Internships and other work experiences
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Internships and other work experiences

2.5 Emotional intelligence

The Department for Education’s ‘Employer skills survey 2017’ (Winterbotham et al., 2018, p. 49) highlights key skills that are reported as lacking. At the top of their list are self-management skills, comprising ‘managing own time and task prioritisation’ and ‘managing own feelings/handling those of others’.

The second part of that statement is commonly known as emotional intelligence, defined by Mayer and Salovey (1990) as the ‘ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions’.

Daniel Goleman (1998) adapted their model to identify five basic emotional and social competencies:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

Emotional intelligence is a very valuable attribute in the workplace because it enhances communication and relationships. This video below explains the concept in more detail.

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Transcript: Video 4


What distinguishes great leaders from average ones? A factor that psychologists call emotional intelligence, also known as EQ. When Daniel Goleman analysed executives at nearly 200 companies, he found emotional intelligence was twice as important as both IQ and technical ability in driving performance. At the most senior levels, it accounted for a whopping 90% of the difference between the best and the rest. But what exactly is emotional intelligence?
According to Goleman, it's made up of five components, self-awareness self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Let's examine each in turn. Self-awareness is understanding one's own emotions and their effect on others. Self-aware leaders are confident and candid. They can realistically assess and talk about their strengths and weaknesses often with a self-deprecating sense of humour.
Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses, essentially to think before acting. Effective self-regulators tend to be trustworthy, comfortable with ambiguity, able to suspend judgement, and open to change.
Motivation is a passion to work with energy and persistence for reasons beyond money or status. It means being driven, goal-oriented, optimistic, and committed to the organisation. Empathy is the ability to understand the emotional needs of others and to treat them accordingly. Empathetic leaders are good at developing and retaining talent, serving clients and customers, and managing cross-cultural sensitivities.
Social skill is proficiency in managing relationships, developing networks, building rapport, and finding common ground. It makes leaders more persuasive and helps them create change.
According to research, we can all increase our level of emotional intelligence with training that activates the brain's limbic system, which governs our feelings and impulses. This works best in three steps, incentive, extended practise, and feedback. And because all the EQ components are interconnected, you'll find that improving in one area can help you do better in the others too.
Consider an executive whose colleagues say she is low on empathy because she doesn't listen well. She checks her phone in meetings, sometimes interrupts people, and often glosses over or disregards differing points of view. When her boss points this out, the executive is surprised. In her view, she was just being efficient and direct. But the feedback incentivizes her to improve.
Privately, she replays certain incidents and thinks about how she could have acted differently. She also watches leaders who are good listeners and tries to mimic their behaviour. With continued guidance from her boss, she gradually becomes more empathetic, boosting both the team's morale and its productivity.
There's no question that leaders still need raw intelligence and good technical ability, but that's a baseline. Great leaders must also have or develop the five components of high emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.
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In the next section, you’ll check your understanding of these and other key skills valued by employers.


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