Could letting it all out make you a better manager? Image: Shutterstock

Wednesday 30th March 2016

It's been emotional

Today's leaders need EQ, says Byron’s Mike Williams

It’s more than 20 years since the term ‘emotional intelligence’ – or EQ – entered the business rhetoric, yet it is still hotly debated, discussed and analysed.

According to Forbes, emotional intelligence is something in each of us that affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

While to many this might sound like organisational psychology gone a step too far, I would argue that leaders, managers and employees with a strong grasp of their own emotional intelligence are the key to growth in the new norm of the post-recession economy.

Forbes also reports that people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time – and this is down to emotional intelligence. In fact, emotionally intelligent leaders are 49% more likely to be successful in the workplace.

Leaders can no longer stifle emotions in the workplace if they want to create great organisations.

Leading with feeling

In the past, managers were expected to be emotionally sterile: required to leave their feelings outside the workplace and to manage people in a clinical and objective way.

I remember, from my own experience, managers were often expected to be omnipotent, god-like beings, tasked with being faultlessly perfect all the time. Managers were required to show no weakness or vulnerability. They commanded and the workforce obeyed. Their word was law.

Now, the image I’ve just conjured would seem like a fascist dystopia to someone from generation Y or Z. In fact, we now understand that in an emotionally intelligent economy, command and control is fundamentally the wrong way to treat workers. Instead, autonomy unleashes workers’ passion for work, resulting in greater productivity, innovation and engagement.

Now, employers have to engage with their people on an emotional level, in order to encourage them to provide discretionary effort.

Emotions affect behaviour

But the good news is that if leaders are open to trying something new, emotional intelligence is a skill they can learn. It starts with being able to express, react to and control emotions that they and their colleagues feel in the workplace.

The EQI model of emotional intelligence is a great tool that I have used to help coach emotional intelligence skills in my teams. It breaks emotional intelligence into component parts such as self-impression, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, decision making and stress management.

Each component is broken down further to help individuals understand how the various parts drive their behaviour and interactions with work colleagues.

Considering emotion as a positive thing can lead to strong emotional connections between leaders and their teams.

Individuals who understand how their emotions affect their behaviour and performance are able to engage with their colleagues in a positive way. This can allow leaders to let go, reducing their own sense of control and distributing the power to others in the organisation. Decision-making is then distributed on the basis of skill, knowledge and ability rather than a formal position in the corporate structure.

People are trusted with responsibilities rather than tasks and, equally, culture is based on trust and transparency.

There is a community ethos. Experimentation with new ideas is encouraged. Mistakes are tolerated. This ensures that chaos and anarchy will not emerge, and employees work towards common organisational goals.

The bottom line: allowing people to be emotional can unleash their potential.

About the author

Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a commercial and pragmatic HR professional. Currently People Director for fast-growing restaurant brand Byron, Mike is well known for his ability to work strategically with private equity and corporate investors in order to boost turnover through highly engaged people.