Leave your emotions at home

I, like many other L&OD pros, see great relevance in the topic of emotional intelligence and its relationship with work. Many times over will you hear things being said about the percentage points increase of sales folk who have good EI or the x point improvement on the staff survey because of a focus on EI. It’s useful information and helps give credence to this topic.

But why does it need that credence at all? Who doubts that there is wisdom and efficacy in understanding our emotional selves? This is the battle we face in HR. To convince the number crunchers that topics like EI are core to understanding human behaviour and therefore core to business success.

Here are some examples of situations where the individual has shown that not only do they understand EI, but it’s helped them achieve a goal.

At a previous organisation a colleague passed away. He was popular and well liked, and sadly his death was sudden due to advanced cancer. Not long after at a company all hands, the CEO was honouring him and he started to cry in front of everyone. We all clapped in solidarity. There was no tenuous link to ‘do better work to honour his memory’. There was appreciation of a CEO who cared about the people he worked with. What did he achieve? Showing strength of character to his workforce that we could rally around. Love wins over fear every time.

An old work colleague used to worry about doing a good job. He was good at what he did, was willing to learn and develop new skills. He took his time, sought help when he needed it and accepted feedback no matter how critical it was. What did he achieve? He now has his own company and offers consultancy on the very thing he trained in.

The last team I worked in was a new group who came together to help the organisation develop its learning and organisational development capabilities. I really enjoyed working with this group because we all took the time to appreciate and listen to what we each had to say. What did we achieve? In six months of being there we were receiving regular praise from all parts of the business because of the good work we were doing.

I can’t categorically link any of the above to EI. I can understand, though, that good EI – both natural and developed – helps make things better. It’s hard to define that ‘better’ in hard terms.

We can put people through programmes and through development to be better. But for me that’s not the crux of it. For me, the crux of it is about the environment you’re in and how you cultivate these behaviours for everyone to understand and be comfortable with.

People often say ‘leave your emotions at home’. They only say that because they’ve never been allowed to or shown how to share their emotions at work in a safe way which is non-threatening and supportive of them as a person.