Why Emotional Intelligence Deserves more Attention in the Corporate World

The term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ has been around for close to three decades now. From a scientific standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.

Every interaction is governed by two aspects – Intellect and intuition. Intellect is about facts. About things that can be proven. Intuition on the other hand is about ‘feelings.’ The intangible stuff that you can’t measure. That little voice inside your head that tells you if something doesn’t seem right. These feelings have a profound influence on how we view things.

Effective leadership calls for the right mix of cognitive and emotional capabilities. But while organisations put a lot of focus on building cognitive capabilities (IQ), very little is done to build the emotional capabilities of an individual.

We are all conscious of this in our personal lives; but when it comes to the corporate world, unfortunately, the role of feelings is routinely underestimated. The corporate world encourages people to actively suppress feelings and make decisions based solely on thoughts, facts and statistics. But the fact is that ‘feelings’ and empathy play a much bigger role than we care to acknowledge. This is true for both decision making as well as implementing those decisions successfully.

For example, let’s say you have a key client who pays you huge sums of money, but you dread the thought of picking up the phone and talking to that person. If you do not fix your personal equation with this person, the relationship is doomed to fail sooner or later, no matter how great the work is.

Or think about a great boss or manager you’ve had. What made that person great? Was it just their knowledge of the subject or was it also their ability to connect with you, share the team vision and motivate you enough to achieve it? My guess is that it must be a combination of both.

A recent Harvard Business Review article titled ‘If you can’t empathize with your employees, you’d better learn to’ presents a great example of how lack of empathy may bring short-term gains, but it is bound to hurt in the longer run.

There are a few things that organisations can actively do to nurture emotional intelligence.

  • Don’t reward based solely on short-term outcomes – Consider the sustainability of the success as well as impact on team members. That way, sales managers know that if they achieve pathbreaking sales by working their teams to death, they will not necessarily be appreciated, but could be questioned instead.
  • Understand the ‘pulse’ of the organisation – Whether it is through anonymous feedback forms or 1-1 meetings or 360 degree reviews, find ways to measure the mood of the organisation at regular intervals. It helps to pick up any early distress signals.
  • Acknowledge and reward positive behaviour – Let performance measurement documents include expected behaviour protocols so people know what is expected of them and understand the importance of adhering to behavioural guidelines.

The corporate world would benefit from giving ‘feelings’ the importance they deserve. For one, people wouldn’t hate Monday mornings as much!