Sharon Jansen, Executive Coach and Educator at the SACAP Graduate School of Coaching & Leadership in Johannesburg, shares her thoughts on “EQ in the Workplace”
I have been working with change for the last 15 years. Corporate change, personal change and life phase change. It’s true, the only thing we can be sure of is that change is here to stay and is woven through the fabric of all of our lives. Resisting change is futile and yet for many of us that is what we do each day and we expend so much of our energy in this resistance that we have limited capacity to deal with reality.
It was in the late 1990’s that I experienced what I now refer to as the perfect storm that put me on the path of personal change. It was a different time, some might say in a different country, that I entered the corporate world, however, some elements are the same today. I refer to the role of relationships as an essential element of business success. So this perfect storm was the performance review where I got the message that my interpersonal skills and capabilities were getting in the way of my promotional opportunities. In other words, the very roots of my success that had got me here, would not get me there (Senior Leadership) which was where I wanted to be. What a wake-up call!! A combination of Denial, Rejection, Frustration, Ambition, Determination, Courage and a supportive manager led me to discover Emotional Intelligence (EQ) through my attendance at the first International EQ conference in Chicago in 1998. Present at that event were all the big names in the field – Daniel Goleman, Reuven Bar-On and many others. I was an example of what has since become common in the workplace – technical skills are not enough to grow a person into leadership positions. Effective Interpersonal skills are essential.
So what exactly is Emotional Intelligence?
“Emotional Intelligence refers to the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”
Daniel Goleman (1998) Working with Emotional Intelligence
Psychologist Daniel Goleman, a leader in the field, has argued persuasively that IQ is far less important as a predictor of a person’s path in life than our supply of the attributes that make up EQ – self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, confidence and self-motivation, empathy and social deftness. I started that journey when Emotional Intelligence – EQ – in the workplace was in its infancy. EQ, the emotional equivalent of IQ, is complex, in no small part because it depends on some pretty slippery variables – including your innate compatibility, or lack thereof, with the people who happen to be your co-workers.
In a time when we are preoccupied with technology and technical skills why place a premium on “soft” stuff like EQ? How important is it really? It is technical expertise and ability that is the ticket to get into the game in business today and young people entering the workplace bring all the degrees and qualifications that get them the jobs. Then we discover that we may know little about ourselves and our impact on others – relationships. As I mentioned earlier that place I had come to – what takes us to the next level is our ability to build relationships. The higher we climb in organisations and the greater the degree of autonomy we earn, the more our predictor of future success rests in the contribution of those we lead. Our level of Emotional Intelligence influences our relationships and our ability to harness the discretionary contribution of those we work with. And this is called the “soft stuff”? It is a true misnomer.
The key requirement to building EQ is self-awareness and I was quite low on the scale. My first coaching client was myself and I am pleased to say that I got the promotions I was after and became more successful due to observing myself and how I was showing up in the world. I learned to manage my emotions effectively and well as my impact on others. I learned how to work more collaboratively with others and skillfully manage conflict when it arose. My ability to lead teams was greatly enhanced when I knew how to lead myself more effectively
The most exciting thing about EQ is that it can be learned. If you want to know more and even find out how you might fare on the EQ scale take a look at this link. http://psychology.about.com/library/quiz/bl_eq_quiz.html
The range of what we think and do
Is limited by what we fail to notice
And because we fail to notice
That we fail to notice
There is little we can do
Until we notice
How failing to notice
Shapes our thoughts and deeds – R D Laing
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