Enabling EQ in the workplaceFeatured

Does employing EQ mean you are an emotional person?

Due to the effects of COVID on mental health and the hot discourse in mainstream media, EQ has been bantered about with everything from being woo-woo to being emotionally expressive.

For myself—it’s a skill that allows connection with those around you while bringing awareness, openness, trust, and boundaries to the fold of our human interactions.

Emotional quotient (EQ) or emotional intelligence (EI) was aptly coined in 1990 by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer as,

“a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”

Later on, in the 1995 best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, written by science journalist Daniel Goleman, EI is defined as the array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance.

Great idea in theory but, how can we set this in cultural practice?

What I have seen over the years of employing EQ in both corporate and startup life is that there are huge underlying benefits in the long run. For My Comma and the Femtech Salon, the motto my co-founder and I agreed on was “being human first” no matter what. Prioritizing EQ means that your team members

  • work to understand others, empathize, and engage appropriately
  • know how to adjust to key milestones
  • take criticism well and improve based on feedback
  • are open to making adjustments and improving the overall workplace
  • know you value them as people, not simply for what they do

While it does have its challenges especially when milestones and a business are at stake, we found through 4 simple ways we incorporated a different kind of team-grown flexibility in our ways of working:

1. Communicate that EQ is part of the culture from the get-go

Openly articulate to yourself and those around you that you are evolving your EQ whilst also giving space to be human first. When openly communicated and recognized, this has been the difference of winning and retaining talent over other high paying employers the last few years. They see we are committed to them as an individual while not being perfect people ourselves.

John Hopkins cites research stating that EI accounts for 90% of what sets high performers apart and how one can work on this skill. EQ sets the foundations for our practices in servant leadership and enhancing growth mindset—both critical in developing our skilled team. You can identify those who are unwilling to be open or learn—I usually observe them over two weeks to see how they collaborate with others and bring themselves to the table. If they are clearly not interested in learning, they are not a good fit for us.

2. Mindset Check-Ins

Every meeting starts with a 30 secs/person lowdown of someone’s Rose vs Thorn and what they feel at that point in time based upon the RAG status system (Red= Struggle bus, Amber=Ok, could be better, Green=Doing well). Based on their responses and what they feel comfortable sharing, we can identify potential blockers and how they can be rapidly addressed either through team brainstorming, reallocation of work and/or additional 1:1 support from our leadership team. This also shows how you value your team in a positive way that’s aligned with your culture and business as a whole.

Yes, sometimes it may take time, but I will take investing a little more upfront to build solid trust and avoid unexpected fire drills any day. Sharon McNeil’s LinkedIn post has her approach to these check-ins.

3. Value everyone’s time as your own

I’ve learned this lesson from a young age with the saying “early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable.” That combined with my near-death experiences bolster my belief that the most precious thing someone can give you is their time. This normally means I am 5 min early to everything, but when I have been late I sincerely apologize. No one is above apologizing for wasting another person’s time—not a VC, celebrity, CEO, political leader or even the Pope—so acknowledge it appropriately to move on.

Based upon my ten years in strategy and analytics consulting with observing Fortune 100/500 teams and my last three years in startups—when someone believes you don’t value their time repeatedly, the team saw a loss in effort, engagement, performance, etc. which is not good for culture or morale. Business Insider discusses how this is most often taken as disrespect which is a hard relationship position to repair and bounce back from.

4. Demonstrate appreciation in small ways more often

Everyone seeks acknowledgment for what they bring to the table and it doesn’t always have to be awards. Running as a lean start up, we are unable to give out bonuses. However, we do buy meals, send cooking pans for new hobbies, send thank you cards/care packages, and I always close each meeting by telling my team I appreciate their effort and time—my own little namaste ritual. Both recognition and appreciation are critical to supporting your team while building trust and connection.

As we evolve as a company and team, we can tackle more complex ways of developing EQ across our ways of working. However, incorporating EQ into your workplace isn’t about being emotional. It signals to those around you that you are willing to employ different approaches to connect and foster a healthier, open, and gratitude-driven environment where they can thrive.

The Challenge: try one of the above for two weeks to see if you connect with someone else differently and with positive results—it may just surprise you and open space that didn’t exist before.