Emotional Intelligence: What Is It and How Can It Drive Your Workforce?

Communication is central to the success of any company.

Regardless of size, companies can’t succeed without building relationships and ensuring excellent customer service, and according to John Lightfoot, Head of Relationship Management at Ultimate Finance, making sure effective communications happen at every level of your company and through every interaction can be the difference between success and failure. 

Fostering a culture of communication powered by emotional intelligence is as impactful on your workforce, as it is your customers, clients and bottom line.

What is Emotional intelligence?

To me, EI is being aware of how I respond to different situations, controlling my response and expressing myself in the right way – it’s certainly had a positive impact on my work relationships. Accomplished business leaders employ a level of emotional intelligence – growing a business, nurturing relationships, persuading, negotiating, securing funding; none of this happens successfully without it.   The next step is to ensure the wider workforce is also using it. Whether it’s how your customer service team interacts with clients and prospects, or HR professionals dealing with internal issues, lacking emotional intelligence can have a negative impact on multiple areas of your company.

Driving emotional intelligence throughout the team

My team now applies EI to all internal and external communications thanks to working on the following two areas:

Personal awareness – Personal awareness is a constantly evolving skill. To develop it, suggest employees ask themselves questions they may never have considered before – who and what pushes their buttons during the working day? How do they react when put under stress?

When faced with particularly stressful situations I’ve been known to begin making less considered decisions and start sending short emails to avoid work piling up. Others stick to the slow and steady approach but may feel physical changes, such as a feeling in the pit of their stomach. I now aim to step away for a short break to gather my thoughts, allowing me to question myself and take time to consider if I’m making the right decisions. Knowing how you react, and sharing this learning with your employees can inspire self-reflection on their part, and possibly big benefits across the company.

Social awareness – Given the importance of external communications, social awareness is a key skill for your workforce to have. Being aware of what pushes their colleagues’ and clients’ buttons ensures they’re able to adapt appropriately to any situation. Trust can take years to build but seconds to break – one slip thanks to a lack of social awareness can undo months of relationship building. Introducing a culture of anonymous feedback can open employee’s eyes to how their actions influence the environment and people around them Taking this approach could result in someone discovering that their ways of working doesn’t have the positive impact they thought. Anonymous client feedback for customer-facing employees is just as beneficial, especially once changes have been made to rectify anything that had previously rubbed clients up the wrong way.

The benefits to your bottom line

Employing EI can result in noticeable changes in approach to challenging situations, to your staff’s happiness and effectiveness, and ultimately, your business’ profitability. For example, encouraging customer-facing employees to remove traditional agendas from the equation when attending meetings can place the focus on adding value. Reading the room and realising where there is more space to ask questions outside of the usual remit during a client meeting, can open doors. For example, asking the right questions may result in it becoming apparent that a customer is struggling with skills shortages and could provide advice on either recruitment contacts that have helped their business previously, or recommend relevant training services. It’s beyond the traditional remit but resolves a problem the client is struggling with, strengthens the relationship, and secures a referral.

There are many ways to improve the levels of emotional intelligence being employed by your workforce – whether it be gaining feedback, analysing one’s own behaviour or even going on a course. There is no one size fits all but encouraging your team to invest in EI has vast benefits; an improvement to internal communications, strengthening client relationships, obtaining additional value from every interaction, and crucially, securing your business more profit.

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