By Tina Viney

In past years, when developing a staff performance and productivity program, the focus was on tasks and goals.  The issue of joy and your team’s emotional equilibrium did not come into consideration – at least not as a protocol to develop these areas.

Today, we have a very different appreciation of how strengthening our mental and emotional wellbeing is also fundamentally important in sustaining productivity and business performance.

In recent times, all performance-based training is required to include elements that address strengthening emotional and mental resilience and stability. This is because recent turbulent times are proving disruptive to mental health and sabotaging focus and productivity in the workplace.

Many successful businesses within our professional community have heavily invested in HR Contracts, Policies and Procedures and another training program that clearly outline what is expected of their staff and their performance requirements. Despite all their efforts, the key area where staff behaviour appears to lack consistency is somehow linked to their mental health and stress management issues.

One tool that is usefully and scientifically validated is the concept of Emotional Intelligence, so, let’s take a closer look at what it is and how we can use emotional intelligence to create a healthier mindset so that you can increase productivity, joy and performance with your team.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is most often defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. People with high emotional intelligence can recognise their own emotions and those of others, they have greater self-control.  They use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour both in themselves as well as others under their care.

EI is nothing new.  Although the term first appeared in 1964, it gained popularity in 1995 when Daniel Goleman, a science journalist, released his book Emotional Intelligence in which he defined an array of skills and characteristics that drive performance.

Put simply, emotional intelligence is how well individuals identify and manage their own emotions and react to the emotions of others. It’s understanding how those emotions shape your thoughts and actions so you can have greater control over your behaviour and develop the skills to manage yourself more effectively.

Becoming more emotionally conscious allows us to grow and gain a deeper understanding of who we are, enabling us to communicate better with others and build stronger relationships.

While some may have a natural inborn ability towards emotional intelligence, others may need to develop this area of their life.  With the right awareness, anyone can cultivate their capacity for emotional intelligence, by understanding human behaviour and applying some simple strategies.

Here we share a few tips that can help you build these skills.  If you wish your staff to also develop in the area of emotional intelligence include some of these tips in your policies and procedures under personal development, However, many businesses find it beneficial to share a couple of tips each week, bringing awareness to how they can shape and improve communication with others and support emotional stability.

Let’s look at a few key areas to review:

Attitude

  • Take responsibility for your feelings
    Your emotions and behaviour come from you, they don’t come from anyone else and once you start accepting responsibility for how you feel and how you behave it will have a positive impact on all areas of your life.
  • Pay attention to how you behave
    While you’re practising your emotional awareness, take the time to notice your behaviour too. Observe how you act when you’re experiencing certain emotions and how that affects your day-to-day life. Managing our emotions becomes easier once we become more conscious of how we react to them.
  • Question your own opinions
    In this hyper-connected world, it is easy to fall into an ‘opinion bubble’. This is a state of existence where your own opinions are constantly re-enforced by people with similar viewpoints. Take time to read the other side of the story and have your views challenged (even if you still feel they are right). This will help you understand other people and be more receptive to new ideas.
  • Take time to celebrate the positive
    A key part emotional intelligence is celebrating and reflecting on the positive moments in life. People who experience positive emotions are generally more resilient and more likely to have fulfilling relationships, which will help them move past adversity.
  • But don’t ignore the negative

Reflecting on negative feelings is just as important as reflecting on the positive. Understanding why you feel negative is key to becoming a fully rounded individual, who is more able to deal with negative issues in the future.

Self-awareness

A key component of emotional intelligence, self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand your own character, moods and emotions and their effect on others. It includes a realistic self-assessment of what you’re capable of – your strengths and weaknesses – and knowing how others perceive you. It can help highlight areas for self-improvement, make you better at adapting and can limit wrongful decisions.

  • Learn to look at yourself objectively
    Knowing yourself completely is difficult and it’s almost impossible to look at yourself objectively, so input from those who know you is vital. Ask them where your strengths and weaknesses lie, write down what they say and compare it. Look out for any patterns and remember not to argue with them – it doesn’t mean they’re right – they’re just trying to help you gauge your perception from another’s point of view.
  • Keep a diary
    A great way to get an accurate gauge of yourself is to keep a diary. Start by writing down what happened to you at the end of every day, how it made you feel and how you dealt with it. Documenting details like these will make you more aware of what you’re doing and will highlight where problems might be coming from. Periodically, look back over your comments and take note of any trends.
  • Understand what motivates you
    Everyone has a core motivation when they begin a project. The difficulty is keeping this driving force in mind when adversity appears. All too often people start a project but fail to complete it because they lose their motivation to do so. Take time to understand what motivates you and use it to push you across the finish line.
  • Take it easy

Sometimes emotional outbreaks occur because we don’t take the time out to slow down and process how we’re feeling. Give yourself a break and make a conscious effort to meditate, do yoga or read – a little escapism works wonders. And then the next time you have an emotional reaction to something, try to pause before you react.

  • Acknowledge your emotional triggers

Self-aware individuals can recognise their emotions as they occur. It’s important to be flexible with your emotions and adapt them to your situation. Don’t deny your emotions stage time but don’t be rigid with them either, take the time to process your emotions before communicating them.

Self-management

Once you’ve gotten to grips with self-awareness and how your emotions work, you can get a handle on self-management. This means taking responsibility for your own behaviour and well-being as well as controlling emotional outbursts.

  • Snap out of it
    One keyway to keep your emotions in check is to change your sensory input – motion dictates emotion as the old saying goes. So, jolt your physical body out of routine by attending an exercise class or try channelling a busy mind with a puzzle or a book – anything to break your existing routine.
  • Maintain a schedule (and stick to it!)
    Ensuring that you create a schedule and stick to it is extremely important if you want to complete tasks effectively.
  • Eat well

This sounds like an easy one but regulating what you eat and drink can have a massive effect on your emotional state, so try your best to maintain a balanced diet.

  • Don’t get mad

Funnel your emotional energy into something productive. It’s okay to keep overwhelming emotions inside, especially if it’s not an appropriate time to let them out. However, when you do, rather than vent it on something futile, turn it into motivation instead. Don’t get mad, get better.

  • Don’t forget to breathe

Life throws various situations our way, with most of us experiencing some sort of stress on a regular basis. To manage your emotions when this happens and to avoid outbursts, don’t forget to breathe. Call a time out and go put some cold water on your face, go outside and get some fresh air or make a drink – anything to keep your cool and give yourself a chance to get a hold on what’s happening and how you should respond.

Empathy

Quite simply, empathy is the ability to understand other people’s emotions. Understanding that everyone has their own set of feelings, desires, triggers and fears. To be empathetic you’re allowing their experiences to resonate with your own in order to respond in an emotionally appropriate way. It’s a lifelong skill and the most important one for navigating relationships, and whilst it may not come naturally, there are a few ways it can be nurtured.

  • Listen

Before you’re able to empathise with someone you first need to understand what it is they’re saying, which means listening is at the very epicentre of empathy. It involves letting them talk without interruption, preconceptions, scepticism and putting your own issues on pause to allow yourself to absorb their situation and consider how they are feeling before you react.

  • Try to be approachable
    Whether you’re the leader of a team or working on a project with others, try to remain accessible and approachable.
  • Perspective
    We’re all familiar with the phrase “put yourself in their shoes”, and this is exactly that. The simplest way of gaining a little perspective the next time an issue or situation arises is to switch places with the other person and really think about what’s happening from their point of view. Sometimes there’s no right or wrong but at least you’ll understand enough to come to a resolve or offer some useful advice.
  • Open yourself up
    One of the quickest ways to offer a sincere exchange or sign of empathy is to listen to someone’s experiences and connect to it with a similar experience of your own. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up, it might just be the start of a great and lasting friendship.

Joy Killers; What should our team avoid?

Those with a high EI very rarely display the following traits, something for you to be mindful of.

  • Drama
    Emotionally intelligent people listen, offer sound advice and extend empathy to those who need it but they don’t permit others’ lives and emotions to effect or rule their own.
  • Complaining
    Complaining implies two things – one, that we are victims, and two, that there are no solutions to our problems. Rarely does an emotionally intelligent person feel victimised, and even more infrequently do they feel that a solution is beyond their grasp. So instead of looking for someone or something to blame, they think constructively and dissolve the solution in private.
  • Negativity
    Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to kerb cynical thoughts. They acknowledge that negative thoughts are just that – thoughts – and rely on facts to come to conclusions as well as being able to silence or zone out any negativity.
  • Dwelling on the past
    Those with high emotional intelligence choose to learn from the mistakes and choices they have made and instead of dwelling on the past are mindful to live in the now.
  • Selfishness
    Whilst a degree of selfishness is required to get ahead in life, too much can fracture relationships and cause disharmony. Try to avoid being overly selfish and consider other’s needs.

I trust you found these tips useful. 

By understanding and successfully applying emotional intelligence, you and your team can improve communication, develop a better understanding of each other and find joy in working together towards reaching your full potential and achieving your goals.