Dr. Martyn Newman spoke to Emily Burt of People Management about the value of emotional intelligence in business.
When you talk about emotions, a lot of people tend to imagine unstable elements that they prefer to avoid. But the most important part of emotional intelligence is that second half: intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is not about giving vent to feelings, it’s not about impulsivity, or a disregard for rationality and intellect.
Businesses depend on the people who work for them to be highly engaged, to be able to adapt quickly to internal and external changes, and to show fresh thinking and come up with new ideas. The set of skills we need to meet these needs are rooted in our emotional and social behaviours – and studies also show that, as you grow a culture of emotional intelligence in your organisation, levels of absenteeism drop, and engagement levels increase.
Although many organisations have been slow to pick up on emotional intelligence, there’s a compelling commercial case for why these skills are a worthy investment. We’ve seen organisations such as Sky Media embracing emotional intelligence as a very practical frame of reference in growing a culture of engagement and collaboration right across their business, and other companies such as Argos and Network Rail working emotional intelligence into their culture. There are great signs that businesses are recognising the value of these skills and putting them into practice.
Dr. Martyn Newman completed a global study of 8,000 people in 11 regions around the world, particularly focusing on people whose roles have become increasingly centred around engaging people and solving issues to do with people, and managing their own reactivity to those environments and those people.
People who score highly on emotional intelligence manage these jobs much more effectively than people with limited emotional intelligence resources.
The second relates to the practice of mindfulness and the relationship between mind and body that can be controlled. As people cultivate this ability to manage their attention and emotions, they develop a greater capacity to manage stress and manage the flow of attention.
Mindfulness and emotional intelligence work hand in hand, because the foundation of emotional intelligence is self-awareness.
Georgina Fuller reporting from the Changeboard Future Talent conference, relays philosopher’s Alain de Botton concern that our quest to be professional is disconnecting us from our humanity.
Botton said that we try to put on an unrealistic persona at work, rather than reveal our vulnerabilities to our colleagues.
“We don’t have the emotional skills to deal with the workplace today.”
“When we go into work we put a mask on and become a caricature of ourselves.
But we are, in fact, cutting ourselves off from humanity by trying to appear professional, rational and intelligent.”
Botton, who is also the founder of the School of Life, said that most of us were carrying around a considerable amount of anxiety and hurt – but we hide it by distracting ourselves and trying to perpetuate a more robust self-image. “We look at our phones and do anything we can not to address our feelings,” he said. “We hate spending time on our own and panic when we’re alone with our thoughts.”
This, says Botton, is a disaster for organisations because none of us are paying any attention or managing our real concerns.
Employers of the future need to encourage us to work on our emotional skills, he said. “In actual fact, we just want to serve and we crave the feeling of being useful and having a purpose.”
Botton urged organisations to foster a culture where we can admit and embrace our frailties. “Instead of focusing on the hard skills we need right now, employees will increasingly need to develop emotional skills such as empathy, resilience and persuasion,” he said.
“Our challenge today is how we can evolve as individuals and organisations.”
Also speaking at the conference, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson assessed the growing influence of technology at work, and its potential to support or erode trust. “Automation has the power to liberate us from the more mundane aspects of work,” he said.
“In the past, the benefits only favoured a privileged few so how can we ensure that we create a fairer, kinder society?” Watson asked delegates.
The current education system was, he said, not fit for purpose or the changing world of work: “We have a 19th century education, equipping children for the 21st century.”
Jobs such as management consultancy, accountancy and even law may become obsolete in the years to come, warned Watson, who said that education needed to focus more on developing children’s emotional intelligence and creativity.
The big challenge for leaders today is how to manage that, because those who have cultivated emotional intelligence have a much greater capacity to direct the attention of others towards constructively tackling the innovation challenges of the modern workplace.