How valuable is emotional intelligence these days? It’s a question that many are asking themselves as the coronavirus pandemic settles into its eighth week of escalation in North America. The 24-hour news cycle has fed us a multitude of approaches world leaders and health organization executives have taken in leading their citizens through this pandemic. Some have taken bold action while also engendering public support. Others have lacked urgency, focus, and transparency while communicating with their citizens.
Despite the uncharted territory this virus finds us in, it is unfolding over time the same way as any other crisis – a story with a beginning, middle and end. The future that unfolds after the dust settles will largely be determined by the actions and decisions of leaders in organizations now and what they choose to value moving forward. It is becoming more apparent as we hunker down for the long haul that emotionally intelligent employees and leaders are critical now more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to be in the days and weeks ahead as the virus changes the way we do business.
In a post-pandemic world, it will be more important then ever for organizations to ensure emotional intelligence is clearly described and fairly compensated in the work people are being asked to do.
Organizations often turn to job evaluation in order to determine the worth of a job in relation to other jobs and to create a rational rewards and recognition structure. However, traditional job evaluation methodologies typically use job descriptions that rely on tactical activities, transactional deliverables and management scope rather than job characteristics, qualities or behavioural competencies expected to be demonstrated. As a result, traditional job evaluation is missing the crucial emotional intelligence measures, bypassing their value completely.
What does an emotionally intelligent leader or employee do?
1. Orienting to purpose
The coronavirus crisis highlights the nature of nearly all crises: deep complexity and rapid change. Simply managing through the crisis ignores the long view of the future and focuses solely on the present. It makes it easy for leaders and employees to merely react to the changing landscape, rather than anticipating future needs. The emotionally intelligent leader can orient their teams to a purpose and unite individuals in working toward that purpose and shared success.
In my organization, our CEO sent out communication the first day we were at home reminding us of our mission and values, specifically as it related to our new remote working reality. Her message emphasized trust that employees would continue to do what is best for them and their families while also balancing the needs of our business. It was a powerful reminder of our purpose and allowed teams to not get bogged down in the minutiae of their day-to-day such as how or where they should complete their work but to pivot quickly to service our clients.
2. Self-regulation and Self-control
The pandemic is proving to be a marathon, not a sprint. As a result, we are seeing what the impact of a protracted crisis is having on employee health and well-being. Emotionally intelligent employees don’t lack the capacity for feeling challenging emotions like stress, anxiety or anger. However, emotionally intelligent workers can identify and analyze their emotions and use self-control to better direct them.
This means that the frazzled nurse or support care worker can recognize when he or she is feeling overwhelmed and can pull up short before snapping at a patient. It also means that the same stressed support care worker can slow down to make better decisions, or to engage a coworker for help about patient care, leading to better clinical outcomes.
3. Embraces vulnerability
Gravity Payments leader Dan Price, CEO of the Seattle-based company that helps small businesses around the United States process payments demonstrated a deep willingness to be vulnerable when he called a company-wide meeting to ask employees for input on alternative measures to layoffs in mid-March when the organization was considering a 20% reduction in staff. Instead of laying off, the organization allowed employees to take voluntary pay cuts tailored to what each employee could afford. The organization has so far avoided layoffs and has financial runway for an additional twelve months. The cost to the organization? Dan needed to be open and vulnerable about the company’s financial position and then truly listen to employee suggestions, something that many leaders would be deeply uncomfortable doing.
Workers and leaders who embrace vulnerability understand that they don’t have all of the answers, and in turn will seek out support, input and ask intelligent questions to get to the right answers. Furthermore, employees and leaders willing to be vulnerable are considered more trustworthy and adaptable than those who aren’t.
What does all of this say about how valuable emotional intelligence is? In the post-pandemic world, proficiency in EI will only continue to be a valuable skill. Organizations that make EI a core job description component will be better equipped to recognize and reward it in their employees.
Furthermore, the emotionally intelligent worker is better positioned to effectively manage others, maintain and build client relationships, and provide superior customer satisfaction. These all lead to more positive business outcomes as the world ‘gets back to business’. The organization that employs this quickly and effectively has a competitive edge over those that believe they can go back to the way things were once the pandemic passes.
Where should an organization start?
HR departments and leaders should review their current job evaluation method or rewards and recognition structure and ask themselves if it is valid in the current climate. Does it measure what needs to be measured and does it take into consideration the future demands of the business? The first clue will be how many factors it measures. If less than 12, you may want to investigate alternative approaches. It will be too generic to get your organization on the right track.
Undoubtedly in the days and weeks ahead we will continue to see powerful examples of purposeful, measured, and vulnerable leadership during this crisis. The future that unfolds will demonstrate the balance of organizations that recognize these skills as central to their success and longevity and these will be the firms to watch.
Meredith J. Hughes
Director, Human Resources
Critical Mass Inc.,
For more information about how Encompassing Visions can provide a competitive advantage to your organization by factoring ‘emotional intelligence’ into how jobs are described and valued, please visit our website @ encv.com or give us a call @ 403-259-6210.