not easy.” Substitute any emotion for the word “angry,” and the same is true. Many have experienced how emotions can get in the way of making good decisions, but may not realize emotional intelligence is the key for individuals and organizations to keep a competitive advantage in order to rapidly respond to change and maintain a motivated and talented workforce.
Leading and coaching is a people business and comes with a great responsibility to set direction and engage people to deliver great service experiences. Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), is defined as “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” EQ is a dimension of intelligence that is responsible for our ability to be aware of our own emotions and the emotions of others. Understanding and using this awareness allows us to more effectively manage ourselves and our relationships with others.
The challenge is to see the value of emotions rather than being uncomfortable with the “softer” side of doing business. EQ has been described as “being comfortable in your own skin” and understanding one’s purpose, strengths, and how to lead others to be comfortable as well. EQ plays a huge part in successful customer relationships through discerning the emotions of customers and how to best address a situation. Understanding the potential outcomes of how we express our own emotions is also important to avoid adverse effects on our work and personal life.
Countless studies across the globe, as diverse as the military to McDonald’s, have been conducted since the 1995 publication of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, Why it Can Matter More than IQ. These studies have repeatedly shown and proven a strong correlation between EQ and trust, adaptability, creativity, and high performance. Knowing that great service and customer loyalty is the ultimate outcome of most organizations, developing and consistently polishing our EQ makes great sense, as it impacts 80% of reaching successful outcomes.
There are five dimensions of EQ which are divided between self-awareness and awareness of others. They include:
· Knowing Your Own Emotions
· Managing your Own Emotions
· Recognizing and Understanding the Emotions of Others
· Managing the Emotions of Others
· Motivating Yourself
Knowing Your Own Emotions
Think of this equation: S+ER=O where “S” represents the situation, “ER” represents our responses driven by our emotions, and “O” represents outcomes. The only part of this equation we control is the “ER” or our emotional response that ultimately creates the outcome. By keeping your eyes on the goal, and understanding emotions, you are able to better understand how they impact your actions. Think about coaching situations you encounter during a given day. What response and actions do you take when you are about to coach a defensive or belligerent employee? How might the outcome change if you were to take a different approach? Focus and think of your emotional strengths and how to use these to achieve a win-win situation.
For example, perhaps your emotional strength is interest and understanding. You can diffuse the defensiveness by digging deeper into what’s going on in this employee’s world. Intentionally be curious and ask questions, such as “I see that getting feedback isn’t your favorite way to spend time. What’s one small thing you or I could do to make it more comfortable for you?” Perhaps the defensiveness they are expressing is coming from a place of feeling embarrassed, unknowledgeable, or from how they were previously treated when receiving feedback in a negative manner. Once you realize their defensiveness is coming from a place of self-preservation, use your EQ skills of empathy, optimism, and creativity to enhance this representative’s work life and create a comfortable way for them to receive feedback.
Managing Your Own Emotions
Think about the hardest and longest day at work, where it seemed that everything was going wrong. In reflection, determine if you focused on remaining composed and positive in each situation. How did you control your impulse to react? Allow time before responding, or put some thought and space between the situation and your response. Knowing your personal triggers, and managing how to respond to those in the future is how you continue to develop your EQ. Ultimately, by practicing EQ with the clear intention of creating a positive work environment, your integrity will shine through!
Recognizing and Understanding the Emotions of Others.
Consider the employee who takes your feedback to heart, uses it, and does an exceptional job of demonstrating emotional self-awareness. In your coaching sessions, reinforce their work, and thank them for their teamwork, collaboration, and self-control in difficult situations vs. assuming they are just doing what they’re supposed to do.
Imagine you overhear a call from a rep speaking with an enraged customer. Using a call model with the goal of leaving this customer satisfied, you hear her say, “I understand losing your job has put a lot of stress on you and your family. I’ll be happy to review the information to find the best option to keep your account intact.” By the end of the call, the customer is satisfied and has a plan of action.
This call may have taken a very different course if this rep had not displayed a strong use of a call model and EQ awareness. Recognize her efforts during the conversation of listening and letting the customer know their issue and emotion was heard, and commend her on finding solutions that exemplify the values of your organization, staying self-aware of her own reactions, putting herself in the shoes of the customer, and using good judgment to find a win-win solution.
Managing the Emotions of Others
Individuals often give cues of how they are feeling through their demeanor, body language, and voice tone. When working with customers, this could manifest itself in whether representatives sound caring or abrasive. Reflect on how what you’re hearing from reps during customer conversations. To manage the emotions of others, you may need to adjust your body language, tone of voice, or actions to move the reps to a more positive emotional state. As a leader and coach, you can check in on them to see how they’re doing, affirm how they are feeling, and then find ways for everyone to ease back to a better place.
Cheryl O’Donoghue, Founder of Business Insights, offers this advice. “I encourage every business leader and manager of people to invest time in understanding and learning more about Emotional Intelligence. I have found in my personal experience as a manager that this investment pays dividends many, many times over. It helps you do your job better.”
As a leader and coach, the majority of the day is often focused on others which can drain your energy. It is important to focus on tasks that give you energy and excitement. Imagine you are feeling burned out, your shoulders and back hurt, and you find yourself overwhelmed and discouraged. Rather than feeding the negative emotions, ask yourself what your body is telling you, or what is happening in your environment to cause your reactions. Find one small action you can take that would be good to bring you back to your center of positivity.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, summarizes the importance of EQ when he says, “It’s not IQ that leads to success. EQ is more important: emotional intelligence, social skills, how you relate, can you get things done. That’s what makes a difference, especially in management.” Think back to Aristotle’s message and take a closer look at how EQ is impacting not only your decisions but your team’s as well. By strengthening and harnessing a greater understanding of the five dimensions of EQ, your organization will gain a competitive advantage in creating better customer experiences with successful outcomes.