Understanding the way emotions work is critical for managers. Without that skill, they are likely to be bad managers who simply can’t work with people.
What they need is emotional intelligence, the ability to identify emotions and those of others.
People with emotional intelligence know all about harnessing emotions and applying them to tasks such as thinking and problem solving. They also have an uncanny ability to regulate their own emotions. With that skill, it’s easy for them connect with people around them.
In an often-cited article, Peter Salovey from Yale University and John D. Mayer from the University of New Hampshire define emotional intelligence 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”.
Psychologists say there are five categories of emotional intelligence.
The first is self-awareness. That’s the ability to recognise an emotion when it happens. Self-awareness allows people to tune into their feelings. This recognise what they’re feeling and what it means to everyone around them. That also gives them more self-confidence, a better understanding of their worth and capabilities.
The second is self-control. That’s all about maintaining standards of honesty and integrity, taking responsibility for one’s behaviour, and being adaptable, innovative and open to new ideas in the face of change. All this requires a certain level of self-regulation.
The third trait is motivation. The manager needs lots of it. And this passion for work should not just be about money and status. It’s about having a drive towards achievement, an ability to align with the goals of the group or organisation. Emotional intelligence has the manager taking opportunities, and pursuing goals persistently despite obstacles and setbacks.
The fourth trait, and probably one of the most important, is the ability to empathise. The more you are able to pick up signals of how people are responding, the greater your ability to control the signals you send back to them.
These sorts of managers have tremendous skills. They can read an organisation’s power dynamics, emotional currents and power relationships. They can sense what people working for them need to progress careers and what they are looking out for. They know how to recognise, anticipate and meet client needs and they have the ability to work with a diverse group of people and get the most out of them.
The bottom line of emotional intelligence is understanding the feelings and needs of others.
The final trait is great interpersonal skills. This means effective persuasion tactics and the ability to communicate clearly and unambiguously.
Managers with emotional intelligence have great leadership skills to guide and influence people. They know how to negotiate and resolve conflicts; how to collaborate and co-operate and work towards shared goals; and how to create group synergy in pursuing collective goals.
Psychologists agree that for managers, EQ (emotional quotient) is more important than IQ. They say it all starts with self-awareness.
If you have an IQ of 140 as a kid, you’ll basically be in that range for life. Emotional intelligence however is learned and learnable, it’s fluid. It’s a skill that managers can learn. And the best do.