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April 13, 2022

Emotional Intelligence, Part 1: The Missing Link To Excelling In Your Career

Generally, when most people think about what it means to excel in their careers, some of the top factors that come to mind include gaining more knowledge and skills in their industry, networking and going above and beyond. But my experience as a human resources professional has shown me that many people don’t consider how […]

Generally, when most people think about what it means to excel in their careers, some of the top factors that come to mind include gaining more knowledge and skills in their industry, networking and going above and beyond.

But my experience as a human resources professional has shown me that many people don’t consider how developing their emotional intelligence can help them make leaps and bounds in their careers.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Let’s start with the definition of emotional intelligence. The American Psychological Association defines it as a “type of intelligence that involves the ability to process emotional information and use it in reasoning and other cognitive activities.”

I define emotional intelligence as a person’s ability to identify, recognize, use and manage their own emotions in ways that help them reduce stress, communicate more effectively, empathize with others, defuse conflict and rise above challenges. To me, emotional intelligence is a blend of being able to self-reflect and identify behavioral, emotional and non-verbal cues from others that enable them to navigate situations more effectively. For example, if someone says they’re “doing great,” but their tone and body language indicate otherwise, an emotionally intelligent person would be able to pick up on it.

The Benefits Of Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace

Research has shown the many professional benefits of having emotional intelligence. For starters, research has found that people with emotional intelligence simply earn more. In one particular study that focused on Spanish professionals, researchers concluded that emotional intelligence was an important “predictor of individual salary” and that those with high emotional intelligence had “more resources to face the demands of their job, thus maximizing the outcomes.”

What’s more, according to a study conducted by Harvard researchers, being a good “team player” is “strongly related to individual scores” on a test that’s a “widely used measure of social intelligence.” And many of us can personally attest to how being a good team player puts you in great standing at work.

Emotional intelligence is essential for employees at all levels. But from experience, I’ve seen that the higher up someone goes in the corporate world, the more important having emotional intelligence becomes. Think about it—managers and C-suite executives regularly need to negotiate with and inspire others, two things that technical brilliance alone won’t achieve.

Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Important Than Ever

Now more than ever, it’s vital that business leaders develop their emotional intelligence to stay in tune with employees’ needs and ultimately increase employee retention rates.

Some companies are asking employees to return to the office (at least part-time), which will be a major change of pace for many. And, of course, there’s also the Great Resignation. Employees, unsatisfied with their work conditions, have been quitting in droves already—one of the top reasons comes down to poor emotional intelligence exhibited by management. According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, 57% of the U.S. workers surveyed said “feeling disrespected at work” was a reason why they quit.

People’s lives have changed during the pandemic; their priorities have shifted. Business leaders need emotional intelligence to connect with employees, understand their needs and wants, have honest conversations with them and not shy away from asking them the hard questions about the working conditions and arrangements they want moving forward.

Some Common Examples Of Low Emotional Intelligence Within Leadership

From what I’ve seen and read throughout my career, examples of low emotional intelligence exhibited by managers tend to fall under six main categories:

1. Inflexibility: These managers aren’t open to hearing other views. They usually have fixed stances on how projects and processes should be tackled. Inflexibility leads to an inability to reach common ground with employees and a failure to build rapport, hindering progress.

2. Not Being Fully Present: Unfortunately, not being fully present is more widespread these days than ever due to the increase in remote work and online meetings. These managers might be on their phones during meetings, dozing off or just flat out not engaging with anyone, setting a bad example for everyone else.

3. Little To No Self-Awareness: If a manager can’t even be cognizant of their own emotions and actions, they’re not going to be able to understand what their team members are thinking and feeling. Team members will pick up on this lack of self-awareness because, over time, the manager will speak and act in ways without recognizing their effect on others.

4. Lack Of Self-Reflection: A lack of self-reflection is similar to, but not the same thing as, little to no self-awareness. A lack of self-reflection comes down to managers not having the ability to take a step back and understand their own emotions and ways of behaving. By contrast, managers who self-reflect can realize when their reactions are getting heightened and emotional and are able to bring themselves back to a calmer and more rational level.

5. Missing Motivation To Grow: When given feedback, some managers are unwilling to take it in and act on it. Additionally, they don’t have the willingness to develop and grow as a leader through different avenues, like getting coaching, taking educational courses on the side, etc.

6. Results-First Mindset: These managers focus on results at all costs. Instead of recognizing employees’ contributions, managers with a results-first mindset treat their team members like cogs in a machine. And when employees don’t feel valued, they’re more likely to leave.

Not every manager with low levels of emotional intelligence will exhibit all six of these characteristics. For instance, a manager might be fully present during meetings and never get distracted but be inflexible when it comes to new ideas. But having at least one of these characteristics is detrimental to the manager’s development, their team’s experience and the company’s success.

But the good news? By taking several steps, leaders can develop their emotional intelligence—and build stronger teams and generate better business results. I'll explain how in the second (and final) part of this series.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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