How can emotional intelligence help you?

Posted by Sally Dellow
11 Feb

… And so we enter the Chinese New Year of the Pig.  The Year of the Earth Pig, in fact.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!  Gong Xie Fa Cai!

When I think of the words ‘pig’ and ‘earth’, I imagine a swine rooting around for truffles, using its sensitive snout to find those ugly fungi that transform an ordinary dish into a luxuriant – and expensive – treat.  I wonder what truffles you’re hoping to find this lunar year, and whether you’re looking for them in the right places? 

When I asked that question, did you imagine your truffle as a pay rise? A promotion? A beach holiday? New learning? A new car?  

Thanks to Google, I now know that truffles only grow in close mycorrhizal association(!) with the roots of specific trees… That tells me that we should look closely at our own roots and relationships if we want to be a truffle hunter. 

In a recent client encounter, I reviewed the psychometric and 360 reports for the regional head of sales for a large multinational. When I asked if he was sometimes grumpy at work, he replied: “NEVER! My frustrations at work show up as extreme patience. But if you ask my wife and kids, they’d tell you a different story at home.”  And he laughed, full of affable charm.

I recently accompanied an influential CEO home for dinner. She pushed open the front door at the end of a long day, clicked five steps across the wooden floor and before even calling ‘hello’, she yelled: “Kids! What are these these socks doing all over the floor?  Get out here and pick them up!” Then she turned and apologised to me for shouting. 

I’m not judging here, trust me.  My family has borne the brunt of many of my tough days at work.  But I’m constantly researching, studying and practicing the art of emotional intelligence. 

So I can’t help thinking that we’re missing some truffles here.  Emotion is an under-used resource in the workplace. Millennials and Generation Z are disengaging. They want connection and meaning. Yet so many of us in leadership roles are over-invested in being ‘professional’ at work, terrified of hearing the words, “s/he is too emotional”. We miss so many opportunities to bring our great emotional richness to the workplace. Compassion, inspiration, regret, fear, joy, even anger – when they are brought positively and constructively into our professional world, all can be powerful human connectors and motivators. Expressing emotion is vital to honest, humane, inspiring, creative leadership.

While we are so busy ‘controlling’ all the emotion that gets stirred up at work (or, worse still, pretending that we feel nothing at work), we create an uncontrollable tsunami of emotion behind the dam inside us.  It rushes out when we finally get home, and breaches the wall – and it can do terrible damage.  We justify letting loose, saying that those who love us most must accept us at our worst.  But when we displace and misdirect our emotions, we risk killing the tree whose roots are the source of the finest truffles in life.

Emotion is a power we need to stop trying to control. Instead, we need to practice working with it, to manage it. When we recognize the messages the emotion carries, calibrate its intensity and respond, rather than react, we can use emotion to build relationships, not damage them.  Emotion can do the most good when it’s dealt with where it’s created; so what’s stirred up in the workplace needs to be acknowledged, managed and addressed in the workplace.  

At Dramatic Difference, we’re specialists in ‘Theatre-Led Learning’. Actors are masters in the art and science of emotion and communication. We have drawn on our combined background in theatre and business to create tools and techniques for teaching emotional intelligence, helping professionals bring emotion into the workplace in a way that makes work better. For example:

  • understanding the secret spreadsheet
  • rehearsing crucial conversations with our professional roleplayers and coaches
  • creating fluency around a lexicon of feelings, for use in meetings and presentations
  • teaching proficiency in our ‘4Cs Model’ for effective dialogue.

If you aspire to genuine, inspirational leadership that is cross-cultural and multi-generational… If you want to understand how to create the psychological safety that underpins high-performing teams… If you want to be nicer to your family when you finally get home, don’t wait for the year of the pig to pass. Give us a call soon and we’ll happily share our truffles of learning.