The Connection Between Employee Engagement and Emotional Intelligence
In today’s marketplace, business leaders can’t succeed without the ability to communicate effectively with others, manage their emotions and collaborate on finding solutions to pressing challenges. Perhaps most importantly, they have to be able to connect with employees on a human level, a trait that requires both understanding and empathy.
These attributes are key elements of what is known as emotional intelligence (or Emotional Intelligence Quotient) — being aware of and managing your own emotions and understanding the emotions of others.
A leader with a high EQ is better positioned to instill a deep sense of engagement among employees. Without that sense of engagement, employees are less motivated (and therefore less productive), which can lead to a high rate of turnover that threatens the well-being of the organization.
They have to be able to connect with employees on a human level, a trait that requires both understanding and empathy.
“True engagement comes from the employee’s relationship with the employer and with the work itself,” note Joel H. Head and Joshua Freedman of the global support network Six Seconds. “By definition, engagement is an inside job.”
Qualities of Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness is an essential component of emotional intelligence. How well do you know your various emotional states? What are your emotional triggers and what situations tend to set them off? Do you recognize the impact your emotions have on the people around you?
Another critical element of self-awareness is the ability to manage those emotions. This involves understanding what causes stress in your life and developing coping mechanisms (exercise, meditation, etc.) to reduce that stress, so you don’t unleash it on the people around you.
True engagement comes from the employee’s relationship with the employer and with the work itself.
As a business leader, you need to calibrate your emotional states so that you always project an upbeat demeanor and an optimism that employees can rely on. “Once you become a leader, you no longer have the luxury of a bad day,” says leadership expert Amanda Gore. “[People] don’t really care about the boss. They care about what the boss’s mood means for them.”
Self-management also means holding yourself accountable for your decisions and actions. From time to time this requires acknowledging that you’ve erred in judgment and that there’s still room to improve your leadership skills. This quality leads to enhanced trust among the people you hope to lead.
“Employees want to know that you can be trusted; revealing the areas where you can improve makes you more real and genuine,” says business strategist Glenn Llopis. “Employees follow and support leaders who are approachable and relatable, those who will roll up their sleeves and fight the battles with them.”
Employees follow and support leaders who are approachable and relatable, those who will roll up their sleeves and fight the battles with them
Social awareness — better known as “empathy” — might be the most critically important element of emotional intelligence. This involves not just listening to what employees have to say, but being able to see it through their eyes.
“Any time you’re dealing with another person … things will go more smoothly if from time to time you put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, ‘What’s going on for this person right now? What’s important to them? What do they want from this interchange?’” says emotional intelligence consultant Andy Smith. “If you get a sense of what’s going on for them, you will find them much easier to communicate with.”
Finally, emotional intelligence includes social skills: Knowing how to communicate with and persuade others to achieve a desired result, as well as resolving workplace conflicts and inspiring people to go beyond what they believe they can do.
Taken together, these qualities help make up the most effective business leadership model available today. A leader with a high EQ is more confident, more adaptable and better prepared to handle unexpected challenges or threats to the business. He or she is also better poised to navigate the complexities of emotion in crisis management.
A leader with a high EQ is more confident, more adaptable and better prepared to handle unexpected challenges or threats to the business.
Better yet, such leaders convey the same emotionally intelligent traits to their best employees. They in turn become better at managing change, solving problems and — for the greater benefit of the organization — learning how to empathize with your customers’ needs and expectations.
“In the end, leaders become more valuable when they can prove to increase productivity, employee engagement and results by creating a teamwork environment that gets the best performance from everyone,” says Glenn Llopis. “This requires leaders to be strong mentors as well as sponsors who can help their colleagues better navigate workplace opportunities and catapult their careers.”
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