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Growing emotional intelligence and agility in the workplace

In any successful workplace, it is important to have employees and leaders who have the “people skills” that help them make better decisions and learn successfully from others. It is also important to have people who have a strong command of their emotional state and do not allow their emotions to dictate their decisions.

These attributes are known as emotional intelligence (EQ) and emotional agility by industry experts. Strong emotional intelligence is linked to greater professional and financial success. A Big Think article on EQ shares that “those with a high EQ earn on average $29,000 more than those with a low EQ.”
What do each of these terms entail and how can organizations increase those attributes in their employees?

What is Emotional Intelligence vs. Emotional Agility?

The emotional intelligence quotient is grounded in measuring one’s ability to manage emotions based on their interpersonal skills rather than their behaviors and attitude being affected by emotions. The most recent incarnation of this concept was created by Big Think expert, author, and psychologist Daniel Goleman, who measures EQ in terms of four pillars:

  • Self-Awareness,
  • Self-Management,
  • Social Awareness, and
  • Relationship Management.

Emotional agility, on the other hand, is found by measuring how agile someone is at managing their emotions rather than allowing their emotions to manage them. Big Think+ expert and Harvard psychologist Susan David breaks down the process of becoming emotionally agile down into four segments in her book “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life:”

  • Showing Up. This is about facing your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors with an open mind.
  • Stepping Out. This component is about setting aside your emotions and thoughts to figure out ways to react most appropriately in any given situation.
  • Walking Your Why. Having willpower, resilience, and an understanding of and focus on your goals or core values helps you remain on track.
  • Moving On. The idea here is to find the balance between competence and challenge by making small but deliberate changes in your habits, mindset, and motivations.

While these concepts sound great in theory, how do you encourage these attributes to grow within your work environment or within your own teams?

Ways to Increase Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Agility

Five Steps to Develop Emotional Intelligence

In a LinkedIn article, Goleman shares five steps people can follow to develop and expand their emotional intelligence competencies:

  1. Find Motivation. Ask yourself whether you are truly motivated to change — if you are willing to put in the time and effort to break bad habits and gain new, beneficial ones. Motivation can often be found by focusing on your goals and vision.
  2. Seek Out Honest Feedback about Your Strengths and Growth Opportunities. The only way to grow is to first know what you need to change or improve. This can be done through the use of a 360-degree assessment — you rate yourself and ask someone that you know and trust to rate you as well.
  3. Develop a Learning Plan. Developing a learning plan can help you create a step-by-step game plan for how you want to approach your goal — whatever the goal might be. You have to make an intentional effort and be mindful of what you are doing. Just be sure to start with one goal at a time so you do not try to do too much at once and frustrate yourself.
  4. Find Support in Others to Help You Improve and Grow. This involves finding a mentor, coach, or a colleague who can help you get back on track when you find yourself falling into old habits and to help you develop new ones.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice. This step requires practicing these competencies at any naturally-given opportunity. The more you do it, the stronger the neurological pathways in their brain will be that are created through repetition, and the easier these competencies will come to you in the future.

Learn from Others Through Mentorship

In human biology, we’re all equipped with what are known as mirror neurons. These neurons allow us to learn from others by observing them. While these neurons help us to learn, grow, and develop as children, they are still useful to us as adults to learn new skill sets or how to approach new situations.
When you participate in a mentorship, it provides you with an opportunity to work alongside someone else and bounce ideas off them. It also gives you a chance to observe what others are doing and to learn from their actions and responses to various situations.

Encourage Employees to Step Outside Their Comfort Zones

Part of learning and growing is taking risks and delving into new territories. However, some people hold off on taking risks because they are afraid of embarrassment, failure, or getting hurt. David says these individuals have “dead people’s goals” because people who never experience discomfort for being viewed as a fool or for making a mistake are dead.
In her aforementioned book, David says:

“The same goes for people who don’t change or mature. As far as I know, the only people who never feel hurt, vulnerable, mad, anxious, depressed, stressed, or any of the other uncomfortable emotions that come with taking on challenges are those who are no longer with us. Sure, the dead do not annoy their families or coworkers, cause problems, or speak out of turn. But do you really want to be dead to your role models?”

To help improve the emotional agility of people within your organization, encourage each of your employees (and yourself) to take reasonable risks, to speak up, or to head up new projects and challenges rather than looking for the easy way out.
Learn more about how emotional agility and beneficial psychological habits help employees work together, engage others across organizations, and be successful. Contact Big Think+ today.

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