Emotional Intelligence and Change

Updated: Nov 1, 2019


So we know that "Emotional intelligence or EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they're feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people." And we know from Dan Goleman, an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence, there are five key elements to it:


- Self-awareness.

- Self-regulation.

- Motivation.

- Empathy.

- Social skills.


Recent findings by the Harvard Business Review revealed that workers who describe themselves as mentally distant, or disengaged (a key indicator of burnout) had 37% more absenteeism, 49% more workplace accidents, and 60% more issues with accuracy and defects.


Therefore, organisations need emotionally intelligent leaders who know how to respond to a situation in a way that facilitates positive behaviours. This is particularly true during times of change, which, let's face it, is pretty much all the time.


During change there can be higher levels of stress as employees try to understand why things are changing, what's changing, how it's going to impact them and why they should get behind it. Often when there is a large change there is extra work as individuals try and keep up with their 'day job' and play their part in the change program (planning, testing, learning new skills, etc.). This adds more stress.


One of the skills of EI is motivation, as it happens it's also a key skill for successful change. Self-motivated leaders work consistently toward their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.


This is a great thing to have but if you lack awareness of how this behaviour can impact others during change e.g. if due to your high standards you start to look for who to blame instead of what you can learn, it actually becomes a demotivator for others. Or if you verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people, or compromise their values then you are missing the self-regulation aspect which is all about staying in control.


People with high EI are good communicators because they have empathy and good social skills. Communication is a critical part of change and without understanding how the change impacts on others or even why they ought to engage you can't comunicate in a way that reduces the natural resistance to change.


Leading change requires many skills and capabilities, many of which can be learned and developed. Change Fitness, understanding the change process and the relationship to your change project, change management, communication and emotional intelligence - if you have all of these you are in a great position to effect successful and sustainable change.