In the quest to develop leaders who will foster a culture of equity and inclusion in the workplace, a critical factor to assess is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as our ability to recognize our emotions as well as the emotions of other people. Individuals who are high in EI are able to recognize the emotions of others and are able to convey and regulate their own emotions. Leaders who are highly self-aware and cognizant of emotional cues are better able to understand others, therefore they are better able to foster an equitable and inclusive workplace. What can organizations do to ensure that leaders are high in EI?
First, there must be the acknowledgment of the importance and value of emotional intelligence. Currently, EI is not generally a trait that is measured or analyzed in job applicants. Incorporating an EI test into the hiring and selection process can help companies recognize which individuals are high in EI. But understandably, implementing an EI measure into the selection process may take time and resources. A more viable solution for some organizations is to create ways to develop the EI of employees within the organization and particularly organizational leadership.
Daniel Goleman, who popularized the term emotional intelligence, indicates that EI is teachable and there are several ways that individuals can increase their emotional intelligence. How can EI training and development be implemented in your organization?
1. Current employees can analyze their levels of EI via several tests available online. Prior to any sort of training, employees should have an understanding of their EI levels. Without a clear understanding of EI levels, it is difficult to assess how much progress has been made.
2. After you gain an understanding of what the EI levels within the organization are, there are a few tactics that can be integrated into the organization to increase EI levels:
Part of EI involves our ability to control and regulate our emotions. How do you deal with negative emotions? Individuals who are high in EI are able to deal with stress and other negative emotions in an effective way. Developing stress management techniques is critical to becoming more emotionally intelligent. Meditation, for example, has been shown to be an effective strategy to relieve stress. Incorporating a meditation or relaxation technique into your daily routine can help with the management of stress. Organizations should incorporate stress-reduction techniques into the workplace wherever possible (offer yoga classes, discounted gym membership, meditation/prayer rooms, provide information on stress-reduction techniques).
Increasing your EI means developing and improving your listening skills. Individuals who are high in EI are active listeners who are able to take in information and process it before feeling the need to respond back. For managers, it is especially important to be an active listener in order to effectively communicate with employees as well as customers. Training can help develop listening skills, but training must be done on a consistent and ongoing basis.
Empathy is a key aspect of EI, and fostering ways to increase empathy will improve the workplace. Research indicates that focusing on the similarities you have with another person can increase your empathy for that person. Organizations should implement activities that foster togetherness and allow employees to bond and build relationships, in order to increase empathy. This can be done through employee retreats and weekly/monthly employee outings. EI training can also include an aspect of empathy building.
Emotionally intelligent individuals are more effective and successful leaders. In order to foster a productive, inclusive and equitable workplace, it is critical that organizations seek out individuals who are high in EI and strategies should also be developed to increase the EI of each employee.