Emotional EQuity Brings Inspired Returns
By Brenda Young
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
It’s that touchy-feely stuff business balks at: feelings in the workplace. However, emotions are equity, and rational or not, they’re an unseen information powerhouse—and essential to achieving end results.
Fortunately, the Emotional Quotient (EQ) is now gaining greater acceptance that allows us to embrace its potential—and our own. Its merits are many. Mainly, it helps us build and sustain those important relationships, sharpen our self-awareness and improve our overall performance.
At a time when we’re ‘doing’ more with less, EQ inspires us to ‘be’ more of who we are – to develop and express our unrealized potential. EQ tools, training and coaching help to create an empowered engaged culture where ingenuity flows, amplifying positivity and productivity.
Happiness Counts in Large Amounts
That said, EQ delivers one thing no GDP growth strategy can—balance—because the growth is on the inside, aligning both heart and mind. That’s the EQ/IQ gift. That’s leverage.
EQ encourages employees and employers alike to leave our silos to collaborate and co-operate in a new corporate consciousness. Best of all, it can reveal the roots of our obstacles and challenges—freeing energy for innovation, inspired creativity and healthy communication.
Backing up all this ‘soft-talk’ are an increasing number of positive psychology studies highlighting the criticality of ‘happiness in the workplace’ and bringing a new optimism in tow. As an author and founder of GoodThink Inc., Shawn Achor has presented his research to HRMA and TED Talk audiences alike, delivering one key message: “Success does not bring happiness. Happiness brings success.”
Achor’s research, compiled in The Happiness Advantage and Beyond Happiness, proved what has been common knowledge—if not action—for some time. One of the most comprehensive studies in history, the 75-year Harvard Grant Study, reminds us of one simple truth. Its author, George Valliant, followed 268 Harvard undergrads to determine the secret to living a happy life. Their responses, after nearly a century, concluded: “Value love above all else, and connection is crucial.”
“Feelings inspire connection. And joy is connection,” Valliant recently reflected in a 2015 Huffington Post article. “Strong relationships are by far the strongest predictor of life satisfaction—and in terms of career satisfaction, feelings connected to one’s work, was more important than making money or achieving traditional success.”
Does this mean our new bottom line is ‘producing good will’ in organizations, because happiness—springing from intuitive wisdom and heart-based coherence—are driving real, sustainable success?
Changing HR and Driving Change
Considering that the Harvard Business Journal’s summer 2015 cover stated, “It’s time to blow up HR and create something new,” this poses a simple question: can that ‘something new’ be fully embracing EQ?
Where this positions HR professionals seeking to tap into the effectiveness of EQ is in a golden ‘management-to-coaching’ era with the potential to revitalize their organization’s greatest asset—its people.
Savvy leaders have long leveraged EQ in ‘getting the message out’ and ‘rallying the troops’, but with troubling engagement statistics continuing to correlate to productivity challenges, HR professionals have stepped forward with new ‘best practices’ to raise the mind-heart-productivity benchmarks. Unsurprisingly, a high degree of emotional intelligence and investment is in play.
Leadership EQ Key to Engaged Cultures
Stephanie Hollingshead, CHRP is vice president, HR for Sierra Systems and develops and executes Sierra’s HR strategy—which is focused on employee engagement, talent and succession management, total rewards, and building both leadership capacity and employee development.
She defines EQ as “reading yourself and others and adjusting appropriately,” and has no question as to its impact.
“What does EQ get you? It gets you influence, the key to getting work done,” says Hollingshead who also holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Industrial Relations Management. “Being able to influence and motivate people to really want to do something is incredibly powerful for any organization.”
“People are the largest enabler,” she says. “Culture and engagement are the biggest levers a company has. To drive a strong positive engaged culture and for a proven competitive edge, leaders need to have high EQ.”
Hollingshead’s 360-degree feedback sessions with senior leaders, people noted for their high IQ, revealed that many were challenged in making the leap to the next leadership level.
“Soft” EQ Perception Requires Innovative Approach
“It’s important to find out where people struggle,” explains Hollingshead. “These leaders’ brains have led them to career success. But that success has plateaued because of lack of EQ.”
Unfortunately, EQ discussions don’t always anchor leadership attention. “It’s a challenge,” Hollingshead admits. “Some leadership teams understand the power of it. For others, it’s intangible. When you break it down, behaviours become barriers. EQ reveals where the gaps are.”
Most often, as per Roosevelt’s quote, “They’re not showing how much they care,” which can be a challenge for many leaders. Fortunately, as Hollingshead points out, that “show of care” can begin with the simple act of sincere active listening, an excellent base for developing the collaborative EQ skill/mindset.
What does capture leaders’ attention Hollingshead has found, are top-of-mind topics and novel approaches to broaching traditional boundaries—such as through Sierra’s “Powerful Conversations Leadership Development” series.
“We’ve branded them “Powerful Conversations” because they are. If you’re talking about career, pay, or hopes and dreams, these matter to the individual,” Hollingshead explains. “It comes down to having good conversations and working through scenarios. We get a good dialogue going on around what’s worked or not to build that safe environment.”
Strong EQ/Leadership Correlation
Once they have seen the merits of this approach, Hollingshead advocates the program going to the next level – where these leaders go out and have at least three of these conversations. What emerges is that those most used to going it alone, find themselves with a powerful peer group and a new path to fostering success.
“Senior leaders with strong EQ are much more effective in higher leadership. Where I see them capturing the hearts and minds of people is when they are willing to be more open and vulnerable themselves,” says Hollingshead.
Accompanying strong EQ is resiliency, one of the most useful tools leaders can use to help them navigate change—in times of constant change. Fortunately, as with EQ, resiliency can be developed.
“If you look at the economy and business struggles, you’re dealing with lay offs, re-structuring and a lot of change. With more generations in the workforce, and a greater variety of people’s work styles and personal needs, the ability to adapt and build relationships outside of one’s comfort zone takes resiliency,” she emphasizes. “The importance of resilient leaders—to bounce back from change—is critical. It all goes back to EQ.”
Vulnerability and Authenticity Fuel Engagement
Denise Lloyd, CHRP is founder and chief engagement officer of Engaged HR in Victoria, B.C., and she knows how to achieve inspired buy in from audiences and organizations alike—speaking to what they know. In short, she engages them.
“Engagement is a primary characteristic of a mobilized, EQ-inspired workforce and coaching culture,” says Lloyd who also holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University. “We’re evolving, and people want to be empowered.”
Empowerment leads to engagement.
“If people want to start showing vulnerability and start exposing, they can build trust and transparency. When influence and inspiration is also raised, they can balance the vulnerability side of their offering,” Lloyd explains with one caveat. She strongly recommends trying this approach with a management or leadership team to model it, “before you’re in front of a 250-person company meeting.”
“That’s where coaching is very powerful,” Lloyd says. “It’s all about people and relationship. Both need to come together and say, ‘We want to go in this direction.’ EQ, then, is a perfect solution for organizations in the mindset of ‘do more with less’, whether it’s less money, resources, or time under pressure.”
Lloyd sees EQ as “multi-layered—with elements of our own self-control and self-awareness allowing us to “step outside what’s going on, non-react, listen empathetically, and focus on the person in front of us.”
She concurs with Hollingshead as to what lies at the core of EQ’s impact; effective listening, encouraging authenticity and meaningful dialogue is bound to boost the workplace happiness index.
Brave Conversations Bring Strong Returns
“It’s being able to separate what’s going on for someone with what it means for them. Strong leaders are able to take the “what’s in it for me” thinking out of the picture and have an objective view,” Lloyd says. “That said, if managers want engagement, they can engage in active listening and meaningful dialogue and risk those brave conversations to inspire it.”
Lloyd also sees the challenges with promoting an EQ agenda. “My clients don’t say, my team’s not emotionally intelligent,” she explains. “They say things like, my staff doesn’t get along. There isn’t good communication amongst team members. I can’t get good results because my people are distracted.”
Moreover, with technological change ongoing and omnipresent, ‘weapons of mass distraction’ are everywhere.
“It’s those distractions that are a definite take away from performance and productivity,” says Lloyd who believes strongly in using the EQ toolkit to resolve conflict and raise performance.
Regardless of the language they use around such initiatives, Lloyd believes that senior leaders can particularly benefit during times of change and transition—wherein “they can create EQ ambassadors to model ‘what they’re trying to shift’ and have productive discussions to make the difference to their bottom line.”
That this in turn impacts turnover, puts an additional encouragement for leaders to manage from an EQ advantage.
Passion is Primary Success Driver
Ricardo Manmohan is a coach, facilitator, and founder of Pacific Rim Leadership Centre who hosts leadership programs and team building retreats aimed at creating coaching cultures within organizations, including the military. He boldly goes where many do not—into one of the toughest “command and control” cultures in existence, the Army Reserve—to do what he loves most, inspiring passion in people.
Also a lifelong learner, Manmohan is now working on his Doctorate at Royal Roads University with a focus on increasing leadership development impact in organizations. Unsurprisingly, he too holds active listening as a critical EQ skill because “that’s what helps you understand. Even if you’re in your space as the manager, it’s different than what your staff is dealing with. EQ gives you that situational awareness.”
That awareness is critical to every organization, perhaps particularly so within the military where Manmohan has found great success in the face of great challenge.
“You can’t fire anybody in the military. They have to leave. But if they’re discovering their passions, they know where they’re going,” says Manmohan. “Some of the EQ strategies I use involve distribution of leadership. I empower them, based on what their passion is. When I go into the unit, I have someone else briefing on the training plan, or the communications plan, because of their passion towards those areas. It’s creating the environment where people aren’t afraid to push ideas up.”
Upfront About Battling Entrenched Thinking
As to the risks involved? “It’s the classic ‘emperor without clothes’ scenario,” he says. “We need more people like that around us. The problem has become that we don’t want people like that around us, because it challenges us.”
“I can’t control what goes on outside my walls,” Manmohan admits, “but inside, I can create the environment where my troops are engaged, and they get input into what we’re doing. It’s this ridiculous idea of: “Why listen to the guy in the trenches?’ It’s because he’s the one carrying out your ideas.”
As a result, his troops are saying that ‘this is their best training year’, even though they’ve been in the military for eight years.
“Some people are old school and deal with it the old way. I know what I believe and stand on my moral ground,” he says, while pointing out that moral ground is becoming common ground.
“With the doctoral work I’m doing, I’m seeing more of traditional leadership practices, the way things were when life was sustainable, and we weren’t exploiting the environment,” explains Manmohan. “In learning the old way, I’m seeing the new way. People were responsible for the contentment of their entire communities. I feel we’re moving toward more inspired leadership, but there’s a chain of command. Clearly, it’s time to go back and ask: Why am I doing what I’m doing?”
Better Questions Open Opportunities
A heightened degree of emotional intelligence is always required and often developed by asking just such questions. What inspires the effort are the multiple answers and avenues of opportunity which so often open.
“If you can lead from the heart and head, you have balance. People can explore their passions, but there’s accountability,” says Manmohan. “Instead of firing someone, I’ve used EQ to take down silos and found better departments they could shine in—and they’re still passionate about what they do today.”
EQ’s biggest competitive edge, Manmohan feels, is its ability to increase productivity through the passion unlocked by quality conversations in the workplace. “If your manager knows and understands you at the values level—which is what EQ is about—you’re more inspired to use your initiative,” he says.
Accordingly, that connection between passion and productivity is made, whenever “you’ve taken the time to find out what their passions are, and allowed them opportunities to explore those,” Manmohan explains.
He cautions that those connections might first appear tangential, but maintains that: “Sometimes it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” That said, the ongoing effort—and a dose of measure—is tantamount to achieving the desired results.
Finding a New Measure of Meaning
“Tying metrics around EQ has to be qualitative, but the qualitative is what leads to the quantitative,” Manmohan says. “How morale is, how the team works together, those all lead to higher productivity and greater capacity because of EQ.”
Moreover, he admits measuring EQ can be a sticky subject with a dark side. “It’s subjective,” he explains. “If managers don’t like you, they can crucify you on your EQ score. Something that you may be able to use instead is a happiness index as a metric which better affects EQ.”
As to the naysayers, Manmohan has heard the worst and continues to put forth his best. He has often heard, ‘We didn’t need mentorship and coaching before.’ He has often shared, “We also used bows and arrows, but we don’t need those anymore either.”
According to Manmohan, where leaders can progress in their understanding is that: “People progress. What some don’t get yet is that a typical soldier is as educated now as the officer. In the past, the officer had the undergrad. The soldier was a farm boy or worked in the field. Now, they’ve got more education than most of their leaders.”
Stern Talk Encourages Empathy
As a self-development specialist, author, university professor, and certified ‘Leading with Emotional Intelligence’ trainer, Carolyn Stern is a popular guest speaker at international seminars, conferences and retreats. She inspires people to lead with what she exemplifies and describes as “the greatest power we have”—a heart full of human compassion and empathy.
Stern can discuss what she calls the emotional intelligence (EI) advantage at length—exploring the ability to understand, express and manage your own emotions, develop and maintain good social relationships, and think clearly to solve problems under pressure. She is equally clear on its essence: “It’s using the heart and mind to use the information their emotions give them to act appropriately.”
While IQ gets accolades, Stern says EQ is often overlooked and sometimes ignored. “It used to be, it’s who you know. Now it’s how well you know the who-you-knows.”
However, Time Magazine recently published findings that put the smarts with heart equation into a fresh perspective. “People with average IQs outperformed those with the highest IQs by 70 per cent. That busted the IQ myth, particularly by citing “EQ a critical factor that sets star performers apart,” says Stern.
“While IQ skills may get your foot in the door, EQ opens doors,” Stern maintains. “It’s those attitude, conflict resolution and stress management EQ skills that are crucial to career success.
“EQ is huge in my opinion. People who know themselves are good at reading others, understand the world around us, and are definitely more effective in influencing leadership,” says Stern who encourages ‘smarter’ questions to boost EQ. “In my leadership classes, I ask questions: How do you build stronger and more supportive interpersonal relationships? How do you improve employee morale and retention? How do you be optimistic and happy?”
It’s the same in the workplace. “We’re taught about change management, but we’re not taught how you actually manage people resisting change,” she notes.
Leading by (Im)perfect Example
Above all else, Stern embraces EQ as a fundamental leadership element: “We all share one important thing: our ability to relate to other people. Great leaders are able to energize and motivate.”
Moreover, people want to follow people they like. To be likeable, says Stern, “You need to be relatable, not perfect. If you show your followers it’s okay to try something without being a master, it takes pressure off. You want to build their trust, and you have to take that leap first,” Stern says.
Stern believes there’s nothing wrong with showing weaknesses as a leader. “People want to understand that you’re not perfect because they can relate to that. They can relate to their own wobbly bits: the good, the bad and the ugly that we all share.”
Above all, it’s high empathy that gets top marks from Stern and ties EQ directly to organizational end results. “Great leaders have the power to truly inspire and lead others because they take the time to understand and care about their team.”
“You have no idea what’s going on with the person beside you or in the next office— what’s happening in their inner world. As a leader, it’s really important to dive in to see, because those things, whether we like it or not, impact people’s performance,” says Stern. “When people feel our caring, they respond. They’re receptive. They’re engaged.”
Best-selling author, writer and empowerment leader, Brenda Young advocates a sustainable future focused on compassion and self-awareness.