In the 1980’s, academics began to study success attributes in the workplace. They discovered that people with the same intellect had different levels of success. A defining feature that explained this anomaly became known as emotional intelligence (EI). Soon thereafter further studies showed a link between emotional intelligence and personal achievement. Interestingly, these studies also established a link to professional success and happiness.
By 1998, researchers had established that effective leaders shared a common trait. They all demonstrated a high degree of emotional intelligence. This is not to say that technical competency was unimportant. Rather, it was an entry level need if people aspired to executive positions.
Why do emotions in the workplace matter? And can the emotional disposition of a group contribute to the success or failure of a business outcome? To answer this question, researchers studied two teams. The first team included members high in EI and the second team consisted of low EI participants. Both teams were able to complete their respective assignments. But, the team high in emotional intelligence got the job done in a more efficient way. The team with low EI achieved the same outcome, but at the expense of productivity and hundreds of worker hours.
4 key qualities to look for
We define Emotional Intelligence using four traits: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Self-awareness and self-management describe personal competencies. While social awareness and relationship management, together, describe social competence.
Self-awareness is a quality that helps us acknowledge and precisely define an emotion as it occurs. Self-management assists us in directing our behavior positively (as a result of being self-aware). Social awareness is a trait that helps us observe and understand what people think and feel. Finally, Relationship Management leverages our awareness of others, in relation to ourselves, to manage behaviors positively.
How do you develop or grow EI?
Self-awareness is the foundation upon which we can develop and improve other EI traits. When we become tuned into our own feelings, we have a unique ability to perceive the current environment. A person who is self-aware can then recognize how current environment affects other people. Then, once we become tuned into our current emotional environment we become socially aware.
Learning to base how you should act or what you should say consistent with your environment, assures that you’re in control of your emotions improving self-management. Effectively de-constructing emotional elements affecting other people then improves relationship management skills. A person that successfully employs emotional intelligence exudes positive behaviors, which resonate with other people and foster an environment of loyalty. In the end, leadership is both given and earned.
Research on emotional intelligence is quite conclusive; emotions do affect team performance and can have a powerful impact. Thus, a critical attribute to leadership development is learning to read how we and other people “feel” in relation to each other in professional settings. The results will not only impact your productivity and business outcomes, but ensure your team is more connected, better equipped to address or avoid conflict and establishes positive work cultures and environments.
Andrew Milivojevich (Mechanical Engineering ’89) is the President of the Knowledge Management Group Inc. In his free time he writes, coaches, and speaks at various events. If you are interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, check out Andrew’s book Emotional Sigma: The 8 Step Process to Emotionally Intelligent Leadership.