The world we live in is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), and the world of work in particular has borne the brunt of recent developments brought about by the global pandemic, and the need to adapt to the “new normal”.
These characteristics of our new operating environments make it difficult for leaders, managers and employees to articulate their concerns, and can cause feelings of apprehension, fear and worry, resulting in heightened emotions. This, in turn, can lead to explosive situations, which could result in irreversible damage to individuals, teams and organisations.
According to a study published by Gartner, emotional intelligence (EQ) accounts for more than 90% of a person’s performance and success in a leadership role. The Center for Creative Leadership also notes that 75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict, or the inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.
EQ is clearly a critical component in all workplace relationships, but what is often less clear is how organisations should go about ensuring that this ability is identified and developed in their people.
The first step is to assess the existing EQ levels of the current workforce. A thorough assessment should measure an individual’s self-awareness, as well as how they manage their own emotions, and apply this effectively when engaging with those around them. This includes the individual’s overall wellbeing, self-management and self-control, inclination to nurture relationships and have solid interpersonal relationships, as well as stress management.
Gartner notes that one of the primary reasons for measuring the EQ of individuals is that, in the drive to improve organisational decision-making capabilities, companies need to move EQ from the realm of personal competency to an enterprise-level discipline.
The days of people working alone behind a desk, interacting only via formal, structured exchanges are long gone. We have moved to team-focused, project-based and inter-disciplinary environments that see people interact with others at various levels in their organisation, several times a day. Teams are expected to perform and innovate as a unit and are measured by their ability to execute outputs effectively. This increased team interaction means more focus on emotional and social interaction, and on the individual’s ability to manage these for the benefit of the team, and greater organisation.
Investing in the development of EQ in organisations will result in a more emotionally agile workforce that is able to work cohesively, connect emotionally and make better decisions, and tools such as EQ assessments are an excellent place to start. An organisation’s culture has a direct impact on financial performance, and it is our responsibility as leaders to shape this culture if we want our organisations to be sustainable and grow.
Michelle Baron-Williamson is the CEO of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) in South Africa.