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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Transformational Change

One of the things that you will encounter in nearly every workplace or industry on the planet is a lot of smart people. 

Go figure.

That’s because, for the most part, executives prize a high IQ. But the thing we frequently fail to remember is that IQ is only somewhat important in… well…everything. And unfortunately, where you find a high intellect, you also generally find a huge ego. And those egos can really get in the way of forward progress.

We don’t talk enough about the importance of emotional intelligence.

This especially goes for discussions about transformational change. We’ve talked about change before in these articles. The bottom line is that change is hard. People don’t like it. People like routine. They like things to be known, understood, and done in the way that they’re used to. 

So, when you’re in the process of planning a transformational change as a workforce, people’s IQ’s, and, even more to the point, people’s egos, get in the way of making that change. These are the people on whom the importance of emotional intelligence is lost.

In my own career, a lot of people I’ve encountered in an enterprise who are not necessarily on the leadership team, but who are a part of the organization making the transformational change, have a lot of ideas on how things should change in order to get better. Those people should absolutely be talked to, and their opinions should be received by the parties enacting the transformational change. 

But the people who have the opinions, regardless of how smart they are, might not be able to see the big picture for a lot of reasons. It might be that they have not been exposed to the big picture by leadership, they have not seen the business from all of the different facets, or that they’re seeing things only from their own lane. Their vision for what needs to change might be deeply rooted in their own experience, not taking into account the rest of the big picture.

If you can’t show people in this position the big picture and get them on board, they may wind up being excellent candidates for proper business alignment activities. I’ve met some very, very smart people who didn’t understand the importance of emotional intelligence and who were therefore huge roadblocks to transformational change, for a lot of the reasons I just stated. 

Put simply, I think that one of the ways you get around a general lack of emotional intelligence is to put yourself in the shoes of others – to understand, emotionally, where they’re coming from and actually talk to them. This is not rocket science, but making sure that people are heard and making sure that people understand where you’re coming from is very important. 

You also have to consider, when you’re dealing with resistance to change, that people (even smart people) worry about their job security, sometimes in seriously irrational ways. But the people that I enjoy working with most, and who I’ve had the most success with, are usually emotionally intelligent enough to understand where they belong, what they’re doing, and how the ups and downs and day-to-day of a transformational change don’t affect them negatively in the long run. 

Personally, I really believe that enterprises across the board should coach their people on the importance of emotional intelligence. Of course, if you polled a bunch of executives at different companies and suggested that, they would probably look at you funny. 

I think in America, especially, we don’t consider the importance of emotional intelligence, by which I mean that we ignore the emotional toll that difficult things may take on the people who experience them. We tend to say things like, “Suck it up,” or, “You’ll get over it,” and completely minimize the emotional debt caused by change. 

I would counsel all executives to be mindful of these things, and to address them head-on rather than just sweep them under the table in favor of a more draconian approach to the way work gets done. In my experience, the latter approach is one that rarely works out.

I realize that my explanation of the importance of emotional intelligence might sound a little abstract. Let me give you an example that I think most of us can relate to:

Have you ever argued or fought with your significant other? 

If you have, you’ll know that communication during heated interactions gets severely distorted on both sides. There’s typically one message being given and an entirely different message being received. And the only way around this type of hot mess is to sit down and establish clear communication that takes the perspectives of both parties into account. You will get nowhere until you do.

Whether in a relationship or a business, the importance of emotional intelligence can’t be overstated. You will have a lot more success if you invest in it.

Love, Tim