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Kerrie Fleming

Ashridge Leadership Research Centre

Director

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Make emotional intelligence part of your toolkit

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There’s so much rich insight coming out of the academic sector that HR professionals need to know. At Academics’ Corner we feature the best HR researchers that tell you what they’ve found and what you need to do differently on the back of the research. Get connected to the academic sector through Academics’ Corner and make sure you never miss another piece of key research again. If you’re an academic with a relevant story, please get in touch on [email protected].

How challenging is your HR role? Is conflict amongst colleagues the order of the day?

Conflict management is just one of the difficult roles HR professionals take on, but the good news is that this can be reduced by engaging with emotional intelligence (EI). EI provides a powerful means of communicating effectively, building relationships and creating a positive working environment.

In today’s business world, HR professionals and managers need to be emotionally intelligent so they can deal with problems, lead by example, take the initiative, and develop good relationships with stakeholders across the business. EI provides a toolkit to help solve your retention and morale problems, and ignite the best and most inspired performance from your employees.

There is a bewildering array of books to help you on your journey towards understanding and increasing your emotional intelligence. They differ in terms of their styles and approaches, but for the most part advocate awareness of the self and others.

The most prolific writer on the topic, Daniel Goleman, initially advocated EI in the early 1990s, with ‘Emotional Intelligence, why it matters more than IQ’ by Bantam books. A bold statement with more than 5 million copies in print worldwide, the book borrows from psychology and neuroscience to provide insight into our ‘two minds’—the rational and the emotional—and how they shape our responses to the world around us.

Goleman’s book, since republished with prominent co-authors including the Dalai Lama, delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence, and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well-being. It is an intense and sometimes philosophical read which will both provoke your thinking and indulge your emotions.

Taking a more practical approach are psychologists, Salovey and Caruso, who along with colleague Jack Mayer, established scientific data underpinning emotional intelligence. Their book ‘The Emotionally Intelligent Manager’ published by Jossey Bass, offers a practical framework for approaching emotional intelligence. Supported by very credible data, and a variety of case studies on how emotional intelligence can play out at work, the book takes you through how to perceive, understand and manage emotion intelligently.

My forthcoming book, ‘The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Agility’ offers eight steps on how to become more emotionally agile in your responses and reactions as a leader. It starts with examining your values, and explains the four elements of emotional intelligence and how to put them into action.

I also look at how we can use mindfulness as a means to improve our emotional intelligence, and offer pointers on practical application in high performing teams, or increasing your influence and impact. Published by Pearson FT in November 2015, ‘The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Agility’ will be launched at Ashridge Business School in December 2015.

If you can’t wait until then, here are five reasons emotional intelligence should be part of every HR manager’s tool-kit:

Drive through change

Managers with a high level of self-awareness are better able to bring people with them, which can be particularly useful when it comes to helping your team cope with the fear associated with change.

Boost innovation and creativity

People have to be in a good place to be innovative, and research has shown that if people are happy their creativity often increases. Leaders who are high in EI can often create positive working environments where people are relaxed and able to fulfil their potential – making them happier. 

Develop productive relationships

Managers who remain in control of their emotions in difficult situations are much less likely to make ‘heat of the moment’ decisions, or lose their temper at an inopportune moment. People with high EI are also great at building partnerships, encouraging collaboration and gaining respect and loyalty from their team.

Leverage diversity within teams

Those with good EI are better able to recognise different personality types and working preferences within their team, and can flex their approach to make sure people are playing to their strengths.

Give the business competitive advantage

A workforce made up of emotionally intelligent people can give businesses a distinct commercial edge. One US study, for example, found that sales people with high EI produced twice the revenue of their peers.  Emotionally intelligent managers are also generally skilled at building influential relationships and getting people on side, making them more capable of anticipating and recognising customer needs.

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Kerrie Fleming

Director

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