Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence: The soft skill every employer wants

8 months ago by Claire Smith

​As experts in recruitment we often get asked for advice by clients about how to spot potential leaders.

Identifying candidates with leadership abilities is important for companies looking to secure their long-term ambitions. But setting up a talent pipeline takes time as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

While there are obviously industry-specific requirements in all of the sectors we operate in, one attribute that applies increasingly across them all is emotional intelligence, as the ability to recognise your own and other people's emotions is vital in today's diverse and ever-changing business environment.

The term is largely associated with Daniel Goleman and it challenges the traditional narrative that IQ is the sole measure of a person's ability. In recent years it has become increasingly linked to professional success, as those with high emotional intelligence are seen to consistently outperform their colleagues.

"Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but [they] still won't make a great leader," Goleman wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

So how can emotionally intelligent staff improve a workplace?

They can form personal relationships

Being able to communicate with fellow workers on a personal level is very important in any sector, as companies want to have staff who are approachable and can connect with co-workers. Dr Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, thinks that likeable leaders "communicate on a very personal, emotional level [and] they never forget that there's a flesh-and-blood human being standing in front of them". Giving people your time and attention is vital for creating a positive working environment and cultivating a strong culture.

They are self-aware

Companies are always trying to find out their strengths and weaknesses, so having staff who can do this on a personal level makes progression much easier. Not only will this be important for their own long-term professional development, but self-aware people are also very good at seeing how decisions will affect others. Brent Gleeson, CMO of Internet Marketing, said in Inc: "In order to reach your maximum potential, you must be confident in who you are, understanding the good with the bad. Those that have a strong understanding of who they are and what they want to work on can improve themselves on a regular basis."

They have empathy

The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people, and being able to treat people according to their emotional reactions, is key for delivering a first-class client service. This is very important in both the food and horticultural sectors, as companies rely on long-term relationships with clients and customers. According to Goleman, there are three reasons why empathy is so important - the increasing use of teams, the rapid pace of globalisation, and the growing need to retain talent.

They can self-regulate

Being able to control your emotions in the workplace is very important, as no one wants their judgement to be clouded by moods or impulses. For example, if a piece of work is not well received, emotionally intelligent employees will choose their words carefully, avoid sweeping judgements and look to see what lessons can be learned from the process. By turning negatives into positives, they also make sure that morale is not affected.

They are effective communicators

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings in the workplace, so employees need to be comfortable expressing their opinions. "Failing to communicate effectively in a workplace leads to frustration, bitterness and confusion among employees. Effective communication can eliminate obstacles and encourage stronger workplace relationships," Gleeson stated. Good communication also means everyone understands the direction and vision of the company, and what their role is in the process.

Operating in the UK food sector is always going to be tough and ultra-competitive, so those with emotional intelligence will always be in demand. However, this is a quality that can be worked on and improved over time - it's something that should be on the personal learning and development agenda for any aspiring 'leader' who's looking to stand out from the crowd and take control of their future.