by Robyn Evans

In 1996 a gentleman by the name of Daniel Goleman published a book and popularised the concept of Emotional Intelligence (a term created by two researchers- Peter Salavoy and John Mayer). He dubbed it “the other kind of smart”. Several years on and we are discovering more and more the practical implications of this construct.

Before we dismiss the concept of emotional intelligence as fluffy and vague, let’s discuss the practical application of the 5 composites (and 15 sub-composites).

Self-actualisation is a sub-composite of Self-Perception. Self-actualisation can be simply described as “pursuit of meaning”

Practically this could mean a workforce that is better at setting goals and moving toward them. What would your team look like if it contained people who were able to:

  • Set reasonable goals
  • Move toward them in a practical way
  • Drive their own behaviour toward self-improvement
  • Personally, and actively pursue their own development and not rely on an external motivator to drive learning and development.

What about Assertiveness? (A sub-composite of Self-Expression)
We’ve all had that situation where we ask a person to complete a task, and give them a deadline and think everything is taken care of. Only to find, two or three days before a due date, that they haven’t been able to get the work done. We often feel incredibly frustrated and wish something had been said earlier. Those who have a healthy assertiveness score are able to convey information like this timeously. They are able to respond well to an instruction, be honest about their time pressures, contribute to dialogue around timelines and ask for help and support when needed. This would translate into having a team of people who are able to ask for help when they need it, feel comfortable expressing themselves in a way that is not offensive to others. This means moving through projects more easily.

Empathy (a sub composite of the Interpersonal composite) is an often misused and misunderstood word. I think that Harper Lee puts it beautifully in To Kill a Mockingbird. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

Too often we think of empathy as sympathy- which it is not; or understanding- which minimises the concept. When it comes to people’s choices, views and behaviour- there is nuance, and shades of grey. However, we tend to view other people’s behaviour as either good or bad, black or white. And good, or right, is often what I would choose to do.  So, we battle to empathize with others who don’t make the same choices as we do, or we would.  What empathy means, practically applied is that I am able to see things from another view- even if (and this is important) I don’t agree with the other person.  An empathic leader, or team member is less likely to engage in unnecessary conflict, and is able to work better with others. Specifically, within South Africa’s multi- cultural landscape, with our particular history, empathy is an essential skill.

Elaine Morris describes everyone’s ideal employee when she discusses Impulse Control (sub-composite of Decision Making) “Impulse control… reflects an ability to think before acting, show restraint in the face of temptation and control aggression, hostility and irresponsible behaviour.”

In the workplace environment, that could translate as follows:

Improved restraint in the face of temptation = less likely to make an inappropriate comment/ advance (sexual harassment), less likely to abuse leave.

Control aggression = less grievances, less conflict, less “drama”.

Control hostility = easier interpersonal relations, rather than being at the mercy of others’ moods.

Control irresponsible behaviour = think improved quality, better adherence to rules, policies etc.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I’m not promising that a 1 day Emotional Intelligence workshop means a magic wand waved over your team means all your people problems will disappear, I’m just saying that Emotional Intelligence is worth looking at. Unlike a static IQ score, EQ / EI is something we can all work.

Our Port Elizabeth office is running a once off, 1 day EQ programme on 13 June 2017. If you would like to register, or further information, please contact me on [email protected]

Joint Prosperity, an organisation with whom we have had a long association is also able to offer insight, psychometric testing and coaching.  They can be contacted here.