Since our childhood we were taught that hard work and perseverance are the key ingredients for success, especially when it comes to career development. Once you become a student, you start to dream about a job that will cover your financial needs, that will develop your talents and that will constantly develop yourself. So, you've decided to try this recipe, being more than convinced that it will work. You've done everything by the book; you've gathered all the hard skills needed for your dream job. However, once you enter the organizational environment, you probably notice that your colleagues are as good and qualified as you. Well, it seems that your initial recipe needs one more ingredient.
A notion which was first introduced and studied by psychologists, but soon managed to catch the attention of the business world is emotional intelligence. As Daniel Goleman defines it in his book, emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor our own and other people's emotions, to distinguish between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use this information to guide our thinking and behavior. It affects how we manage conflicting situations, how we navigate social complexities, how we make personal decisions that achieve positive results, but also how well we connect with others. In contrast to IQ, which is the ability to manipulate objects and master precision learning, emotional intelligence can be changed, improved at any stage of life.
In the workplace, emotional intelligence is about your relationships:
Your relationship with yourself (self-awareness/self-management)
Highly dynamic and high-tech, today's workplace is even more diverse when it comes to employees and the generations they belong to. Even though generation X (born between 1965 and 1970) is currently the largest generation of active workers, by the year 2020 Millenials (born between 1982 and 1997) are expected to make up just over half of the entire workforce. Although this generation is clearly a different demographic partition, it's not just the age difference or professional experience that sets them apart, but also their needs, values, hopes and dreams, specific for each generation.
These differences made the career management journey extra challenging. In order to achieve the desired results, managers need to go the extra mile and develop strong relationships with their employees based on trust and mutual respect, to create a working climate which fosters collaboration and innovation, to keep employees engaged and constantly motivated. Sounds pretty easy, right?
In order to succeed in retaining and engaging employees with different backgrounds and expectations, today's manager needs to pay more attention in order to understand what really matters for each of them. As a consequence, besides its traditional role, the manager becomes a mentor which offers guidance and support for colleagues to better navigate workplace opportunities and launch their careers.
Here are some examples of tasks which have emotional intelligence at their core:
Building an efficient team - A good manager needs to be able to create a work climate which fosters collaboration; to be able to notice fluctuations in motivation and engagement and to approach them efficiently; to manage conflict using empathy and a calm attitude, etc. At the core of all this actions lies an excellent understanding and management of the emotions and needs of each team member, including their own.
Managing change - Whether we are talking about a change in work procedures, specific requirements of a project or the change of team member, in today's workplace change is the only constant. Working in this dynamic climate isn't easy and a great manager needs to understand how all these changes will affect team performance as a whole and each person individually, and to manage the effect of that change in order to achieve the desired results.
The answer to this question is, of course, no. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Being equally important to IQ and technical skills, this set of socio-emotional abilities helps us better adapt to a multicultural and multigenerational workplace, connect with our colleagues, build strong relationships and understand how our emotions affect performance.
Here are some examples of tasks which require emotional intelligence:
Advancing your career - Along with a promotion come a new role, new responsibilities, and the need to adapt to different bosses, colleagues, customers or working styles. So, in order to be successful, you will need to be self-aware, flexible, and open to new ideas, projects, and people, which are all based on emotional intelligence. This will help you grow your expertise and connections in order to be more prepared for future opportunities.
Working in a team - In order to be a successful employee in today's workplace, team work must be one of your core skills. Team members have to identify and manage their own emotion in the group context, to empathize with their colleagues, to respect each other's abilities and perspectives, and to understand that success belongs to the entire team. In order to accomplish all of these, you definitely need socio-emotional skills.
In the digital age, emotional intelligence is a necessary requirement in order to properly adapt to the complex and multigenerational business environment. From an organization's point of view, investing in the development of such abilities can provide leverage in the business arena. However, at the end of the day, practicing those skills with every possible opportunity is our responsibility.
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