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How To Identify And Practice Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace

In years past, the emotional intelligence of employees was low on the list of qualifications, especially for leaders. However, with the way that the market has changed, how someone connects with others on an emotional level is becoming much more important. Company leaders need to understand the emotional connection audiences have with services, products and companies as a whole. The most recent Fjord Trends 2020 even talks about “liquid people” and why it is important to set up human insights teams instead of consumer insights. All this leads to the conclusion that now, more then ever before, if you want to successfully lead your company or grow your startup, you will need to understand what emotional connections are and how they can propel you forward.

How is EQ a KPI for emotional connections?

EQ is a term that describes the emotional intelligence that people in the workplace have with each other, and also with the customers or clients of that company. It propels the relationships that people build with one another and can also be applied outside of work.

In general, EQ is thought to have four distinct characteristics, including self-awareness (being aware of how we respond in situations), self-management (how we apply that self-awareness), social awareness (how we perceive others’ feelings in the context of their environments) and social management (how we apply social awareness in order to have fruitful interactions with others).

How does EQ make leaders more successful?

The way people connect allows them to understand what others are going through, which can be the perfect way to help solve someone’s pain points. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence often notice how people around them observe, react and respond. Knowing how to respond appropriately in all situations, both in private and in a group, allows for better experiences with the people around us. As leaders, we want to create the best employee experience possible so that those positive experiences trickle down into how our company’s representatives treat clients and customers. In turn, this can help build positive, trusting relationships with customers.

Where can EQ be utilized in today’s companies?

The greatest thing about emotional intelligence is that it has endless applications. It can be used to help inspire higher performance, develop new products and services, and improve personal development opportunities. It can also be used to prevent burnout, as people who learn how to manage their emotions are often less overwhelmed and benefit from a better work-life balance.

Higher EQ can benefit everyone in a company, from the CEO and founder all the way down to the latest part-time hire. But when it comes to helping improve the employee experience, leaders need to fully understand and utilize EQ regularly. The reason? When you understand where your employees are, both with the company and with the clients, you can better serve them. You can inspire them to strive for more fulfillment and give them challenges that allow them to feel as though they can accomplish even greater things.

Three Ways To Improve Emotional Connections

For many leaders, the question is less about why emotions matter and more about how to create better emotional connections. Here are three practices that you can easily incorporate into your schedule:

• Coffee Surprise: Pick one employee from your team, and schedule a coffee this week. Have a 20-minute conversation about how things are going. Show sincere interest. This conversation is not about facts and figures, sales objectives, or difficult clients. It’s purely about your people and what’s on their minds. You might be surprised by what your employee brings up.

• Listening Marathon: Practice your active listening skills on a large scale by engaging your entire team in a monthly listening marathon. This is a meeting — preferably outside — where two people from your team go for a 30-minute walk. For the first 15 minutes, one person is talking, and the other person only asks questions — no commenting, no telling stories — and practices active listening. Then, switch roles. At the end of the month, take time to reflect with your team on what you’ve collectively learned.

• Gratitude Board: Next to your team bulletin board — whether that’s an objectives and key results board or the spot where you post announcements in the kitchen — set up a gratitude board where every team member is required to post one note every day, stating what they are thankful for. This could be related to work, colleagues, clients, the office building, company events, etc. The point is to get in touch with your emotions and practice positive thinking.

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Taught

If you do not feel as though you have as solid of a grasp of emotional intelligence as you could, then feel better about the fact that you can learn it. You have the opportunity to learn about what makes customers respond the way they do and how to help your employees use that to their advantage. But it’s not a tool or a plugin you can buy. It takes dedication, passion and a real interest in the human beings around you to grow your emotional connections.

This post was initially published on Forbes.com early 2020.

How To Lay The Groundwork For Your Organization’s Next Breakthrough Innovation

All innovation comes from an idea that started with a problem and ended with a solution. It seems simple, right?

There’s just a small — though very important — differentiator: Everyone can think of problems, but not everyone has the same ability to come up with solutions. That is why collaboration is such a valuable tool. One person might see the problem clearly, but it might take the perspective of another to see the solution clearly.

If your goal is to have your business find the answers for the problems and pain points of your customers, then you need to set your company up to successfully collaborate with the best and brightest in your niche. By following these steps, I’ve found collaboration and innovation can become much easier:

Understand your starting point.

Over time, the knowledge each company brings to its specific niche becomes even more specialized. This is because you get better at what you do and can solve the issues that come up for those specific pain points.

However, to find a solution to a customer’s problem, your knowledge might be too specialized to see a valuable solution. It is vital that you have an understanding of what you know as a company — and what you do not know. That way, you see where the gaps are that you need to fill in.

Many leaders today reach out to startups or collaborate with individuals from completely different industries in order to identify these gaps. My personal favorite (and what I’ve found is one of the most powerful ways to learn) is working with children. What if you asked your employees’ kids to test your product in order to challenge your processes and assess your operations? It can be insightful and a true eye-opener to start asking your next-generation customers (as well as your next-generation talents) for their perspective.

Combine teams to improve the knowledge base.

To make sure your company can come up with as many innovative solutions as possible, make sure your knowledge base is vast. This can be done by mixing employees from different departments and having them work as a combined team on selected company challenges. This way, they can bring in their specific skills and expertise, as well as learn from and train their new team members — an excellent and fast way to build and share knowledge inside your organization.

As previously mentioned, it can be very insightful to conduct “experts workshops” with external experts such as young entrepreneurs, influencers, representatives from suppliers, artists, etc. to get their perspectives on the challenge the team is facing. For extra credit, make sure these teams have access to some guidance or a toolbox of creative and innovate techniques so they get support when trying to come up with innovative solutions.

If your teams are unable to work together at first, provide some team-building exercises to help them learn how to rely on one another and value others’ opinions. The more closely each team works together, the sooner their collaboration can result in innovative thinking. Again, for extra credit, make sure the office space is set up in a way that fosters and supports collaboration and creative brainstorming sessions (yes, innovation is often more of a “people” thing than a “technology” thing).

Encourage people to collaborate on all aspects of a business.

While many believe they already understand how to collaborate, your company might need your teams to work together differently than they are used to. For example, by simply taking two ideas from different use cases or product lines and putting them together, you might get a completely new solution, or maybe even a new business model. However, if you take two known ideas and your teams work together to add in one whole new part, it might be just different enough from what has been tried in the past to create a unique, new and innovative solution.

It’s important that your people understand the power of trying something unique in order to come up with a solution your clients will love. Nevertheless, doing minor adjustments to an existing way of doing it can also sometimes be just enough of what’s needed. The bottom line is that as long as your teams remain open and are willing to give different perspectives and collaboration a try, they are on a good track.

Many companies have taught the value of collaboration to their employees by simply encouraging them to keep striving for new answers. They show through the organization’s culture that they value communication and an agile leadership style in all avenues of how they do business. These companies give rewards to those who continually step up and provide more than what is expected of them. They are set up to listen to new ideas regularly, and they truly understand the concept of “fail fast and fail forward.”

If you want your company to have successful, innovative ideas and collaborative people, then you need to encourage collaboration at every level of the company. Even brand-new employees should be encouraged to be a part of this practice, as you never know where the next breakthrough will come from.

Conclusion

The good news is that your company has all of the innovation potential. You simply need to ensure that you are set up to collaborate with the best talents. Make yourself aware of your shortcomings, and fill in those gaps with people from the outside who can elevate your company. If you are not sure where to begin or what shortcomings you might have, reach out to sparring partners who can show you how to bring your company up to the next level of innovation and collaboration. After all, fast innovation capabilities will turn more and more into a key currency in the digital economy.

This article appeared in its original version on forbes.com late 2019.