Connecting Agility and Emotional Intelligence at work

This past year has demonstrated, more than ever, the need for emotional intelligence at work.

Being able to successfully handle the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of COVID-19 has required agility from leaders and team members.

But it’s not just the pandemic. We’re working today in a marketplace that is ever-changing because of new technology, globalization and fierce competition. Our workplaces are often more diverse now, too, which reshapes how we do business.

What does it look like to be more agile? It could be:

  • Flattening the leadership hierarchy
  • Introducing new approaches to project management
  • Transitioning to new business models (like shifting to remote workers and online business services)
  • Recruiting team members who are flexible and who work well with others

Wiley (publisher of DiSC, Five Dysfunctions and so many other business tools) recently surveyed 2,500 professionals, and researchers found that in 2020:

  • 95% of managers, directors and executives identified that the ability to adapt quickly and easily (agility) is more important to success now than five years ago
  • 90% of those who responded, (whose positions varied from individual contributor to top tier executive), said agility was more integral to their personal success than it was five years ago
To be agile, businesses need people who can handle radical disruption.

Some common examples of radical disruption — aside from the global pandemic — could include:

  • Facing a new competitor with innovative technology or services
  • A major problem with the supply chain
  • Going international and figuring out everything from regulations in another country to tariffs to cultural norms

So how do you find people who can be agile? Perhaps more importantly, how can you help build agility in yourself and your current team members?

The answer is to look for and develop emotional intelligence (EQ).

EQ is more than understanding emotions. It is having the ability to see a situation and understand your own emotional response and the emotional and interpersonal needs of those involved so that you can respond appropriately. When you can do this even when it’s difficult, that’s agility.

Leaders or team members who have developed agility are going to be working offensively, watching out for the next radical disruptor and ready to make decisions or manage change.

These are folks who will make an effort to adapt when needed, even if it feels uncomfortable.

They’re also able to work with people very differently from themselves, whether that is a generational or cultural difference.

Among the qualities we see demonstrated by those with high EQ are core social and emotional strengths such as:

  • Active listening
  • Self-reflection
  • Empathy
  • Objectivity
  • Assertiveness

These kinds of competencies are foundational for successful teamwork and problem-solving. When we’re able to move between confidence and vulnerability and between self-assurance and empathy, for example, or handle change that is thrust upon us, that is the sort of agility that is valuable in today’s ever-changing workplace.

High EQ also shapes the culture of the workplace and how employees experience working there. This is important because low EQ hurts productivity, often correlating with toxic cultures. In the Wiley 2020 survey, more than 40% of respondents said they had quit jobs where they had to work with people who had low EQ.

How to build EQ in the workplace

There are ways to measure our emotional intelligence so that we can figure out where our strengths are and which areas need a little more development. While it’s very valuable to have this kind of insight, we also need to know how to use that theory in practice. Specifically: How can we use EQ to drive organizational success?

The good news is that experts agree — everyone can grow their EQ and develop social and emotional skills.

At Padraig, we use many assessments and guides to help our clients better understand themselves and their team members. The Everything DiSC series of assessments and the EQi2.0 are examples that are valuable because they provide participants with a detailed personalized profile based on their results. From there, we have coaching and group learning programs to help participants learn how to improve their EQ and make the most of existing strengths so that everyone feels empowered to move between mindsets and become more agile.

Coach’s Questions

How would a more agile workforce help your organization? How might agility help you and your home life? When it comes to the volatility and change we all face, what would you most like to feel stronger about, or more sure about?

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Want to learn more about the connection between agility and Emotional Intelligence at work? Click the image for the complimentary ebook  Agility Unlocked.