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I remember when I first started work at the age of 18, I was quite a fiery character. I would probably be described as argumentative and opinionated. I started work at an insurance company doing household claims and it was very much a call centre environment. Conflict is something which happens on the regular because you’re often having to tell people they aren’t covered for their claim. At 18 years old this was tough, both to deliver and to take from the person suffering the bad news, but to be honest it is tough at any age. I knew I didn’t want to be in that job forever so any chance I had to develop I took. Along the way I learnt about emotional intelligence and it completely changed me as a person. Had I not learnt about emotional intelligence I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have excelled in the role as a household claims handler (by handling conflict better and providing a better customer service), I wouldn’t have moved into the training team and achieved my CIPD qualification and I wouldn’t have then gone on to have a successful career in Learning & Development. That 18-year-old Jemma is almost a stranger to me now.
What is emotional intelligence?
You might be thinking you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t either. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own emotions and others and then utilise this ability in day-to-day life. Unlike IQ (which is a measure of our intellect) EQ or emotional intelligence can be developed and built on. Daniel Goleman was the pioneer for emotional intelligence in its current form. Others had realised many years ago that it was important, and it took on many theories, but Daniel Goleman’s is possibly the simplest to understand and utilise in your day-to-day and work life. Quite simply it is made up of 5 elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills.
What can I do to improve my self-awareness?
This was probably one of the first questions I had. We all like to think of ourselves in a certain way and would like to be described by friends, family, and colleagues in certain ways. However, perception plays a big factor in this too and sometimes one of the best ways to be more self-aware is to find out exactly what others think of you. Sounds easy right? Often the opposite is true. People aren’t always honest with feedback in the fear of causing upset. My advice, surround yourself with people who can be honest and learn to deal with the honest feedback once it comes your way. I remember once getting feedback that whenever I was at my desk (in the call centre) I looked annoyed and unapproachable (these weren’t the words used but I’ve censored it!). I found this interesting because I like to think I’m incredibly approachable but let’s not forget someone else’s perception is their reality, regardless of whether it’s true. If I wanted to succeed in that role and progress, it is not enough for me to simply say “well I am approachable, so I’ll ignore the feedback” so I set about ensuring that I didn’t have such a furrowed brow when I was concentrating and then asked for more feedback a few weeks later to see if it had made a difference, it had!
How do I manage my emotions at work?
Whether your issues are with anger, sadness, embarrassment or just that you laugh a lot we sometimes all need to learn to keep these emotions in check. That’s certainly not to say that we stop feeling them or that we don’t express them, but we learn to express them in a way that serves us and others in the right way. Erupting in anger at being given a less than favourable task isn’t going to paint you in the best light whereas completing the task and then having a chat with whoever set the task in a calm and professional manner may help the understanding from both sides. Often, we cannot control an event that happens, whether that’s being given a task we don’t want to do or someone braking too hard in front of us on the way to work, but what we can control is how we react and deal with that event. And subsequently this will allow us to control the outcome of the event.
How do I understand my staff?
A common question that I get asked by many managers and leaders. You must first understand yourself to then understand others. By having that self-awareness and by being able to self-regulate you’re able to enhance your skills in both empathy and social skills which are the key elements for understanding your staff.
Why is emotional intelligence important at work?
If you have to interact with other people in work on a day-to-day basis then it’s going to be important. For me, it underpins who you are as a leader, a colleague, a business etc. Having poor emotional intelligence can be detrimental for a business. It’s not often something we spend enough time on. It’s an important element of continuing performance management which can be found in our Effective Workforce and Maximising People Potential packages and in fact most of soft skills training sessions will include an element of it, even if it isn’t labelled as emotional intelligence.
For further information on modern performance management systems or for any other HR matter please contact one of our friendly team at info@hrelite,co,uk or call us on 01206 700690.