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Let Emotional Intelligence Guide Your Wellbeing

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Emotional intelligence (EQ) is crucial in leaders, and the Institute for the Future found in their most recent 30-year scenario that the number one skill for leaders in future will be the skill/ability to stay healthy as our way of life and work takes its toll.

But why is EQ such a differentiator? It’s actually very simple − research has documented that EQ assists professionals with the following:

Self–awareness: Truthful, honest knowledge and understanding of who you are and the ability to acknowledge it.

Social skills: How to deal effectively with various types of personality as well as different generations and cultures.

Stress management: Understanding how to survive in a world that is always ‘on’. This includes escaping from the digital screens that dominate your day.

Optimism: Living with hope in a world in which the picture of the future seems to be very bleak at times.

Problem-solving: Leaders consistently comment that at least 70% of their jobs involves finding solutions to problems that arise while they are executing strategy.

Summarising reality accurately: Understanding what is important so that priorities can be identified because if everything is important, nothing is!

Investing in a new intelligence

It is clear that leaders need to invest in a new intelligence. And this is backed by research.

We have always believed that cognitive intelligence (IQ) is the key to success. In the 1940s, David Wechsler after extensive research came to the conclusion that there are certain non-intellectual abilities that help people to succeed. He studied people with fairly average IQs who performed much better than those with fairly high IQs, and in the late 1980s psychologists started talking about these abilities as emotional competence. Psychologists Salovey and Mayer then did an extensive study on social intelligence and emotional competence and in 1990 coined the term ‘emotional intelligence’.

Why attention to emotions?

The word ‘emotion’ evolved from the Latin emovere (remove, stir up, agitate).  Emotions have the ability to either fuel or drain our energy. So, it is safe to say that emotions could move us in a positive or in a negative way. How to manage our emotions then determines how we manage our energy.

Knowing is not enough

In our visits to various companies presenting workshops and coaching in the field of leadership development and personal growth, we find many people who are familiar with emotional intelligence and its advantages. However, few people know how to develop their EQ – and even fewer people understand how to apply their EQs in their daily work. This is why we believe we need to talk about ‘cultivating’ EQ. This refers to an ongoing process that leads to the development of an EQ that leads to success.

Recent research by the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence shows that your success in life is two thirds dependent on your EQ rather than your cognitive intelligence (IQ). The good news is that you can grow and purposefully develop your EQ. Despite this, we find that few people are prepared to invest in themselves and their employees by developing their EQs. We also find that generally, the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation / Radio Babies are not very open to the development of their EQs.

What to do?

So, you want to be successful and develop your EQ? How do you go about developing your personal EQ?

First, you need to read about EQ. Get to the core of what it is all about. There are various Internet sites dedicated to the subject, or you may want to download an app that helps you with EQ awareness exercises.

Second, you need to find out what your EQ is. Developing a clear understanding of your EQ strengths and weaknesses helps with the self-awareness that you need to develop your EQ. There are various measurements available, but we would recommend the BarOn Emotional Quotient-Inventory. It is comprehensive and easy to understand. It can be done online or via your HR department. The key is to find out what your emotional vulnerabilities are because then you can do something to address them.

Third, attend an EQ workshop where you can learn, ask questions and receive honest feedback. Adults bring accumulated life experience to the table and that is why we encourage them to learn from each other in our workshops. We are always astounded at the practical intelligence people to possess.

Many leaders and managers believe they don’t have time to attend a two- or three-day workshop, but your investment will reap numerous benefits as you learn to deal with topics such as: managing dependent employees, managing your fears, conducting difficult conversations, growing in assertiveness, developing your own and team confidence levels, managing impulsive decision-making, creating meaning for employees, building an optimistic vision, and building great relationships with fellow employees, teams, and customers.

Fourth, invest in your people/relations skills. The Centre of Creative Leadership recently studied 438 000 managers in 7 500 companies, including most Fortune 500 companies. They asked these managers what were the top three aspects that contributed to their success. 71% of them said it was their ability to build and maintain effective relationships over prolonged periods of time. We should never underestimate the importance of networking and the skills to build effective relationships, as this is a big part of EQ.

Finally, realise that you can’t do this by yourself. It would be wise to find a coach, counselor or a mentor to guide you through your growth. It always helps to have an objective individual who could help you develop your emotional vulnerability, giving you exercises and tools to grow. Coaching per se does not teach us much, but it helps us engage in a process of self-learning.

As a business professional, a key to your success in your career and your survival in terms of your wellbeing will be to invest in your EQ.

AUTHOR l Hermann du Plessis MEd, Director and Founder, Themba Thandeka Leadership Institute