High emotional intelligence (EQ) is arguably more important than ever as many employees around the world have had to vacate their place of employment and work remotely instead. In global lockdowns brought into effect by the coronavirus pandemic, some people have been cut off from close connections from anyone outside their immediate family.
Feelings of anxiety among many people have heightened, and that makes understanding and reacting to our emotions key to managing through the current crisis. Developing emotional intelligence is a skill set that will set you up for career success, but how can you tell if you’re emotionally intelligent?
What are the tell-tale signs of high emotional intelligence?
Martina Valkovicova leads the Career Center at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business as assistant dean and was key in launching the graduate school’s EQ development program. She’s also an MBA alumna from the school.
She explains that the signs of high EQ in someone are an ability to feel, to recognize emotions both in themselves and in others, and to respond to those feelings appropriately.
It’s not only enough to recognize emotions, but to also understand what drives behavior in response to them. In a situation with a colleague who is struggling, or displaying signs of negative emotion, are these behaviors an indication to approach the situation and investigate, or to retreat and give them space?
If you can’t identify the right approach then your response may result in an uncomfortable situation which can lead into an unhealthy conflict, Martina says.
A tell-tale sign of high emotional intelligence is the ‘train of thought’ you engage when working with others. Martina says it begins with recognizing the emotions at play in a scenario. You then reflect on them, recognize where the other people are coming from, and then investigate why they’re behaving how they are. Is there anger coming from injustice? Are they frustrated?
When asking these questions, you must suspend judgement. All too often, people are too quick to judge and jump to conclusions before investigating, Martina explains.
“I’ve seen judgement being one of the big pieces that prevents people from responding to situations appropriately, because they already come with these biases and don’t take the time to find out what’s driving the other person’s behavior.”
How UBC Sauder is working with emotional intelligence
Poor emotional intelligence in the workplace can result in the reduced probability of career success. That’s according to Daniel Skarlicki, UBC’s Edgar F. Kaiser Professor of Organizational Behaviour.
“Someone who is low in EQ is likely to lack self-control, be prone to be emotional outbursts, and not foster or influence psychological safety,” says Daniel. “Emotionally intelligent people tend to speak up not just more often, but more effectively,” he adds, indicating a correlation between high EQ and better work performance.
“They’re able to be more courageous, more mindful, and more thoughtful. They’re better equipped to take innovative ideas to senior leaders and they’re able to see unique opportunities others might have missed.”
Recognizing the impact our emotions can have on our performance in the workplace is only half of the issue. You also need to also recognize the emotions themselves.
The Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre—which provides career development and recruitment services for students and alumni of UBC Sauder—pays particular attention to emotional intelligence after a survey in 2016 with its partner employers revealed the trait to be high up on the list of sought-after skills by employers.
Martina admits it’s a developmental process, similar to learning a language or solving a mathematical problem. It requires constant reflection. It’s about asking people how you come across, looking back at certain situations and asking why it went well or badly.
UBC Sauder takes an individual and customized approach to the development of emotional intelligence. As part of the MBA program, the school uses the Emotional Capital Report (ECR) developed by emotional intelligence training company, RocheMartin, with clinical psychologist Martyn Newman. Thus, MBA students benefit from UBC Sauder’s focus on strengthening core EQ competencies for long-term career success.
The ECR is a leadership development tool available to all UBC Sauder students that gives insight into leadership potential based on emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence and teamwork
The business strategy integrations on the UBC Sauder MBA include case study days, client presentations, and an internship or entrepreneurial project. All test the ability to work in a team, and emotional intelligence is key to a successful outcome.
Martina explains that sometimes students who come from backgrounds where they were primarily individual contributors without regular team engagement struggle to immediately adapt to teamwork, which is a big part of MBA program’s learning experience and also closely resembles majority of workplaces where students land post MBA.
UBC Sauder’s approach to emotional intelligence coaching is geared towards ironing out those developmental opportunities and ensuring students are well-equipped emotionally to succeed in the workplace after graduating.
The emotional intelligence attributes covered by the ECR
Why emotional intelligence is important during a crisis
From a leadership perspective, amid the coronavirus pandemic and teams largely working remotely, emotional intelligence is always vital. Martina explains that employees want around them peers who will stay calm and balanced. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can express emotions with language rather than losing their temper.
“I think it’s more important than ever to recognize people’s emotions are heightened. People with high EQ are able to diffuse a stressful or emotionally charged situation appropriately.”
She remembers Martyn Newman sharing in a training session that if a leader remains calm for about the first 25 minutes of a crisis then that can project onto the entire team. High emotional intelligence and an ability to lead through a crisis are highly correlated, she adds.
“I literally see it everywhere, it’s unavoidable. When you have a good manager or leader who can make decisions during times of crisis, it calms the situation.”