Why Emotional Intelligence Is the 21st-Century Skill Employees Need

Emotional Intelligence September 17, 2019 By: Valerie Keels

As the modern workplace continues to evolve, successful employees will need to master a skill set known as emotional intelligence. Research shows those with high EI have better job performance, mental health, and leadership skills.

Complex problem-solving, critical thinking, coordinating well with others, and resolving conflict are all skills deemed imperative in this so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” a term to describe the economic impact of big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Association leaders who expect their organizations to grow and thrive have a responsibility to foster these attributes in their employees.

The key attribute underpinning all of these skills is emotional intelligence—the antithesis of artificial intelligence. These are important skills to master in all career levels.

Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance, and possess more potent leadership skills. What are the components of EI? Why is it important? How can one’s EI can be developed and improved? These are all questions that association leaders should be contemplating for improved management of performance and job satisfaction.

What Is EI?

According to Drs. Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book, developers of the EQ-i 2.0 assessment, EI is defined as a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in meaningful and effective ways.  The assessment uses 15 scales and subscales to gauge a person’s use of the skill. The five broad scales are (1) self-perception, (2) self-expression, (3) interpersonal, (4) decision-making, and (5) stress management. There are 10 subscales that underpin the larger scales with supporting behaviors such as self-regard, assertiveness, empathy, problem-solving, and flexibility.

Why Is EI Important?

According to Daniel Goleman’s research in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, EI accounted for 67 percent of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders, and mattered twice as much as technical expertise or intelligence quotient, which is our ability to learn. Have you known people who were exemplary in their respective fields but not good people managers? These individuals probably did not have well-developed EI. In addition, individuals with well-developed EI tend to have a higher sense of personal well-being, satisfaction, and contentment, as well as better interpersonal relationships.

How Can EI Be Developed and Improved?

Assessment and coaching. One way that EI skills can be developed and improved is through assessment and coaching. For example, Canadian firm MultiHealth Systems provides a psychometric test of one’s EI through the EQ-i 2.0 assessment (similar to Myers-Briggs and DiSC personality inventories) whereby one’s EI can be scored, development areas identified, and relevant blind spots targeted. A successful coach would employ a “co-active” model of facilitation which is chiefly about discovery (EQ-i 2.0 assessment); awareness (analysis of assessment results); and choice (creation and adherence to a client-determined development plan). In order for the coaching relationship to be successful respect, openness, compassion, empathy, and rigorous commitment to speaking the truth must be present. The coach’s job is to help clients articulate their chosen purpose, clarify their goals, and to assist them in achieving their desired outcomes.

Independent research and study. There are several thought leaders on the topic of EI, including Goleman, who was mentioned earlier, and Travis Bradberry, who you can follow on LinkedIn. I’d also recommend Stein and Book’s The EQ Edge—Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, which has explanations of the 15 scales and subscales, along with case studies.

Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness has proven to help cope with stress and to develop balanced stress-management techniques when feeling under pressure. For instance, during times of stress, ask yourself, “How does my current mood affect my thoughts and decision-making?” If you pause and evaluate how you’re feeling in the moment before you speak or act, it could lead to better results. While we typically don’t have much control over the emotions we encounter (of ourselves or of others), we can control how we react to them by focusing on our thoughts and considering how our actions can de-escalate or incite a given situation.

In order to achieve our maximum potential in our vocations, relationships, and as purposeful human beings, it is imperative that we discern and develop our EI. Not only does it enhance our leadership abilities and promote success at work, but it also supports satisfaction, contentment, and the ability to better enjoy many aspects of everyday life.

Valerie Keels

Valerie Keels, SPHR, is head of office services at GAVI Alliance in Washington, DC, and a member of ASAE’s Finance and Business Operations Professionals Advisory Council.