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EI is the Depth Charge for Recovering and Moving Forward

© Steve Whiteford 2022

Emotional Intelligence (EI) should be a very familiar topic for HR Professionals. Some say the science of EI was cited as early as the 1920s, but Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence brought it into popular culture in 1995 when he published his groundbreaking book by the same title.

I was in my sixth year as a trainer and coach at that time and was immediately intrigued. Promoting the natural intelligence of our emotions was my very personal childhood goal that originally led me to an acting career. But my university scholarship as Assistant to the Professor of Speech awakened my love of teaching and helping people achieve the best and most authentic expression of their talents. I found satisfaction for that passion in the work of Executive Development.

Before Goleman’s book, much profound work in shaping executive skills was being dismissed as “charm school,” but the book strongly substantiated what trainers and coaches were already doing by revealing the social and neuroscience that supported it. Engaging professionals in a deeper experience of self-awareness, coupled with advanced methods of embracing change and developing capability and character, has enriched business life with productivity and humanity. EI has proven to be a depth charge whose effects have only just begun.

Emotional Intelligence can be the groundwork for all positive change.

Many major corporations have embraced EI. Google and Amazon both consider it integral to the health and productivity of their organizations. Practices of EI have been embraced across industries, High Tech, Healthcare, Consumer Products, The U.S. Military, Government, Marketing, Non-Profit, Mental Health, and on.

The study is profound and all-encompassing. Self-Awareness is its root skill. EI adds power to practically any assessment your organization might choose because the skills of EI give people the perspective to openly consider results and the essential awareness to see and apply the appropriate skill to effectively utilize their traits and talents to strengthen and grow.

Our emotions and feelings are inseparable from our behavior. Personality, traits, preferences, strengths, and the ability to learn a new skill are all defined, enhanced, or inhibited by how we feel.  In my experience working within HR as the Program Manager of People Development, I was amazed to witness how behavioral issues could impact any function or process of the organization. Employee Relations were directly tied to a company’s culture and success.

“Self-awareness is what makes us human.” – Jane Goodall

Platitudes and memes may guide our thoughts toward EI, but for a significant impact, we must each commit to practice. The skillsets that comprise the skills of emotional intelligence are lifelong practices. They intensify self-awareness and awareness of others and bring more humanity to our interactions. The Yale School of Emotional Intelligence sites these categories of skills:

  • Recognizing  – experiencing emotions and perceiving them in others,
  • Understanding – experiencing and understanding our own emotions and what might have caused them in others, and how they combine and change
  • Labeling – clearly differentiating feelings and emotions for accurate expression (Sounds very simple but people with larger emotional vocabularies are more successful in life)
  • Expressing – all feelings and emotions are valid and useful but how we express them determines whether they help or hurt our intention, and empathy is the great leveler of expression
  • Regulating – is the byproduct of experiencing and understanding emotions; it’s how we work with them to achieve effective outcomes

This level of awareness seems overwhelming in contrast to the fact that society has taught us to ignore and stuff emotions based on the misconception that they are irrelevant, immature, distracting, and reduce productivity. All of those myths have been disproven by social and neuroscience. And once you become familiar with the practices, the skill of awareness saves you a lot of time and stress.

When we can catch the feelings and thoughts that create our behaviors as they emerge, if needed, we can make an effective shift in seconds. The process enables more authenticity, openness, and willingness to be curious and work through a myriad of challenges – interpersonal relations, conflicts, problem-solving, learning, change, ethics, unconscious bias, the need for innovation, and more.

The resulting curiosity and openness from this discipline can be applied to many organizational problems and attitudes. I believe a mental habit that permeates our workplace behaviors is Fundamental Attribution Error, one of many cognitive errors that can be corrected by increased self-awareness. FAE is when we attribute an employee’s limitation to their character, when it may be due to their circumstances. It’s a quality of thinking that views employees as replaceable, or forces “square pegs into round holes.” All current research indicates that performance strengthens when managers understand the talents and challenges of their employees and are open, curious, a skillful in helping them achieve personal meaning in their work. Emotional Intelligence gives managers this ability.

Humans have no shortage of emotions. Consider them the fuel to a more human and productive workplace.

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