As more and more people are working remotely due to COVID-19, emotional intelligence in the workplace is becoming increasingly important for leaders and project managers. Without emotional intelligence, it is very difficult to achieve project goals and manage remote teams effectively.
Leaders with high emotional intelligence are more likely to be effective in their duties such as communication, problem-solving, and management. This is because they have the primary skills required to handle their job and also a deeper understanding of themselves, their team, and how their words and actions impact success.
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to effectively manage emotions both in ourselves and in our interactions with others. This includes being aware of our emotions and how they impact others, as well as being able to regulate our emotions in order to maintain positive relationships.
In the early 1990s, two leading psychologists introduced the theory of emotional intelligence. In 1995, science journalist and author Daniel Goleman connected the theory with business leadership, solidifying its place in mainstream conversation and leadership education.
More and more organizations are beginning to realize the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. Emotional intelligence is the ability to effectively manage emotions, both one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. This ability is critical for leaders and managers, as they must be able to navigate the often complex emotions of those they work with. Emotional intelligence can help leaders to better achieve their goals by providing them with the skills necessary to manage emotions effectively.
Psychologists who write and think about intelligence have traditionally focused on cognitive aspects, such as memory and problem-solving. However, there have always been researchers who recognized that the non-cognitive aspects are also important. For instance, David Wechsler defined intelligence as “the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment”. As early as 1940 he referred to “non-intellective” as well as “intellective” elements, by which he meant affective, personal, and social factors. He wrote:
Whether abilities that are neither intellectual nor cognitive—in other words, abilities related to emotion and desire—can be considered part of general intelligence is the main question under discussion. I believe not only that they can, but that they must be. I have tried to demonstrate that, in addition to intellectual factors, there are also definite non-intellectual factors that affect intelligent behavior. Therefore, if these observations are accurate, it follows that we cannot accurately measure intelligence as a whole until our tests also assess these non-intellectual factors.
Wechsler wasn’t the only one who thought non-cognitive aspects of intelligence were key to success. For example, Robert Thorndike wrote about “social intelligence” in the 1930s. However, the work of these early researchers was largely forgotten or ignored until Howard Gardner started writing about “multiple intelligence” in 1983. Gardner suggested that “intrapersonal” and “interpersonal” intelligences are just as important as the type of intelligence usually measured by IQ tests.
I/O psychology suggests that “consideration” is an important aspect of effective leadership. This research suggests that leaders who are able to establish “mutual trust, respect, and a certain warmth and rapport” with members of their group will be more effective. The Office of Strategic Services developed a process of assessment based on the earlier work of Murray that included the evaluation of non-cognitive, as well as cognitive, abilities. This process evolved into the “assessment center,” which was first used in the private sector at AT&T in 1956.
There is a long tradition of research on the role of non-cognitive factors in both life and the workplace. Emotional intelligence builds on this foundation.
Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace?
The ability to effectively manage emotions is essential for leaders in the workplace in order to maintain cohesive, high-performing teams. Studies have shown that emotional intelligence plays a role in how leaders communicate with their teams as well as how team members interact with each other and with their leaders.
Managers who are emotionally intelligent create workplaces that are conducive to exchanging ideas and feedback, productive teamwork and performance, high morale, employee engagement, and job satisfaction. They are also able to manage workplace stress and conflict carefully and teach their team members to do the same.
Martin Seligman has developed a construct that he calls “learned optimism.” It refers to the causal attributions people make when confronted with failure or setbacks. Optimists tend to make specific, temporary, external causal attributions, while pessimists make global, permanent, internal attributions. In research at Met Life, Seligman and his colleagues found that new salesmen who were optimists sold 37 percent more insurance in their first two years than did pessimists. When the company hired a special group of individuals who scored high on optimism but failed the normal screening, they outsold the pessimists by 21 percent in their first year and 57 percent in the second. They even outsold the average agent by 27 percent.
In another study, Seligman tested 500 members of the freshman class at the University of Pennsylvania and found that their scores on a test of optimism were a better predictor of actual grades during the freshman year than SAT scores or high school grades.
The ability to effectively manage emotions and cope with stress has been linked to success in a variety of fields. A study of store managers in the retail industry found that the ability to handle stress was predictive of net profits, sales per square foot, sales per employee, and return on investment.
Top emotional intelligence skills managers need
Goleman discusses five key emotional intelligence skills that can help leaders be more effective at work.
If you want to improve your emotional intelligence at work, focus on developing these five skills: 1. Self-awareness 2. Empathy 3. Social skills 4. Relationship management 5. Self-regulation To develop self-awareness, for example, learn to listen actively and encourage giving and receiving feedback within your team or organization.
As a manager, you perform better when you are continuously honest and aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
Without the ability to reflect and view yourself objectively, you may lean towards blaming others or failing to see how your actions contribute to particular outcomes. Self-awareness helps you recognize and understand your moods and emotions, as well as their effect on others.
Being aware of our emotions and their impact on others is a strong starting point for good leadership. The next step is to manage these emotions and the reactions they evoke.
Good leaders and managers must be able to handle pressure and refrain from emotional outbursts or strong negative reactions at work as these actions can cloud the leader’s decision-making, break team morale, and cause confusion in a bad situation. Emotionally intelligent leaders hold their emotions in check and channel their energy into creating positive outcomes.
Combined with self-regulation, empathy helps leaders and managers understand their team members and other partners. Having empathy simply means to understand and share others’ feelings and be able to put yourself in their shoes.
If you pay attention to your team members’ moods and actions, you may recognize actions or behaviors that warn you before a molehill problem grows into a mountain. Without empathy, a leader is unable to recognize the impact of their actions on others. They may be unkind to employees and team members without being aware. They may ask for more than their team can handle and create a toxic work culture.
- Social Skills
Good social skills have a direct, measurable impact on almost all aspects of leadership and management. We can go as far as to say that good communication skills are the sine qua non of emotional intelligence in the workplace.
Social skills help you deal with challenging situations and improve interpersonal relationships, collaboration, and team performance. They also help to resolve conflicts, build and maintain company culture, and develop project plans.
More than the promise of bonuses, salary increases, perks, or a more senior title, good leaders are motivated by strong intrinsic values. They communicate clearly and often to their teams and employees.
Leaders with emotional intelligence understand their internal motivations and how they correlate with those of their team members and the organization. Intrinsic motivation, more than just emotional intelligence, is a competitive advantage in almost any business context. The ability to harness and communicate this motivation to leaders, project managers, and employees cannot be underestimated.
How to improve emotional intelligence
Boosting your emotional intelligence can be done by training yourself, thinking about your emotions and consciously practicing. Self-awareness is the first step to finding the methods that work best for you to manage the areas of emotional intelligence you are weakest in. A few ways to improve your emotional intelligence at work are as follows.
- Build interpersonal work relationships
The best way to build emotional intelligence is by practicing in real-world situations. Go for lunch with co-workers, attend industry-relevant networking events, and create relationships with people you work with.
- Lean towards the positive
You must learn to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. In moments of pressure, focus on amplifying the positive and leading your team with an optimistic outlook. When things go wrong, instead of hammering on the negative, which reduces team morale, you can reframe your perspective and ask, “how can we do better next time?”
- Manage your stress proactively
Stress is inevitable. Stress at work is almost guaranteed. Exercise, meditation, and taking regular breaks from work are a few ways to reduce stress.
- Schedule “me” time to think
As a leader or project manager, you must schedule a time during the workweek to think and plan your ongoing projects. Writing in a journal, list, or within a project management tool is one of the simplest ways to increase self-awareness and emotional intelligence in the workplace.
- Have a confidant or mentor
Leaders with coaches perform better than leaders who handle everything on their own. It is helpful to talk to someone you trust about your emotions. It would help if this person is objective and has their emotions in check.
Talking to someone who understands your work and responsibilities helps you reflect and become aware of what needs to be done. You can even ask for advice. Having a good confidant or mentor can help you build your emotional intelligence quickly.
- Enroll in emotional intelligence training
Becoming emotionally intelligent is not a one-and-done deal. We can all improve in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills, and motivation. When you know the areas you need to improve the most, you can enroll in an online or offline emotional training course.
How to encourage emotional intelligence in the workplace
In today’s evolving world of work, there are many ways to encourage emotional intelligence in the workplace. Managers must imbibe the characteristics they wish to see in their employees by:
- Leading by example
- Practicing empathy
- Communicating clearly and positively
- Praising in public and criticizing privately
- Creating a work environment that rewards emotional intelligence
- Listening actively
- Embracing feedback
- Providing emotional intelligence workshops or courses for team members
Where to get emotional intelligence training for managers?
You can find a lot of emotional intelligence training and courses for managers online. These can help you to better understand and manage your emotions, as well as the emotions of those you work with.
courses on emotional intelligence are offered by Daniel Goleman, Harvard, Udemy, and other e-learning platforms.
You can choose emotional intelligence training for your managers depending on your budget, how much training the managers need, and if you would like a certification upon completion.
Why is emotional intelligence important in project management?
Project managers need to be emotionally intelligent to be successful in their work. Emotional intelligence includes things like self-awareness, empathy, and self-regulation, which are all essential skills for project managers.
The ability to organize and execute effective project plans is important, but the ability to maintain a harmonious team is even more important.
Project managers with high emotional intelligence experience a higher chance of success, improved physical and mental well-being, better work relationships, and lower stress levels. Emotional intelligence in project managers also helps to:
- Build solid relationships internally and externally
- Foster environments with good communication and culture
- Ensure successful collaborations
- Negotiate and find points of compromise
- Resolve disputes and manage conflicts
- Listen actively to feedback
If you’re interested in becoming emotionally intelligent, read on to find out how you can improve. Wrike offers a free two-week trial to see how their software can help improve communication and increase visibility for managers and teams.