Why You Need Emotional Intelligence In Your Remote Workplace
A good business leader will likely have a vision for their organization, a strategy for implementing that vision, and a proven track record in delivering positive outcomes. But successful leadership is not just about what you do - it’s also how you go about it and how you inspire others to maximize their own performances to achieve shared goals. And that’s when emotional intelligence (EI) comes into play.
EI is essentially the ability to be aware of and effectively manage our emotions, as well as those around us. The concept has been around since the late 20th century, when psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer defined it more comprehensively as: “the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth."
More recently, Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis outlined the four key domains of emotional intelligence as:
Self-awareness - the capacity to know what you are feeling and why, and understand how this affects your performance and those around you.
Self-management - the ability to keep disruptive impulses under control, stay calm under pressure and maintain a positive outlook.
Social awareness - accurately identifying and empathizing with other people’s emotions.
Relationship management - the capacity to connect and build rapport, develop meaningful relationships and influence others.
Within these domains lie a dozen competencies, including self-control, empathy, organizational awareness, conflict management and inspiring leadership. Goleman and Boyatzis contend that by building up a balanced skill-set across these EI competencies a manager can excel as a leader.
And why is that important? Well, a recent Yale-led study found that workers with emotional intelligent bosses were happier, more creative and intrinsically motivated. On the other hand, managers that do not behave with EI were more likely to leave a team feeling disgruntled, frustrated and under-appreciated.
Emotional Intelligence in remote teams
In the remote workplace, managers face the challenge of keeping their teams engaged, motivated and effective even when individual members are distributed across different towns, states, and continents. Emotionally intelligent leadership becomes particularly important in this scenario, but it can also be trickier to develop when physical distancing denies us the sensory clues that inform our face-to-face interactions (facial expressions, body language, tone of voice etc). So here are some tips for how to hone your emotional intelligence skills to maintain a happy and high-performing remote team:
- Be aware of how you communicate: Written communication, via email, WhatsApp, or remote work tools like Slack, is widely used even in office workspaces. But when you can’t observe people’s non-verbal reactions, the choice of words becomes especially important to avoid misunderstandings. When shaping a message, emotionally intelligent managers will consider how others may interpret and react to it. Remember that it can be difficult to convey tone with written communication, so make good use of voice calls and video meetings to keep people feeling connected and ensure everybody is on the same page. Over time, you should be able to develop a sense of which form of communication is best suited to individual workers and the team as a whole.
- Accommodate where possible: For people who aren’t experienced in working remotely, and didn’t anticipate doing it anytime soon, the forced transition can be confusing and stressful. Some don’t have an optimal office space at home, and are juggling work tasks with parenting and daily chores. Show some of that emotional self-control and take these circumstances into account if someone isn’t responding to you quickly enough, or if they seem distracted. Does that meeting you’ve planned have to be first thing if it will make life difficult for some team members? Is there room for more flexibility in the work schedule? Emotional intelligence is to identify these potential issues and adjust your own actions accordingly to deliver a mutually beneficial outcome.
- Listen Up: You can’t empathize with your remote workers if you’re not willing to listen to what they say and, in some cases, hear what they’re not saying. In virtual meetings, make sure everyone has a chance to ask questions, express what they’re feeling and raise any concerns. Even better, set an example by asking questions and talking about your own feelings. By listening attentively, you will enhance your own social awareness and build stronger relationships based on trust and empathy. This will help you ‘read the room’ when engaging with your remote team.
- Stay Positive: Try to see the good in people and situations - a positive outlook can make you more resilient when facing obstacles and help you find opportunity in setbacks. Also, positivity is contagious. Even if you’re not physically together, it’s still important to recognize and celebrate success. Put simply, if you make your people feel good, they’re more likely to put in the extra effort for the team.
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