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Why You And Your Boss Need To Work On Your Emotional Intelligence The significance of EQ for the workplace, and in the Middle East.

By Pamella de Leon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


There's a familiar childhood warning of counting to 10 before speaking when you're angry. From a young age, we're encouraged to have emotional managing skills to be the better person, if not, to at least have the upper hand in facing conflict. Is "managing emotional skills' really possible? Research by psychology professors John Mayer of University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey of Yale demonstrates how thinking and emotions together can convey information to push forward your potential. They also maintain its influence in everything from decision-making to your entrepreneurial streak, and yes, it's present in your workplace too.

Staff and prospective employees are being measured not just by skills, experience and intellectual capabilities, but also how we handle each other and ourselves. It's important to understand how to develop these capabilities for the success of your career- after all, it's being smart with your feelings. It's not about being nice or freeing your emotions, it's about how to manage your feelings for effective expression. According to Inc., research says EQ can be learned and increased in adulthood, increase work performance in any industry or position, and improve organizational performance. So how is EQ used on a daily basis, and how can we do better? Dynamic Learning hosted a workshop with Six Seconds to educate people on emotional intelligence and discuss Six Seconds' State of the Heart report based on the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment (SEI database) with an algorithm consisting of 15 normative scales. Let the science guide you.

Running with the fast crowd

The State of the Heart report, surveying over 75,000 people from more than 75 countries between 2011 and 2013, showed that worldwide emotional intelligence is decreasing with increasing empathy at -2.1%, navigating emotions at -1.4%, exercising optimism at -1.4%, and the Middle East having a score of 99.5 out of 150- slightly below than global average. Among other factors, these statistics reflect the current lifestyle in the Middle East, fuelled by people's chase for a fast-paced life and instant gratification, whether it's that rush from a Facebook like or the allure of getting things done, or even catching a cab ride via mobile app. People don't seem to have time to ponder and evaluate their stance and feelings about issues.

Six Seconds' Model of Emotional Intelligence has eight competencies: Enhance Emotional Literacy, Recognize Patterns, Apply Consequential Thinking, Navigate Emotions, Engage Intrinsic Motivation, Exercise Optimism, Increase Empathy and Pursue Noble Goal. In the Middle East, the highest scoring are Enhance Emotional Literacy, Apply Consequential Thinking and Exercise Optimism. The weakest competencies? Recognize Patterns, Navigate Emotions and Engage Intrinsic Motivation. During the workshop staged in Dubai, the discussion led to how those findings echo the traits of residents in the region; this being committed, result-oriented, and focused on the "now'. Though this is satisfactory, it's also essential that people have time to evaluate their emotions and be proactive about their actions, instead of mere reactive thinking based on immediate events. The absence of that mindset develops the risks of being focused on just short-term intentions, and perhaps failing to direct people to collaborate together toward common goals. This is why EQ is important to anyone, especially to those in a leadership role.

Leaders are focused on human relationships, and if you really think about it, emotions. A leader's greatness is often a reflection on how well he deals with challenging situations and moments of self-doubt. Leaders can instill EIM by letting employees value the benefits of success outside of work. There's research behind successful CEO's and EQ too: Daniel Coleman's Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ analyzed data from "close to 500 competence models" of global companies to narrow-down which personal capabilities stimulated striking performance. The result? EQ provides "80-90% of the competencies" that differentiate industry leaders.

Use it or lose it

The report also introduced the concept of brain "apps'- based on research, these "capabilities" allow people to excel in work/school/life, and the eight competencies of emotional intelligence are linked to these "apps' as elements to "drive each talent." Likened to phone apps, everyone has these capabilities, but only some are used often- the same goes with brain "apps'. In the Middle East population sample, the strongest talents were adaptability, reflection and problem solving, while the lowest were collaboration, vision and entrepreneurship. The report also suggests that in stress-inducing moments, there's pressure to conform. If there's a different opinion, there's judgment, since the status quo have influenced us to think that anything different is wrong. But if dissimilarity is met well, it can lead to learning. In a world that's continually globalizing, and for innovation to move forward, we need various perspectives.

How is this connected to EQ in the workplace? Previously, people were comforted by the knowledge that their job is secure as long as they work decently, but as we all know, after the economic crash, no one's assured of a job and staff are all too often considered dispensable. As previously pointed out, life in the Middle East (or at least in Dubai), is fast-paced and results-oriented; compound that with the sense that your job (along with your visa) can be taken away at any time creating anxiety and even fear. Expat employees, already consumed with a fast-paced life fraught with short-term goals and little plans for the future (you know you're in denial and haven't thought about it when you still talk of "going back home' even though you've been an expat for more than 15 years), become hesitant of rocking the boat. Instead of correcting workplace mistakes or pitching new ideas, they cave thus inhibiting a person's EQ. It simultaneously displays an employer's low EQ, as the mindset to innovate and think entrepreneurial -quite encouraged and talked a lot in this region- is hindered by people's fear of losing their secure jobs.

A question that stirred in the workshop was, as expats, are we born this way, or have our brains rewired after coming here, because of the workplace situations? Or does it go back deeper to our childhood? The New York Times aptly addressed the question in their article that asks Can emotional intelligence be taught? The piece mentions growing programs for U.S. kids to immerse themselves with learning, but Dr. Thomas Achenbach's Working with Emotional Intelligence presents a dire. Achenbach discusses the "paradox" of how children's IQ increases, yet their EQ dwindles. As a result, according to the survey with teachers and parents, the present generation of children is "more emotionally troubled than the last." The average child is lonelier, more depressed, angry, nervous, prone to worry, impulsive and aggressive.

What's next?

For the Middle East, its scores for health are below average compared to the rest of the world, hinting of a risk on physical and/or mental burnout. By contrast, Middle East scores for decision-making and influence are above average, indicating the ability to engage with people easily. That said, the low scores on entrepreneurship and vision indicate that these capabilities may only being used for short-term actions. There's a lot to be done, but the first step is recognizing the significance of developing one's EQ and strengths of individuals of the MENA workforce.

The gender gap in problem-solving

Source: State of the Heart report

The biggest gap is in problem solving and focus with men rating higher in both, and reflection with female rating higher. Women's highest capabilities are reflection, adaptability and connection, and their lowest being risk tolerance, focus and problem-solving. It's ironic, as men's highest capabilities are focus, problem-solving and risk tolerance, while their lowest were reflection, adaptability and connection. Completely opposite!

Under 40 vs. over 40

Source: State of the Heart report
The biggest gap is between emotional insight and collaboration. Those under 40 years of age scored high on adaptability and problem-solving- the over 40s' lowest measures. Conversely, while those over 40s had emotional insight and collaboration as highest, it was the lowest of those for under 40. It's quite obvious there's a "mirror image effect' in brain apps in both gender and age differentiation– an indication that creating diverse teams is best for efficiency.

Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.

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