How can you encourage the development of emotional intelligence within your company, among employees and managers? We’ve asked two specialists: Véronique Tran, dean of ESCP’s Berlin Campus and professor of organisational behaviour, and Yohan Ruso, CEO and founder of Praditus.
Professor of Organisational Behaviour
CEO and founder of Praditus
In 1995, the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence – Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, brought this concept to public attention. A few years earlier, academics John D. Mayer, Peter Salovey, and David R. Caruso were working on creating a specific test to assess one’s “ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions”.
Over the last few decades, emotional intelligence (EI) has become a top skill for managers, with Goleman’s 1998 Harvard Business Review article “What Makes a Leader?” providing scientific evidence of EI’s benefits in the workplace and launching this trend.
To try and understand what makes a person or a company more emotionally intelligent than others, we spoke with Véronique Tran, dean of ESCP’s Berlin Campus and professor of organisational behaviour, and Yohan Ruso, CEO of Praditus, which provides professional training and coaching in soft skills.
The delicate art of measuring emotional intelligence
For Yohan Ruso, first of all, the common definition of emotional intelligence must not be confused with mere kindness: “sometimes, emotional intelligence is misinterpreted as being ‘nice’ to others all the time or asking invasive questions about others’ emotional state, but such behaviours are often the opposite of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is actually the ability to adapt in contexts where emotions play a role—that is, most contexts.”
While IQ benefits from efficient standardised testing, measuring someone’s EI is not as easy. Cognitive scientists are still working on ways to quantify it.
“There is a huge field of research covering the subject; each uses different measurement techniques, from simple interviews to psychological experiments to brain imaging in medicine or neuroscience,” says Yohan Ruso.
Since EI is not easily quantifiable, how can one know when they are making progress in this area? Can EI be fostered in people?
According to Véronique Tran, it is rooted in childhood and attachment styles: “there is evidence of individual differences in temperamental qualities such as emotional intensity, negative emotionality, positive emotionality, and inhibition (of emotion). These differences can be observed at a very early stage in infants. However, interactions with the environment and our caregivers will inevitably shape our ability to develop our emotional intelligence. It is not surprising that a parenting style based on autonomy, encouragement, and support is positively predictive of children’s ability to self-regulate their emotions.”
Interactions with the environment and our caregivers will inevitably shape our ability to develop our emotional intelligence. It is not surprising that a parenting style based on autonomy, encouragement, and support is positively predictive of children’s ability to self-regulate their emotions.Véronique Tran
How to foster better emotional intelligence in the workplace
Not everyone grows up in the same environment, however, and when it comes to adapting to the professional context, some people may find it more difficult to navigate the variety of emotions one encounters in the workplace.
As the CEO of Praditus, Yohan Ruso believes coaching can help in developing these specific skills: “EI depends on both cognitive and motivational factors. The cognitive factors, like emotion recognition, are difficult to develop, though research has shown it is possible. However, the motivational factors are easier to work on. Emotionally intelligent behaviour can be learned through targeted coaching and habit formation.”
More specifically, how can companies improve their team members’ emotional intelligence? First, by recognising the importance it holds in the performance of any given group or organisation: “the first step is to make people aware of the importance of emotional intelligence. Then, training involves working on inhibition techniques to avoid automatic responses to emotions. Finally, new habits can be triggered through behavioural anchoring techniques, including mirroring emotions and social referencing (comparing your emotional response to that of others).”
EI depends on both cognitive and motivational factors. The cognitive factors, like emotion recognition, are difficult to develop, though research has shown it is possible. However, the motivational factors are easier to work on. Emotionally intelligent behaviour can be learned through targeted coaching and habit formation.Yohan Ruso
For managers, fostering a professional culture and cohesion between team members that allows for emotions to flow without taking up all the space is quite a challenge.
Yohan Ruso finds that the key to developing an emotionally intelligent workplace starts with setting an example for others: “be a role model – work on your own emotional intelligence, get feedback about where you might be lacking, change your behaviour if need be, and be transparent with your team about your progress. You can also set behavioural objectives with your team members and discuss progress at your regular check-ins. Also, give employees space to reflect and self-manage (too much pressure can make people lose emotional perspective) and allow time for healthy relationships to be built.”
Emotional intelligence: the missing ingredient to your success?
Working on your emotional intelligence could not only benefit your whole team, but your own careers as well: “team members with emotional intelligence also tend to be valued by their teammates and manage because they can manage themselves and understand others.”
With time, this could lead towards greater career opportunities, while the positive impact of emotionally smart management trickles down through the whole company.
“At Praditus, we have observed that managers with emotional intelligence are better able to retain team members by showing genuine interest in and concern for their team members. And all these factors create a better organisational climate.”
And research corroborates Yohan Ruso’s words: there is a 31% gap in effectiveness between organisations in which EI is valued versus those in which it is not.
Managers with emotional intelligence are better able to retain team members by showing genuine interest in and concern for their team members. And all these factors create a better organisational climate.Yohan Ruso
Having heard all this, you might think that emotional intelligence is about the art of living together, without hurting other people’s feelings or getting overwhelmed with our own emotions. But people in the workplace often come from different backgrounds and places, which can trigger disagreements or tensions.
This makes it interesting to look at companies that encourage greater diversity in their teams. Do diversity-driven companies do better in terms of emotional intelligence? The evidence seems to tell us so. Could other companies learn from them?
For Véronique Tran, diversity can be a “double-edged sword”: “of course, diversity is a fantastic asset, it is the promise of enhanced creativity and better decision-making. However, it can also turn into a nightmare, with conflict within teams, triggering negative emotions if we fail to align ideas and values. Diversity can enhance teams’ emotional intelligence only if individuals acknowledge that diversity is key to their success and agree to make the necessary efforts to reach a common understanding — which will result in something of much higher quality than in a homogenous team.”
Diversity can enhance teams’ emotional intelligence only if individuals acknowledge that diversity is key to their success and agree to make the necessary efforts to reach a common understanding — which will result in something of much higher quality than in a homogenous team.Véronique Tran
Depending on your field or industry, a lack of emotional intelligence might very well be the first nail in your coffin. This is particularly true if your company is trying to sell products that are highly connected to emotions. Understanding your customers’ needs and desires can prove to be key in developing relevant marketing strategies.
As explained by Véronique Tran, who studied the role of emotions in the luxury industry, “emotions play a central role in the success of brands or companies. You will remember a brand and create an intimate relationship with products because you associate them with passion, pleasure, joy, hope, pride. Luxury brands in particular rely on every step of the customer journey. Of course, the quality of the product remains important: luxury products are associated with traditional savoir-faire, craftsmanship and precious materials. But more importantly, purchasing a luxury product must be perceived as a unique experience during which emotions are key. Ultimately, the emotional journey becomes more important than the product.”
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