Emotional Intelligence (EI) is one of the strongest indicators of business success. Leadership requires involvement with people who are unique, complex and emotional. When I talk about emotional intelligence, I am referring to the ability to identify and manage emotions and the ability to recognize the emotions of others.
During my preparation on the subject, no one thought we would be dealing with a COVID-19 crisis. Since most everything revolves around money and the company’s financial survival, finance professionals will play key roles. EI during a time of crisis is vital. Being able to express empathy is not a skill you can teach to someone. In fact, many workplaces ask their employees to put aside emotions in order to perform better. “It’s not personal. It’s just business,” the old saying goes. But EI can be a developed skill.
The most important thing to understand about handling emotions in the workplace is that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposal. Allowing for emotions in the workplace does not mean creating an environment where all behavior is forgiven. Just the opposite. We need to recognize emotions as a part of our professional lives and the first step is to manage them appropriately. “Modern work requires an ability to effectively harness emotion — but most of us have never learned how to do this in our professional lives,” writes Liz Fosselien and Mollie West Duffy in No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work.
So how do you become emotionally intelligent?
Expressions of sadness or anger point to the fact that someone may be overworked, stressed or frustrated in their role. Rather than seeing tears or emotions as a sign of weakness, we should take them as a cue to listen, learn and understand the underlying issues and then take action as appropriate. It’s clear that we all have a level of emotional intelligence but we need to take more time to self-assess and work on our emotions. As with anything, it takes practice but even small steps can make a big difference.
Emotions can help reveal problems that need solving, as well as enable us to understand how our co-workers react differently in certain situations. Emotionally intelligent leaders have the opportunity to adapt, show more compassion and look at emotional employees not as problems but as a chance to learn how to create a better workplace.
Has emotional intelligence made a difference in your workplace?
Every day we encounter challenges and we make emotionally charged decisions. Essentially, EI in the workplace comes down to understanding, expressing and managing good relationships and solving problems under pressure.
For EI to be effective, it has to start with you. You cannot improve other people’s well-being and sense of self without first understanding how you operate on an emotional level. What distinguishes us as leaders is our level of emotional intelligence and those skills will help us develop a more effective workplace. This moment of worldwide crisis is a perfect time to understand, but more importantly deploy, emotional intelligence at work and at home.
Written by Cindy Alvano, Vice President of Finance & Accounting