By Paul A. Douglas, Ph.D, founder & CEO, P.A. Douglas & Associates Inc.
Clearly, organizations have changed and your role as an administrative professional within them has changed as well and news flash: it will continue to change!
The rulebook has indeed been rewritten. Success today is not solely determined by how smart you are, how much education you have, or even how well you can do the job from a purely technical perspective. Rather research conducted throughout the eighties and nineties and now into the first two decades of the new millennium has consistently shown that when people fail at work, they do so largely for one reason: they are unable to work effectively with other people. Whether you are a middle manager, an engineer, a lawyer, or an administrative professional, your success depends on your ability to work well with others, regardless of your technical skills. If you don’t have THAT skill, you will not reach your full potential!
This new measure of success is being used increasingly in recruitment, promotion and even termination. Numerous studies confirm that it is not the most intellectually gifted people who obtain the greatest success, nor the most dedicated, honest, hardest-working individual that gets the brass ring. We see this in politics and in the world of sports and entertainment, and we see examples of this in our own organizations. We witness skilled, bright, hard-working individuals struggling, while those with fewer skills thrive and advance, almost coasting to success, and we ask ourselves why this is the case. The answer almost certainly relates to their ability to get things done with and through other people, to influence others in positive ways. Those who consistently come out on top possess what we now refer to as “emotional intelligence.”
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is one of the most interesting and worthwhile concepts to hit the business world in recent years. It is based on the notion that the ability of individuals to understand their own emotions, and the emotions of the people around them, forms the key to better interpersonal and organizational success.
Emotional Intelligence Defined
What is emotional intelligence? Attempts to define it are difficult, because it seems somewhat intangible. It is certainly something that is more difficult to identify on a résumé than education or job experience; however, its relevance and importance cannot be overstated. Clearly, it is more than just interpersonal skills. Two of the founders of the EQ concept, John D. Mayer of the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey of Harvard define it as, “The ability to recognize the meanings of emotion and their relationships, and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. Emotional intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them.” Simply stated, emotional intelligence is an effective tool, because its principles provide a new way to understand and assess people’s behaviours, attitudes, interpersonal skills and potential.
The Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence
Your emotional intelligence is derived from four elements that are strongly interrelated. These four components are further divided into two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence
Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive the emotions you are feeling as you are feeling them, and understand why you are having them and what effect they might have on you. It is the ability to understand the connection between what you are feeling and how you typically respond to those feelings.
In other words, it is recognizing the link that exists between your feelings and what you think, do, and say. Self-awareness involves more than a small degree of self-honesty, as it denotes an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. Daniel Golman, in many ways the father of the emotional intelligence movement, says that of all the competences, self-awareness is the key to increased personal and organizational performance.
What distinguishes great leaders from those who are just average is their level of emotional intelligence, according to Golman. His research has found that emotional intelligence proves twice as important as IQ and technical know how. Selfawareness is the core emotional intelligence skill upon which all other emotional intelligence skills depend. Recognizing the link that exists between your feelings and what you think, do, and say.
Self-management speaks to your ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check. People with high self-management skills can stay composed and positive under pressure and stress. They tend to deal with issues objectively while keeping defensiveness at bay. Those with positive self-management skills exhibit high standards of honesty, reliability and integrity; they act ethically and build trust through their authenticity. They take responsibility for their individual actions and performance, and are willing to truthfully admit to their own mistakes and shortcomings.
Social awareness is the ability to comprehend, understand and react to others’ emotions. Individuals with high social awareness are observant to emotional cues and tend to listen well. They demonstrate above average sensitivity as they seek to empathize with other people’s viewpoints and perspectives.
People with this competency focus on the needs of others and are usually good delegators. They acknowledge and reward other people’s strengths and accomplishments. They typically offer useful and practical feedback pinpointing areas in which improvement may be needed in a nonthreatening manner.
People in tune with social awareness seek to understand the needs of team members and are service-oriented. They can lever diversity and possess a natural respect for people from disperate and varying backgrounds and are sensitive to group dynamics. They also demonstrate a keen political awareness. Above all, they are concerned with, and are sensitive to, other people’s feelings.
The second component of social competence is relationship management or Social Skills and represents an adeptness in managing relationships. It is contingent upon the skill level present in the other three components of emotional intelligence. Social Skills are a measure of your proficiency in managing relationships, building social networks and most important, influencing the behavior of others to positive outcomes. It is the ability to find common ground and build trust and rapport. The following are key indicators of this vital emotional intelligence skill: • Behavioral empathy and understanding • The ability to appeal to different behavioral styles • Effectiveness in managing change • Skills in influencing and persuading • The capacity to team-build • The ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
Social skills speak to the ability to use your understanding of emotions (both your own and other people’s) to manage interpersonal relationships successfully.
Social skills are the essential component of leadership. It is the ability to inspire others and to arouse enthusiasm for a shared vision. Those who possess high relationship-management skills are able to manage conflict and agreement well. They are able to resolve disagreements through negotiation and compromise. They can handle different and difficult people with tact and diplomacy and can focus on the task at hand while at the same time being attentive to relationships. As advocates and catalysts for change; they recognize the necessity for change and work to remove barriers to its realization.
As an administrative professional this is a topic that demands your attention. Unlike IQ, EQ is a dynamic skill and can be learned. Few skills that you will acquire in your life will bring you as much, both in your professional life and your personal life.
Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Golman, Bantam Books, New York, 1994. Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, New York, 1998.
The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook, Bradberry, Travis and Jean Greaves, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2005.
The Emotional Intelligence Workbook, Dann, Jill and Derek Dann, Hodder Education, London, 2012.
The New Rules for Administrative Professionals, Paul A. Douglas, Belfast Books, Seattle, 2015.
Emotional Intelligence and your Success, Stein, Steven J., and Jossey-Bass, New York, 2011.