Emotional Intelligence and Its Importance in the Workplace

Learning to understand and control your emotions, also known as emotional intelligence, is extremely important in the workplace and it could have a tremendous impact on your career. Emotional intelligence is quickly becoming a common term in today’s workplace and some human resource departments now believe that it is a more accurate indicator of a prospective employee’s future performance than personality or previous work history. Emotional Intelligence Quotient is defined as a set of competencies demonstrating the ability of a person to recognize their own behaviors, moods, and impulses, and to appropriately manage them according to any given situation. The ability to recognize behaviors and manage them efficiently directly sets emotional intelligence apart from a person’s basic personality traits. This is one of the main reasons that corporate hiring departments are beginning to place significant importance on the development of tools that allow them to accurately assess emotional intelligence competencies of potential employees.

For decades, companies have concentrated their selection standards and designed training platforms based on specific hard skills such as industry knowledge, technical expertise, education, past work history, and the assessment of personality traits, while topics dealing with social acumen, apathy, and stress management have been largely ignored. Corporations are now finding that these factors are critical to an employee’s success and have direct influence on the bottom line. In his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goldman (1998) says that “the rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle each other and ourselves”. EI is an important quality for the development of significant and productive relationships not only with customers, but also with coworkers, subordinates, and leaders.

In particular, the capacity and proper disposition to understand different groups of people, to genuinely appreciate and care about each group’s unique needs, wants, and challenges are key components of great customer service and continuous company growth. Finding and retaining employees with this vital trait can be the difference between success and failure for an entire organization. As important as high EI is with individual employees with a company, it is even more important that the leadership teams within the organization possess and exemplify the qualities associated with an elevated emotional intelligence factor. This realization is supported by research completed by the Center for Creative Leadership (2003), which found that “co-workers seem to appreciate managers’ abilities to control their impulses and anger, to withstand adverse events and stressful situations, to be happy with life, and to be a cooperative member of the group”.

With the increasing focus on the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace, more employers are looking for ways to identify and recruit employees with strong EI qualities. Leaders know that these individuals will not only exhibit stronger individual strengths, but will also work better in teams to ensure common goals are accomplished, paving the way for consistent company growth. Therefore it is imperative that employees continuously explore ways to develop and improve their overall emotional strength. According to his article, Emotional Intelligence is Vital to Workplace Success, Mark Craemer says “increasing emotional intelligence can be done by anyone throughout life, but it takes effort and continual practice. The reward is evident in lower stress, higher career achievement and greater satisfaction in all relationships (2014).” As the world’s population continues to evolve into a dynamic stage of hybrid multi-taskers, it is imperative that we learn to accurately manage our emotional aptitude and constantly look for ways to improve our mental fitness.

References

Craemer, M. (2014). Emotional intelligence is vital to workplace success. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/pod/leaders/orgdev/alliance/articles/EQ_Craemer.pdf

Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam Books. Ruderman, M.N., Hannum, K., Leslie, J.B., & Steed, J.L. (2001). Leadership skills and emotional intelligence. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

Photo Credit: http://www.edurite.com

5 Books Every Introvert Should Read

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

by Susan Cain

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Susan Cain is one of the most respected authorities on introversion and she does not disappoint with this book. The is a great read for anyone who has ever wondered why they don’t necessarily “fit in” with the crowd, especially those of us who work in corporate America. If you are an introvert, this book will not only help you find acceptance within yourself but it will also help to validate and strengthen who you are as an individual. It provides excellent insight, backed by plenty of scientific research into the mind of an introvert.

It also dispels many misguided beliefs and lists the absolute strengths of an introverted personality. The author provides quite an impressive list of achievements given to the world by introverts; achievements such as the theory of gravity, theory of relativity, Chopin’s nocturnes, and even Google. Whether you are a person coming to terms with your introverted nature, or someone seeking to understand an important introvert in your life, this book is a must read.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky

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While this book by Stephen Chbosky is not primarily geared toward the subject of introversion, the primary character, Charlie, brings the subject to life in a captivating way. Charlie is an introvert who has chosen to take a backseat approach to life. The story follows Charlie as he experiences his firsts life lessons, discovers repressed childhood memories, and tries to come to grips with the person he really is.

Chbosky takes the reader through some seriously deep subjects such as eating disorders, abortion, drug use, and even suicide. Charlie takes the reader with him through his times of depression, isolation, struggle to make friends, and the many difficulties of teen adolescence. This book will provoke you to look at those around you in a completely different way and to approach life with a different perspective, accepting all of the ups, downs, and unexpected turns that life can throw at us.

Walden

by Henry David Thoreau

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It seems that people either love this book or hate it. I loved it and I think most who consider themselves to be introverts will appreciate most of the views that Thoreau expresses in Walden. He complains of too much noise in the world and decides to go it alone, literally. He built (with his own hands) a cabin in the middle of the woods on Walden Pond in Massachusetts. He completely disconnected from society for more than two years and even ate from the land on which he lived.

This book resonates with me because I have often had similar thoughts, especially when the hustle and bustle of daily life gets to be too much. Sometimes, it takes more than sitting alone in a Starbucks or the quiet confines of my bedroom to recharge. Walden agreed and decided to remove it all, or at least remove himself from the business of the world. If you should ever decide to spend some time alone, take this book with you and it will give you an indulgence like you have never experienced before.

The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World

by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D.

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This book explores the important areas of life that we all deal with. Issues such as parenting, marriage, work, and socializing as an introvert. Many people, introverts included, do not necessarily find the characteristics of introversion to be positive in the many aspects of daily life. The author does a great job of pointing out the advantages and offers a fresh perspective on the subject. The bottom line is that introverts ARE normal, unique, and add many interesting nuances to an otherwise extrovert-dominated world.

If you are an “innie” and constantly push yourself toward extroversion, this book will definitely enlighten you and offer some overdue relief! My only regret is that I did not read this book years ago.

Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference

by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler PhD

The author offers more than a mere explanation of the differences between extroverts and introverts. She actually explains how introverts can harness their unique qualities and leverage them to balance and exhibit influence in the world around them. Kahnweiler says that “introverts can be highly effective influencers when they stop trying to act like extroverts and instead make the most of their natural, quiet strengths.”

She goes on to list several noteworthy influencers of current and past societies who were introverts including Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Influence isn’t about being overbearing or controlling. Power and influence has much more to do with what is said, than how it is said.

Can Introverts Be Effective Leaders?

By nature, introverts prefer to listen much more than they speak. This can be an especially important quality in any leadership setting. The ability to open their ears and minds to the ideas and thoughtful suggestions of those that are closest to them is an amazing attribute of quality leadership.

In a world full of fast-moving trends and constantly changing business landscapes, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. This is especially true for those of us with an introverted personality and leadership style. Our extroverted counterparts are comfortable in the spotlight and we are more than happy to give it to them, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we are weak or inefficient leaders. In fact, introverts possess several qualities that can serve them extremely well in leadership roles and put them at the head of the pack.

Introverts are great listeners…

By nature, introverts prefer to listen much more than they speak. This can be an especially important quality in any leadership setting. The ability to open their ears and minds to the ideas and thoughtful suggestions of those that are closest to you is an amazing attribute of quality leadership.

They think before they speak…

If you are looking for a quick answer to an important question, chances are you will not get it (or at least not the one you want) from an introvert. Predisposed to expressing themselves through writing rather than speech, they prefer to mull things over before offering feedback or advice. This is because introverts prefer to think through important decisions for hours, or even days before offering suggestions to solve a problem or chart a new direction. They will rarely fall victim to making a snap decision just for the sake of time or peer pressure.

They are really good at building meaningful relationships…

Large quantities of surface level relationships are not what the typical introvert is interested in. By nature, they are more interested in building deeper and more meaningful relationships, even if that means having less of them. External and internal relationships are the very basis of business success, and quality relationships are one thing that introverts are great at. These relationships give them credibility and trust, which can in turn offer leverage when it comes time to gain buy-in.

Introverts are usually emotionally balanced…

They know when their mental tanks have been exhausted and know precisely when to seek time to recharge their batteries. Introverts often work exhaustively to accomplish tasks, but they typically will not push themselves to a point of mental or physical breakdown. This can help to alleviate the risk of burnout, which can cripple any organization if left unchecked.

They work extremely well autonomously…

Not only do introverts work effectively alone, most of the time they prefer it. When you give a capable introvert enough space and blocks of uninterrupted time, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. This allows them to maintain a laser focus on the priorities of the day, and most importantly allows them to systematically and successfully navigate the organization around obstacles.

They are typically humble by nature…

This goes back to the whole spotlight thing from above. Not only are introverts willing to share the spotlight, they are often willing to give you the whole stage. This means that they often care more about the success of the organization as a whole, than about their own individual achievements. This bodes well for the organization and its’ employees because there is rarely a need to question the loyalty and intention of a humble leader.

Introverts are excellent team players…

When it comes to getting things done, not only are they more than happy to pitch in and help accomplish the mission but they are less concerned about who gets the credit for the achievement. This isn’t to say that all extroverts are selfish or that all introverts are selfless, but by our very nature we are less likely to seek out applause or attention, especially in a public setting. In leadership roles, this same aspect extends to those who work with and for the introverted leader.

I am certainly not naive enough to believe that every introvert is a great leader, just as every extrovert isn’t a poor one. I believe that there are too many preconceived notions regarding introverts and their ability to lead successfully. It isn’t everyday that you see the terms introvert and leader in the same sentence, but the list of successful introverts, who are or were also leaders is extensive. The list contains names such as Albert Einstein, Mahatma Ghandi, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Warren Buffet.

The qualities that these great leaders are known and remembered for are the same qualities that many people still respect and expect from their leaders at any level. Qualities such as cool-headedness in the face of adversity, prudent thinking, and exhibiting a sort of quiet power. These leaders, and thousands of others continue to prove each and everyday that effective leaders come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.

One More Day with Grandpa

Yesterday, someone asked me, “If you had the ability to go back in time and relive any day of your life, what day would you choose?” At first, I really did not know what to say, but the thought stayed with me for the remainder of the day. I thought about the ups and downs of my life, the good days and bad, the struggles, triumphs, and the regrets. I thought about the wrongs I could make right and the times that I wish that I had made a better decision, but none of those thoughts seemed to answer the question adequately. The answer finally came to me this morning as I sat down in front of my computer. It did not come from the blinking cursor on my laptop screen; instead it came from just beyond its’ glow.

Hanging on the wall opposite from my desk is a picture of my grandfather, dressed in his Army uniform. He could not have been more than thirty years old in that picture. He was strong, handsome, and possessed a kind and captivating smile. Grandpa served in World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic actions following the Battle of Normandy in 1944. He never told me that because he did not like to talk about the war or himself for that matter. I only found out about it after he passed away at the age of ninety-five. Grandpa did not like to talk about his personal achievements, of which he had many, because he prided himself on being a humble, gracious, and unpretentious person. He was always more interested in learning about others than talking about himself or boasting of his achievements.

His humility was due in part to his personality, but I always believed that it had more to do with an intentional pursuit to display the proper spiritual example for his children and grandchildren. My grandfather was the most spiritual person I have ever known and I cannot remember a single day of his life that he did not spend time with God. Most of his advice, no matter the subject, was backed up by the words found in scripture. He was a mighty spiritual mentor not only to me, but also to everyone around him. I did not realize how blessed I was to have grown up with a grandpa like him, until he was no longer here. He taught me about God, life, and friendship. I spent thousands of days with him talking, laughing, fishing, gardening, and playing the guitar. No matter how busy he might have been, grandpa always took the time to sit down and talk with me.

As I grew up and moved away, I never lost touch with him. Even well into my adulthood, I would call him weekly just to hear his voice or to ask him for advice. I will never forget the night that I received the phone call from my mom telling me that grandpa had been rushed to the hospital and that he did not have much time. I boarded a plane the next morning not only to see him once last time, but to tell him exactly what he meant to me and of the impact that he had on my life. I made it to the hospital that day and God let him stay with us just long enough for me to express my gratitude for the example that he had set for me and the love that he so freely gave. It has been five years since he passed away. There is not a single day that goes by that I do not think of him and thank God for that man.

So if I had the ability to go back and live one day of my past over again, what day would it be? I could choose any one of those days under the shade of that big pear tree, or walking side-by-side down those long rows of corn. Maybe it would be the day he taught me how to play the guitar or one where we sat and talked on that rickety front porch swing. We could take that old dirt road into town one more time to buy those candies that he loved or maybe some paint for that old shed in the backyard. The time or place really would not matter to me, as long as it was one more day with grandpa.

I’m Willing To Be Uncomfortable

I have chosen the quality above as the attribute that best describes me from the list of characteristics that best describe a Master Student. For as long as I can remember, comfort is something that has never been a close ally. Since childhood, it seems that every time I find myself in a comfort zone and become immersed in the feeling of wanting to stay there, life stops. Of course, life doesn’t actually stop but I become defensive. I begin to take the posture of fending off anything that threatens that comfort and in doing so, I not only fend off bad things but also things that could be good or at least lead to something better.

I believe when you are standing still and ignoring things around you, which is another inevitable vice that grips those who become complacent, you can miss out on God’s true calling and blessing for your life. Over the past few years, I have found myself wanting to slip back in to my comfort zone for many reasons but mostly out of fear and selfishness. In spite of the feeling of wanting to return to that bunker mentality where I have spent too much of my life, I have resolved within myself to never return there. Comfort is an evasive feeling that promises security and freedom but instead provides trouble and leads to captivity; captivity of the mind and soul.

God calls us to be uncomfortable. There are many stories in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament that prove this true. God continually used people who were in a relatively comfortable situation, however He did not use them in their contentment; instead He called them to step out, often to leave everything that was familiar to them. I believe that He still calls us to do the same. It is in these times that we actually live the way God intended. It is the only way that we can truly experience God’s true calling on our lives.

The Introverted Extrovert

It took me 37 years to figure out that I am an one of “those people”. I was an introvert in hiding. With all of the negativity associated with the characteristics of an introvert, I spent most of my childhood and adulthood running from the obvious. I have built a fairly successful career in sales and sales management, but I have never really quite fit in with the sales crowd. You know, the partiers, the hell-raisers, those fun-loving, larger than life “capsules of persuasion in a suit” kind of people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them…most of them, and I have made some great friendships along the way. Those characteristics may not fit your idea of a salesperson, but that is exactly what I pictured as a 22 year old who wanted to make something of himself and find success in the corporate world. I needed to be exuberant, flaunt charisma, and look fear in the eye on a daily basis! I HAD to be like those that I envied in order to be successful (at least I thought so).

I was abhorrently shy growing up and did my best to hide it because I felt that it was an inferior trait that needed to be banished from my list of personality traits. Of course, this was easier said than done. Some of my earliest memories as a child are of me being gently prodded by my parents to mingle and play with the other kids at parties and social gatherings. Listening to conversations and watching others as they played and mingled was far more enjoyable to me than actually participating in the activities.

As I grew older and set my sights on climbing the corporate ladder, the “Justin, go play with the other kids” from my childhood turned into “Justin, you need to speak up more during meetings” and “I would like to see you engage more with senior leadership”. For years, I wrestled with trying to figure out what held me back. Did I have an inferiority complex of some sort? Did I fear saying something stupid or inappropriate? While these thoughts occasionally crossed my mind, there was really no substance to them. So, if not this then what?

Was I afraid of something, or did I lack something? The answer to both of those questions, as I would eventually find, was no. The truth is that I have no problem speaking in front of large groups of people and I have zero qualms with making others feel at ease. People often tell me that they appreciate my straightforwardness and candid style. I am a relational person by nature. I am much more interested in learning about people than just their name and what they do for a living.

When I really sit down to engage with someone, I could care less about their job title. I want to know where they grew up, how they ended up in their career, where they went to school, how many kids they have, what their hobbies are, and the list goes on and on. While I prefer one on one conversation, or at least a smaller crowd, I can also entertain larger groups but there is a big difference. Being with large groups and talking to more than six or seven people in depth drains me. Not because I get bored, but because it takes more energy for me to interact with a large group of people.

Extroverts thrive on being in the middle of a large group and striking up big conversation. Introverts prefer a small corner sofa with one or two others, or even alone. Extroverts recharge by seeking out people and action, whereas introverts recharge by seeking out alone time to process their thoughts, or by reading a book. There is no right or wrong, there is just being what you are.

It seems simple, but it is far from it. Trying to fit in and working diligently to understand why I didn’t, has been one of the most depressing and frustrating aspects of my life. I sincerely believe that if I had known and accepted myself for who I was fifteen years ago, my life up to this point would be drastically different. Not that my life is bad, not by any stretch but finding my purpose earlier in life could have made a significant difference in my relationships and professional life.

Enough is enough! I have made a commitment to myself to be open and honest with myself about where this newly discovered road will take me. I refuse to continue forcing myself to be something and someone that I am not. I have no idea where this road leads, but that is part of the fun in life, right? If we knew everything that was ahead of us, what would be the point?