Written by Catherine Librandi, Senior Consultant Talent Management at AIMS International Switzerland
It is high time to focus on Emotional Intelligence (EI). It would be a serious mistake to set it aside in favour of other necessities, as it encompasses a series of skills that are essential for leaders who have to manage teams both onsite and remotely. In this article, we will try to restore it to its rightful place.
For a long time ignored or as Descartes claimed, separated from reason and not working together, emotions are now coming back in force. Faced with the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), accelerated by the current pandemic, it is high time to give them an important place because they are the cement of our humanity for both the best and the worst when we don’t know how to manage them correctly. But the good news is that we can develop our EI.
Let us perhaps return for a moment to the etymological origin of the word emotion. The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word emovere, of which e- (variant of ex-) means “out of” and movere means “movement”. Emotions would therefore be associated with movement (with what pushes us in this or that direction). Not least of all, when they appear, they tell us that one of our needs is no longer being met. They may appear as a response to an external triggering event, but very often this triggering event is located within ourselves, in our own peculiar way of looking at events and the way we see the world around us, i.e. very often it is our own thoughts, beliefs, cognitive biases or mental ruminations that trigger them without any concrete event having occurred outside of us. And this is very important because it is from this awareness that we can start to better manage our emotions and change the way we see things.
During my studies in psychology, one of the modules that attracted my attention the most was that of the relationship between emotions and our cognitive faculties, such as memory, decision-making, our analytical abilities, our power of concentration, of consistent focus or learning. But emotions do not only have an influence on the so-called “cognitive” faculties, they also have an impact on the way we interact with our peers and ourselves, and in the professional field, it could be the way we resolve a conflict, manage stress and face obstacles, lead and inspire a team, collaborate with other departments or external partners, communicate convincingly or sell a product/service to a third party or even how we build and nurture our relationships. In short, emotions have a direct impact not only on our brains but also on our bodies as they induce very specific physiological and behavioural reactions.
But why are they so important? Daniel Goleman was one of the first to talk about intelligence in relation to emotions. In 1995, he published his first book, which was adapted to the professional context in 1998. He elaborates a model around 25 competencies grouped in 5 main blocks which are:
1. Self-awareness and the ability to understand one’s emotions
2. Self-regulation or self-control
3. Internal motivation
5. Social skills
In the current professional context, marked by a strong acceleration of technology and the need to adapt very quickly to all types of changes, leaders who have understood the importance of emotional intelligence will be better equipped to manage teams both onsite and remotely. And it all starts with being aware of one’s own emotions and their effects on oneself and others. All the other EI skills are the result of this initial awareness.
Technical skills and cognitive abilities remain important, but these are gradually being transferred to AI. Soft Skills, especially the ones related to EI, are more difficult to transfer. Without overlooking the importance of the technical skills that leaders need to demonstrate, we are convinced that it is also important to understand how leaders are able to manage change, conflict and complicated situations, inspire, communicate and recognise the strengths and respond to the need for the development of their team members while at the same time safeguarding their personal well-being and that of their teams.
At AIMS Switzerland, we attach great importance to emotional intelligence. When we are looking for a candidate for one of our clients, we focus on the person as a whole. Through reference checks and our interview techniques based on behavioural questions relating to their professional experience, and our assessment methodology, we seek to understand how the person reacts to situations of stress, conflict or risk-taking, etc. The dimension of EI is therefore always present. Through training and individual coaching sessions, we also develop it among leadership teams or make it a concrete topic of each HR processes such as recruitment, performance management or succession planning.
In the next letters, we will address each block of this fascinating topic, which is our Emotional Intelligence.