How to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Your Business

Emotional intelligence is a key trait employers should be looking for in employees. 

According the World Economic Forum, emotional intelligence is one of the top 10 skills needed for workers at all levels of organizations in 2020 and beyond.  McKinsey Group predicts that the need for EI skills will outpace cognitive skills by 2030.  Yet in a recent article by the Harvard Business Review, only 18% of companies report that they have emotional intelligence ingrained in their culture.

Is your business in the 18% or 82%?  If you are not sure, statistically it’s much more likely your organization is in the 82% of businesses that do not have emotional intelligence embedded in their culture.

Either way, you want to know where your company stands and what its strengths and weaknesses are. Self-Awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence at both the individual and organizational levels. You can’t grow and develop something unless you’re aware of it and know what the root causes are. Several ways to assess where your business stands in terms of emotional intelligence are:

  • Leverage current engagement and other surveys you may already be using. Many companies use their own assessments that include questions that are emotional intelligence-based.  See the EQ-related questions below to determine if any of those are on your engagement survey and you can use them to assess your where your organization stands. 
  • Conduct focus groups. While surveys are excellent for getting anonymous feedback, the context and detail that can be attained from speaking to people can make a big difference. Conducting effective focus groups that aren’t just opportunities for people to complain takes a lot of skill and planning. 
  • Complete an EI-based organizational assessment. If you don’t have an engagement survey you are using, then finding a simple tool to assess your organization’s level of emotional intelligence can be very illuminating. Many companies, including IHHP, provide a short assessment at no cost as part of a speaking and training engagement. 

What to assess?

Regardless of the method used to assess the emotional intelligence of your organization, these are some of the key things you’ll want to measure:

  1. Do you have a feedback-rich culture?
  2. Do people feel safe to take risks and innovate?
  3. Is your organization agile and resilient?
  4. Do people handle conflict well?
  5. Are people able to engage in productive debate?
  6. Are people energized by the organization’s goals and values?
  7. Do people avoid difficult conversations?
  8. Are your leaders able to effectively manage change?
  9. Do people in your organization skillfully manage emotions?
  10. Are people able to listen without judgment or jumping to conclusions?
  11. Are people able to admit to mistakes?
  12. Do people become defensive when given constructive feedback? 
  13. Do people feel they’re coached and developed by their manager?
  14. How do people handle pressure and tension?

These are some of the key questions you can ask either through a survey/assessment or focus group that will uncover how people are handling situations that elicit strong emotions. If your current engagement and other surveys don’t ask these types of questions, then you’ll want to look for a new assessment process that does.

It’s critical to know where your organization stands in terms of these kinds of emotional intelligence related behaviors and values. Research is clear that individuals and organizations that handle emotions well outperform those that don’t. 

A recent Harvard Business Review article states: “Whether in the C-suite or on the front lines, emotionally intelligent employees are a critical force driving innovation and enhanced customer experiences that come from a strong culture of empowerment. Emotional intelligence (EI) is increasingly and urgently recognized as a competitive advantage for companies that want to cultivate a purpose-driven workforce for the future.”

Once you have determined your organization’s EI strengths and opportunities for improvement, then you can determine an approach to developing those skills in your organization.

How to develop EI in your organization

Managing emotions is at the root of people’s ability to be agile, open to change, collaborate, deliver feedback, take risks, handle conflict and perform under pressure.  When emotions are not managed, that negatively impacts relationships and teamwork, stifles innovation and derails an organization’s performance.

To ingrain emotional intelligence into the culture of your business, people at all levels must learn the skills of EI and apply them to the key developmental areas that you identify during the assessment phase. Best practices that our clients use in building a high EI-culture include:

  • Based on your assessment, identify the key behaviors that will drive the outcomes you want. For example, if developing a feedback-rich culture is a goal, then people must demonstrate the behaviors of stepping into and not avoiding feedback conversations. They must model by not getting defensive when they are given feedback.
  • Start at the top. If the senior leaders of your company are not bought in, and more importantly are not demonstrating the key behaviors themselves, then it’s very difficult to get the rest of the organization to engage.
  • Provide positive feedback when people demonstrate the behaviors. Humans are wired to crave validation, so you can use that to help drive the EI-based behaviors you are trying to build into your culture.
  • Include the EI-based behaviors in your performance management process, including any bonus plans. This may take time to fully implement, but it shows the company is serious about rewarding both the results people achieve and how they achieve them.
  • Provide EI skills training. Emotional Intelligence is not an innate skill; it’s a series of insights, behaviors and strategies based on how our brain responds under pressure that can be learned.
  • Leverage 360 assessments. We all have blind spots in our self-awareness.   An EI360 assessment will help people recognize both their strengths and opportunities to develop the key Emotional Intelligence behaviors you want to embed in your culture.
  • Leverage technology to provide learning opportunities at all levels.  EI is as critical to the performance of your front-line employees as it is to your senior leaders. With the advent of highly interactive and engaging live online learning, it’s no longer required that people have to attend training in a physical classroom. In fact, when done well, live online learning can be more impactful than classroom training

Emotional intelligence is a competitive advantage. As one of our clients said, “assessing and training for emotional intelligence is like having a video conference platform – it’s no longer a question if you’re going to have one, it’s a matter of which one is best for the organization.” With the advent of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, the key human skill that’s needed in the coming decades is emotional intelligence.

Organizations that invest in integrating EI behaviors into their culture and become part of the 18% are going to have a competitive advantage at both the organizations and individual level.