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Why “Emotional Intelligence” Matters in the Workplace and 4 Traits All "Smart" Workers Possess


"That person might be work smart, but they're people stupid."

There's a good chance you've heard this rather, um, blunt phrase—or something along these harsh lines—whispered about a member of your workforce who possesses a high level of knowledge, experience and technical skills, yet just doesn't seem to "get it" when it comes to working well within your group or with clients to achieve your organizational goals. 

In the training industry, we call these "get it" kind of traits "soft skills," and there is a whole category of training focused on developing them. In fact, these soft skills have become so important in modern industry that businesses are investing in training them more than ever. 
Let's start with what exactly defines workplace soft skills. Generally speaking, soft skills are how we communicate, interact and connect with co-workers and customers. Many experts place this cluster of personality traits under the umbrella of "emotional intelligence" or, as it is sometimes abbreviated, "EQ."
According to Careerstone Group, current management and training research has found that emotional intelligence is a more important indicator of success in the workplace than any other "hard" or technical skill, noting that "as work becomes more collaborative in nature, individual success is almost always dependent on one's ability to communicate and influence rather than on any particular technical skill."

Still not convinced of the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace? Dr. Travis Bradberry, the author of the best-selling book "Emotional Intelligence 2.0," reports that 90% of the highest performers in every job categoryespecially business leaders and managersscore highest on the EQ scale, making it the most important factor in whether a worker achieves success.

We've scoured the latest on the subject of EQ—including findings from leading industry experts and results of the latest researcher—and we've come up with four traits we find "smart" workers with high emotional intelligence almost always possess: 

1. They Use Positive Language—With Their Body and Words!

Parents trying to get kids to do things like eat their veggies have long known this fundamental key to persuasive communication: How you say something can matter more than what you say. In the workplace, this means being aware of your tone of voice, your gestures, your posture and the words you are choosing to describe a task or goal. Do you talk in a monotone that bores co-workers to death, or do you speak with energy and enthusiasm? When speaking in a meeting, do you make eye contact or stare at your phone the whole time? Research also shows that the simple act of smiling can have a huge impact on how others perceive you. Clearly, positive body and vocal language can make all the difference in motivating those around you.

2. They Are Simply "Likeable" 

A UCLA study asked people to rate adjectives to describe a likable person. What researchers found was that words such as "intelligent" and "attractive" scored far lower in importance than words like "sincerity, transparency, and understanding." The take-away from these findings is that how you relate to those around you—not just your innate traits—is what makes you more likable and, thus, a more effective, productive worker. 

3. They Are Good Listeners

Yes, an effective manager and leader needs to be able to communicatethat is, articulate what is on their mind and share it with other team members. But if all they do is talk and hardly ever ask fellow workers what is on their minds, they are less likely to find success.

What's the easiest way to become a good listener? Ask more questions! When you show curiosity or inquisitiveness about what other people think, or what ideas they have, and are able to truly listen and not talk over them, you will find members of your team will respect and appreciate what you have to say even more.

 4. They Don't Seek the Spotlight

No one likes to work with an attention-seeker or credit-hog. You don't need to have a religious bone in your body to appreciate this quote from Saint Augustine: "Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility." If you do good work, treat others with humility and respect and are quick to give credit to those around you, that is a common trait of an emotionally intelligent worker. 

If you are a training professional or an executive tasked with increasing your team's overall intelligence about a new product or business opportunity, don't forget the value that comes from employees having the traits of emotional intelligence to help you achieve your goals. 

Go here to download this exclusive MicroTek Infographic on how to use "EQ" and other interpersonal strategies to get management buy-in for your training program:

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