“Success in Business is all about people, people, people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its biggest competitive advantage”. Richard Branson
We often focus on the What we do – great products, great strategy, and pay too little attention to the Why and the How. The Why being our belief in our role and the How being the way in which we conduct ourselves. I had a boss earlier in my career who was very fond of sound bites and one or her favourites was ‘If you can’t do people, you can’t do business’. I have never forgotten this easy to say, but hard to do lesson. But is it so hard? Some context around culture and a definition of Emotional Intelligence may help.
What Emotional Intelligence is and why it matters
A pretty good definition is from Peter Salovey & John D Mayer as far back as 1960. “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions".
To my mind it’s the effect you have on your self and on others – the impact of behaviour. As we know, good, indifferent or bad behaviours significantly affect those around us. Workplaces are communities of people – these people need to feel good about each other and whom they work for.
According to Salovey & Mayer there are 4 key components of emotional intelligence:
Perception: The ability to read other people’s non-verbal cues. Body language, facial expressions, reading the room. How many times have we all blasted ahead with what we are doing and failed to read subtle changes in how people are reacting?
Reasoning: Knowing yourself. What triggers your behaviour? What motivates you and grabs your attention. Knowing yourself is vital – because that has an impact on how you operate.
Understanding: The ability to see things from somebody else’s point of view. For example if somebody is angry, aggressive, unreasonable – Understanding gives us the ability to think about what’s driving that person to behave in this way, increasing likelihood for a better outcome.
Managing: Regulating your own behaviour to create the best impact and outcome for others.
Emotional Intelligence = Behaviour = Culture
Booz and Allen Change Management survey suggests that 84% of senior and middle managers say culture is critical to their organisation’s success. In addition, 60% see it as a bigger success factor than either their strategy or their operating model. So it’s big for business.
Culture, I believe is the culmination of people’s behaviour, essentially, how things are done around here. The trouble with culture being that it is a hard thing to control, develop and change. I hear people talk about the culture of an organisation or team in very reactive terms, as if ‘it is what it is’. Where culture and behaviour sets are deliberately thought through, strategically set up and managed by leaders, they become key tools for individual and organisational success.
Barriers to changing emotional intelligence
Changing behaviour is challenging. The biggest single barrier is that we are dealing with the core of who we are, what has been learned subconsciously over many years. Many of us lack the tools and insight to effectively change what we have learned since we were very young. It’s not surprising when we resist somebody looking to change who we are!
The good news is that it can change – but it needs time, thought and focus. Within an organisation, the strength of the Why or purpose of the organisation helps set the guidelines.
Value of values
Values are critical tools for the business. They help to create belief in why things are done this way – i.e. the culture. Leaders who use the values to set standards for their own behaviour will be setting expectations for others around them. If it feels right, we generally conform – we want to fit in, to be part of the tribe. Over time using value sets to support clear business strategy and vision, leaders can create the boundaries for effective and collective behaviour.
5 ways to driving business growth through Emotional Intelligence