We’re currently dealing with a huge amount of uncertainty and ambiguity as the complex and volatile story of the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds.

There’s a term for this challenging environment: VUCA, which stands for ‘volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous’. The US military introduced it in the late 1980s to describe the world it thought would result from the end of the Cold War.

Organisations began to use it after the attacks of 9/11 and the 2008 economic collapse to describe what they saw as the ‘new normal’, reassessing how they lead, develop and support their people to thrive in the midst of constant change.

Organisations, their employees and their customers now need to cope with the upheavals that Covid-19 has suddenly caused – business and personal resilience are both key right now – and this is where emotional intelligence comes in.

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is our ability to recognise and manage emotions – our own and other people’s. It helps us to handle pressure well, get the best out of people and make good decisions no matter what’s going on around us.

EQ has four areas (or ‘domains’):

  • self-awareness (knowing what we’re feeling and why)
  • self-management (managing our emotions effectively)
  • social awareness (recognising others’ emotions)
  • relationship management (developing strong, positive connections with other people).

When people are worried and stressed, being able to recognise, respond to and manage emotions is vital. Managers need to be able to manage their teams with sensitivity, tact and understanding and employees need to do the same for customers – while still being able to make the right decisions.

Although some people are naturally highly emotionally intelligent, EQ is a skill that can be learned and improved so that employees have great interactions with customers and with each other and feel fulfilled in their roles. 

At Knowledgepool, we’ve done a lot of work with organisations that want to help their people to have more emotional intelligence and, based on the insight we’ve gained during these projects, here are our 10 tips for developing EQ:

  • be assertive but respectful when communicating with others
  • keep your emotions in check by responding, not reacting, to situations
  • listen actively
  • stay motivated by setting goals and facing challenges head-on
  • stay positive by keeping good habits and being optimistic
  • be self-aware and recognise how your emotions affect others
  • use feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow
  • empathise with colleagues and customers to relate to them and build mutual respect
  • use your leadership skills to set high standards and an example for others
  • be approachable and sociable to build great relationships.

Being able to manage our emotions is central to how we manage their impact on other people. For example, if a customer service agent gets frustrated that a customer doesn’t have the right information to hand when they call, the customer can pick up on that frustration and become annoyed or upset – which makes it more difficult to solve their problem or answer their query.

Crucial to this is empathy – being able to share someone else’s emotions by imagining what it would be like to be in their situation. When colleagues and customers are feeling stressed and worried, it really helps to be able to see things from their perspective and understand what they’re feeling and why. 

Being empathetic enables us to connect with other people and respond appropriately. It makes it easier to support team members and customers during difficult times, because we understand what they’re experiencing and why they’re reacting more emotionally than they might when they’re under less pressure.

The key is to be kind and supportive and still be able to do our jobs. The balancing act is between being empathetic and still making decisions, even if those decisions aren’t what colleagues or customers want to hear. We wouldn’t be able to manage team members effectively or advise customers properly if we got so caught up in empathising with them that we couldn’t actually do our job.

At the same time, focusing on doing our jobs without EQ and empathy is just as counterproductive. In VUCA times, treating each other with kindness, empathy and understanding is the best way to keep ourselves resilient and in the best shape possible to thrive after the pandemic is over. 

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