The non-negotiable "soft" skill

January 17, 2023

The non-negotiable "soft" skill

“Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than IQ or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work… IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.”—Warren Bennis

Many managers and employers have historically viewed emotional intelligence as a "soft" skill, but they are gradually realizing that success requires emotional intelligence in addition to intelligence and skill. Employers are looking for individuals who can manage their emotions, relationships with coworkers, and performance of the tasks for which they were hired.

How well a person can comprehend how they affect other people and manage themselves appropriately for positive working relationships is determined by their emotional intelligence. After all, the caliber of our interactions with coworkers, clients, partners, and stakeholders has a significant impact on our work performance and productivity.

The way we collaborate with others to get things done, deal with setbacks and conflicts, and encourage our teams directly affects productivity at work. It also positively influences the health of workplace culture, employee engagement, job satisfaction, loyalty, and commitment while decreasing turnover rate, sick leave, and absenteeism.

Why is emotional intelligence so important?

A lot of people often think of emotional intelligence as a “touchy-feely" or “soft” skill, and the competencies that fall under it are often called "character." Yes, we understand the importance of empathy and self-awareness in leadership and success, but a lot of employers still believe that IQ and technical skills are the real drivers of professional success.

However, research shows that while IQ is important, there is no correlation between intelligence/smarts and professional success beyond a certain point: above-average intelligence, or around 115 IQ points, for lawyers, doctors, or business executives.

This is where emotional intelligence becomes a key differentiating factor.

Research has also shown significant improvements in performance, productivity, and profits for companies that focused on training their workforce’s emotional intelligence. And when managers and leaders have a high EQ (emotional quotient), they are able to effectively inspire and motivate their people to go above and beyond their job descriptions.

This could have a lot to do with the trust, respect, gratitude, and admiration that workers have for a boss or leader that makes them feel heard, valued, and cared for.

It also affects an organization’s work-related stress levels, which could lead to burnout. Emotionally intelligent leaders make their people feel included, autonomous, competent, valued, respected, and safe, lowering stress significantly and improving overall morale and satisfaction at work.

Emotions can high-jack our brain’s capacity to think rationally. When culture suffers, morale is low, and emotional tensions are high, workers’ ability to work optimally is drastically affected.

According to studies, in a normal emotional state, the “thinking” part of the brain is capable of processing up to 24 interrelated variables at once, but when emotional tensions are high, the “feeling” part of our brains, which reacts 100 times faster than our “rational” brain (for survival), drastically lowers our ability to process multiple variables to maybe two at once.

That’s why we tend to see things in black and white, win or lose, yes or no, when we are feeling stressed.

This has an adverse effect on our employees' ability to prioritize, strategize, and make decisions, which has an adverse effect on the work product.

The “feeling” part of our brains can be triggered by both real and perceived threats—that’s why having emotionally intelligent leaders at the helm to manage stressful situations and emotionally intelligent employees who can regulate their emotions can be an exponential advantage.

How do we train our emotional intelligence?

Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management are the four main domains of emotional intelligence (EI).

Self-awareness is the foundation for building your EI muscles. You need to know and understand your own motivations and behaviors before you can move on to managing yourself, understanding others, and managing your relationships with others.

Every day, we come across a variety of triggers that can impair our capacity for reason, including emails, irrational comments from coworkers, and even peculiar facial expressions made by a coworker while we are in conversation.

We need about 20 minutes to recover from these triggers on average, but taking brief walks or hydrating yourself with water can help you feel less threatened, real or imagined.

Asking yourself questions such as “Was it really a problem or was I just overthinking?” or “Will this issue matter to me in the next few days/weeks/months?” can help you ground yourself back to reality, see the situation more objectively, and look at things from different perspectives other than your initial stress response.

Learning to reframe your questions as a leader can also help to lessen the triggers for those who are following your lead. Keep in mind that everyone wants to feel safe, respected, valued, and autonomous. Your organization's work environment and culture can be greatly enhanced by appropriately framing your statements and questions.

Even though emotional intelligence deals with emotions, it is not a "soft" skill. To master EI competencies, one must undergo extensive instruction, learning, and practical experience. And if you want to be a leader, having this skill is unquestionably necessary.

Genuinely emotional intelligent leaders successfully mentor, inspire, and develop the next generation of leaders. 

Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe.”