Why You Need Emotional Intelligence for Remote Work Success
IQ alone no longer represents success, happiness or abundance in life. We now know it’s your Emotional Intelligence that can catapult you to success.
We all know someone with a high IQ, whether it be a friend, colleague, family member, an acquaintance or someone we have seen on TV.
However, scholars and psychology gurus believe it’s the second part of the equation, Emotional Intelligence (EI) that is more important; humanising our interactions, building connections and ultimately leading to our success in life.
Many articles written about EI and numerous studies conducted suggest people with high EI are better leaders and considerably higher performers in the workplace.
EI practices are being adopted in schools, hospitals, even government agencies and the defence forces. With this in mind, many organisations have embraced the concept and are investing in learning more about EI.
EI concepts are being incorporated and built-in to teachings and school learning programs, in workplace leadership programs, companies are even using EI as the bridge to build more inclusive company cultures and measure organisational climate.
So what exactly is Emotional Intelligence?
Well, EI has been defined as “…the capability of individuals to recognise their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).” (Wikipedia.org)
Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and leading expert on Emotional Intelligence developed his own mixed model which includes 5 key skills and competencies that he believes drive leadership performance. They are:
Self-awareness: The ability to understand and be aware of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals, and be able to recognise their impact on others while using gut feelings to drive decisions.
Self-regulation: The ability to manage or redirect one’s disruptive emotions and impulses, adapt to changing circumstances and to think before acting (or speaking).
Social skills: The ability to connect and build rapport, and manage relationships to move people in the desired direction.
Empathy: The ability to recognise, understand and consider other people’s emotions, especially during the decision-making process.
Motivation: The ability to motivate oneself or be driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.
It is Goleman’s belief that these 5 competencies are learned capabilities and should be developed in order to achieve outstanding performance in the workplace, experience successful relationships, and have mental and physical well-being.
Goleman also cites that one key benefit is that “emotional intelligence can help people make better decisions”. This increased effectiveness is invaluable to organisations in terms of translating it to bottom-line results.
How does EI apply in the remote work space?
To understand how EI applies in the remote workplace, we talked to trainer and consultant, Janine Wyborn. Janine is passionate about empowering individuals, teams and whole organisations to create positive change by strengthening their emotional intelligence through engaging conversations. And having managed a remote team of high performing professionals herself, she understands first hand the rewards and challenges that come with working virtually.
Janine explains that our EI awareness should actually be heightened in a remote working environment.
“Emotional intelligence is not redundant because you are working virtually. In fact, it is a whole lot more important,” she says.
A key success factor for individuals working remotely is being self-motivated.
“It can be a tough gig working remotely and this is where internal motivating comes into play. People with low self-motivation often also have poor self-managing skills and underperform in a virtual setting.”
There are in fact, many challenges affecting virtual teams, one of the greatest being effective communication. If we consider that in face to face conversations, we experience 55% body language, 38% on the tone of the voice and only 7% on the actual words spoken (Albert Mehrabian), how can we translate that communication theory to a virtual team environment and still experience the same success as those teams who are colocated?
“Humans want to feel connected. It’s in our DNA. We are hard-wired for personal interaction, that sense of belonging and purpose. How can we feel connected to our team if it is geographically dispersed, with colleagues working in another city, or another country even?” says Janine.
Janine believes video technology, which is still somewhat underutilized in virtual teams, levels the playing field so to speak.
“Video technology supports social skills and collaboration, and believe it not, can be a fun experience! It’s an awesome opportunity to be creative with your team. When we can see each other, we get a feel for our team mates, our communication improves, we pursue more open dialogue, which builds trust and in turn, strengthens the bond between team members.”
“Team members can also visually see a lot of non-verbal information that provides context and understanding to the situation being discussed, which results in a far richer communication exchange and experience in general.”
As Janine explains, connected teams utilise this technology to not only share their personal experiences through conversations, explore their strengths and weaknesses collectively (or individually with their leader), reduce the distance – that ‘alone’ feeling or like you are working in a silo, but it’s also an opportunity to remain actively engaged.
“It provides a platform where team members can ‘read’ each other – remember our communication theory above – 55% body language? Seeing each other, forming bonds and connections, motivating and recognising individual and/or collective ‘wins’, and where needed, having truthful but caring and respectful conversations (and a few laughs) is actually vital to the success of a virtual team,” says Janine.
“Applying our EI social skills by breaking the ice or finding common ground at the start of a meeting regardless of the medium being used, sets the foundation for building trust, which is necessary before work can really begin. It’s a proven strategy that increases team engagement in office environments – just because a team is working virtually, doesn’t mean that the same strategy can’t be applied.”
“By not talking about how we feel, not sharing what is going on in our world and having purely transactional conversations, we instantly create a disconnect, which results in team members feeling very alone, and ultimately translates into poor overall team performance, productivity and potential loss of some amazing talent,” says Janine.
She sums it up as follows: “Socially and emotionally intelligent conversations are the glue that sticks a team together, whereas purely transactional conversations are the solvent that dissolves the glue.”
Learning more about Emotional Intelligence
If you have read this and you are feeling concerned, fear not – emotional intelligence is actually something that can be learned. It doesn’t matter whether a person is an introvert or an extrovert, with the right training and mindset, anyone can learn and apply emotional intelligence principles with practice. And the beauty is, it can be applied in all facets of life, it is not just a business skill.