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The Great Resignation has many people wondering about the Employee Experience, leadership, motivation and our world of work. It is time to rethink how we recruit, our ways of working and to clarify purpose to those we lead.

In our post-pandemic personal life revaluations, there are many factors driving these resignations, from toxic work cultures, poor work flexibility, a misalignment or uncertainty around organisational purpose or values to simpler matters like job insecurity and pressure. However, one thing which is less discussed is Emotional Intelligence, or perhaps, the lack thereof.

We have built the corporate world largely around IQ. We recruit and value those with higher ‘Intelligence Quotients’. The IQ score, originally developed in the early 1900’s, measures your ability to solve problems using logic and reason and grasp complex ideas.  A standard test would include assessing visual and spatial processing, world knowledge, fluid reasoning, memory and quantitative reasoning. All of these qualities are useful in our everyday corporate world, but sadly they do not represent absolute success.  People with high IQs don’t always make good leaders or team members.

We’re All So Clever

The entire education system teaches and values the IQ system. Those who have better reasoning and memory skills get better grades and get the university places. Those with the best degrees get recruited. We value smarts, intelligence, reason, logic. We recruit the same type of people over and over, with the same intellectual skills. We homogenise our workforce.

However, there is another intelligence that is critical for success, both in the work environment and our personal lives. Emotional Intelligence (or measuring your Emotional Quotient – EQ) has grown significantly in popularity when it comes to attracting or retaining talent and developing leaders.

EQ measures your ability to recognise emotion in yourself and others – the ability to perceive, control, evaluate and express emotions, using this awareness to guide your decisions. While the research seems to indicate that your IQ level is somewhat more determined by genetics (nature), your EQ and emotional development seems to be more nurture (your family up-bringing, friend and partner influences, or your own later personal development work). The good news is that unlike IQ, EQ can be significantly developed through social and emotional learning and therapy.

train your emotional intelligence

Tell Me How You Feel

The roots of behaviour therapy emerged from treating the WWII veterans in response to their emotional traumas. Cognitive therapy emerged stressing the importance of thoughts/feelings in terms of behaviours, and today, what we know as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) challenges and seeks to change cognitive distortions (negative thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes). However, the focus on change and the cerebral (your thoughts and beliefs) didn’t help those with emotional deregulation or conditions such as borderline personality disorder.   For that, we have the lesser-known Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). DBT focuses more on helping people increase their emotional regulation, as well as the cognitive.

a building with massive billboard 'tell me what you feel'

DBT presents three basic mind states that control our urges and behaviours. Firstly, we have the Reasonable Mind. In this frame of mind, we pay attention to the facts, the observable knowledge. It is a place of logic, cerebral in nature, brain centred. It is IQ.  In this state, we can often detach ourselves from the reality of a situation or fail to empathise.

The next mind state is the Emotion Mind. Here it is emotions dictating our response, which can often cloud logical reason or judgement. Facts may become distorted based on emotional state and it can be a very subjective space. It is felt in the heart.

The last mind state is Wise Mind. This is balance we seek between Reasonable and Emotional, the mid-point. It is the seat of intuition, of gut-feel. If reason is felt in the head brain and emotion in the heart brain, this is felt in your gut brain (which by the way is lined with 500 million neurons). Intuition and what ‘feels right’ goes beyond reason or emotion. It is the integration of feelings and facts and a place we all need to manage and lead from.  But it takes practice.

Where Is My Mind?

Our issue in the modern corporate world is that we live in Reasonable Mind most of the time. We recruit there, we reward success to those that excel in reason, data and process. Emotions are often seen as unsuitable for the workplace. But the pandemic changed all that.

The collapse of the Wizard of Oz work curtain was a wonderful accident during the pandemic. Not only did we all see into each other’s homes and lives, we also got to see our colleagues and leaders as people.  People with lives, pets, children and emotions. Authenticity and Vulnerability became key values. Emerging from that reality, we all need to increase our EQ skills and then, together with our logic and reason, lead permanently from The Wise Mind.

Here are five aspects you need to consider in increasing your emotional intelligence

1. Self awareness

Accessing your emotions requires you to be centred, always knowing how you feel and how your emotions could affect your actions and those around you.  You know your emotive strengths and weaknesses, you show humility, are critical in leadership. You allow your feelings to be felt, you listen to them, something many of us run from.

a man meditates after work

So how do you foster this sense of self-awareness? The two simple tools are journaling and meditation. Journals aren’t just for teenagers you know. Spending a few minutes each day to write down your feelings (and analysing the arising thoughts and behaviours) significantly increases your self-awareness. Similarly, taking the time to slow down, to feel things in your body, to sit in silence/meditation without purpose, to be aware of the answer to the question ‘how do I feel’.

2. Self Regulation

Clearly this comes after the awareness part. Emotional regulation is about learning how to control your emotions so that you don’t act in a way that may be unproductive, to you or others.  This doesn’t mean you lock your emotions away and hide from your true feelings (again what the workplace tends to think is appropriate). It means you wait for the right time to express them appropriately and to allow them filter through you.

Ken Hughes shouting tp himself

Step one in this is knowing your values. What are your boundaries? Where will you not compromise? Spend time on your own personal code of ethics. Emotions like jealousy, anger, frustration or disappointment often emerge where boundaries have not been honoured.  Holding yourself accountable also helps in the regulation of emotions. Own your own emotions and recognise when your resulting behaviours may not be in your best interest. Be accountable for your mistakes that were emotionally driven.

Those who are skilled in emotional regulation generally adapt well to change and are more flexible, the kind of skills we need in our disruptive times.

3. Motivation

While motivation can be an external force, leaders who are self-motivated work consistently better toward goals they set. They have high standards for their own work and are very conscientious (all attributes that make a good hire). But remember, we are taking about emotional intelligence here, so this is about leveraging emotion and feelings as a motivational force. So how do we do that?

what tiptok can teach about collaboration on consumerism

You start by re-examining why you are doing your job. You need to connect with that why – why you love your job and if you do not, get to the root of why not. Set fresh and energising goals for yourself. Take some tests in terms of Leadership Motivation. Also, good leaders instil hope in those around them. Optimism is a key EQ value.   Adopting a positive mindset is critical to emotional intelligence and this takes practice and training.

4. Empathy

This was one aspect that really shone through during the pandemic years. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s situation. Empath leaders help others develop, challenge where necessary, listen and offer constructive criticism.

two hands representing empathy

Empathy needs to be developed. Start by putting yourself in other people’s shoes on a regular basis. Challenge your own perceptions of the reality that you see. In moments of conflict (personal or work relationships) write down what the other party may be thinking/feeling. Learn to read body language and respond to this as much as you would to verbal communication. Sign up for Active Listening workshops.

5. Social Skills

This one is a combination of some of the others. There is no point in being an empath, self-aware, self-regulated and motivated if you cannot communicate and lead a team. Social skills are all about the soft skills – the conflict resolution, being open to hearing bad news as well as good, being able to motivate those around you with your behaviours.

Team at work

Key skill improvements here are conflict resolution and communication. Having strong social skills allows you to build meaningful relationships, key in modern leadership. The application of key EQ qualities in the social setting of work.

So, what is the take away here? If we recognise that we need to increase our personal EQ, then we have the five aspects above to work on. We can also use them as recruitment and talent development criteria, in order to build teams that are more ‘Wise Mind’ oriented.

I Feel, You Feel, We All Feel

This also opens up the diversity debate. There is a general thought that women score higher in EQ than men. This is actually untrue, a bias derived from the fact that women express their emotions better than men. Expressing your emotions is not a proxy for emotional intelligence. In fact, the research shows that women and men score the same in EQ tests, that is gender cannot be used as a guide for EQ. (Caveat: within EQ research, the data does show that women score higher in empathy, interpersonal relationships and social responsibility while men score higher in self-regard, confidence, stress tolerance and assertiveness). The diversity debate should therefore not be a gender one but a EQ v IQ one. We should look to have a more diverse range of EQ team members to counter-balance the logic of the IQ reasoning.  If we are to drive the creative and innovation engines of our world, we need the passion of EQ.


I will leave you with this quote, the difference between intelligence and understanding.

A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether or not to say it.

The Wise Mind Manager metaphor above is drawn from Ken Hughes’ new keynote Love is a Verb, a speech all about relationship, authenticity and the need for better connection.

Book the speech now, with live on-stage or virtually, for your next event
Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading speakers on the subject of customer experience, consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual and live in-person keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought-provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

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