Use emotional intelligence skills to build your resilience. Emotional Intelligence might feel like a strange place to start tackling the sense that you are overwhelmed. We all know that feeling. You are drowning in a sea of to-do lists, anxiety and pressure. It might present itself as exhaustion, irritability with family and colleagues or even feeling depressed and hopeless. When you’re in a leadership role, higher-level responsibilities and OKR’s often comes with a side order of too much to do, and too little time to do it in. In today’s fast paced life, we’re expected to have it all together on all fronts – happy home life, successful careers, healthy lifestyle, active social life, the list is endless. In this world of external markers of success, overwhelm has become another ‘thing’ to deal with, especially in the working environment. But what is it, exactly? And how can you work to reduce overwhelm at work in teams or individuals or, better yet, prevent it?
Are you overwhelmed or is it something more?
It’s common for employees to take sick leave days because it’s all become too much. One in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy (Beyond Blue). Often employees or individuals who experience overwhelm can struggle to verbalise what exactly is the problem. Overwhelm ‘shuts down’ the necessary functions of your brain that help you cope. At a physiological level overwhelm, which can also present as the fight or flight stress response, can cause a surge in cortisol (the hormone present when we feel fear), and a drop in serotonin (the key hormone responsible for balancing our mood and improving wellbeing). When overwhelm hits, often accompanied by feelings of fear, it can be difficult to communicate or accurately process information and often renders us frozen. Employees exposed to feelings of overwhelm and stress frequently, often don’t know how to cope or change these feelings and are prone to burnout. They can describe it as a meltdown.
What is Emotional Intelligence Training?
The term Emotional Intelligence, or EI was coined by 2 researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer (not the singer). It was then popularised in the 90’s by Dr. Dan Goleman, who credits the Dali Lama as a close friend, in his book Emotional Intelligence. During his research Dr. Goleman (and successive researchers) found a direct link between the company’s staff and the company’s success due to the EQ of its members. On an individual level, high levels of Emotional Intelligence is found in up to 90% of top performing employees, and they’re more likely to be on higher salaries. EI is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express your emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships with logic and empathy. It is, in simple terms, an understanding that our actions are influenced by our emotions. EI as a concept, revolutionised thinking about success, success became more than just traditional intelligence. Most importantly, EI is considered ‘teachable’, so employees, leaders or coaches with training can master the skills to increase their EQ and influence those around them. When it comes to feeling overwhelmed, understanding that our emotions can dictate what we do, not just how we feel, is key. A higher EI can give us great ability to manage and cope with stressful periods and prevent overwhelm before it starts. For example, an employee, let’s call him Shane, has an important project period at work and has a stressful meeting coming that he needs to prepare for. Because Shane has had training in emotional intelligence, he understands that around project periods he is more likely to need extra time to complete his project and more energy and time to manage his stress. So he organises for his Mum and partner to help out with some extra sports drop offs for the kids that he usually does, so he has some extra time to work and not feel under pressure.
Emotional Intelligence Training helps us improve ROI.
For example, Lizzy is a sales rep who becomes fearful of missing her monthly sales targets. Lizzy, driven by the emotion of fear and in a state of panic starts to make meetings with low quality prospects, rather than high value prospects who take longer to find and are harder to convert to a sale. Because Lizzy has a high level of emotional intelligence she notices that she is feeling fear and realises that by letting her feelings of panic and fear take over, she has had more work with the administration of multiple low value sales meetings. Lizzy course corrects her behaviour and uses the skills she developed in emotional intelligence training to help her get back on track quickly and manage those feelings. Mastering the emotional side of relationships, whether as a leader or coach can also make you more approachable and can help you build interpersonal relationships, all important factors when driving change. Understanding and working with our ego, which in turn influences emotions we can feel, can help teams create collaborative, constructive working relationships. For example, an employee goes to their manager with what they think is a great idea and their project manager turns it down. The employee can feel hurt or even shame, leading them to avoid work in retaliation, and then gossip unkindly about the manager and decrease their productivity. Project or change managers skilled in leading with emotional intelligence can manage these situations and individuals more effectively, moving them forward in a constructive matter. Mastering the emotional side of relationships, whether as a leader or coach can also make you more approachable and can help you build interpersonal relationships, all important factors when driving change. Understanding and working with our ego, which in turn influences emotions we can feel, can help teams create collaborative, constructive working relationships. For example, an employee goes to their manager with what they think is a great idea and their project manager turns it down. The employee can feel hurt or even shame, leading them to avoid work in retaliation, and then gossip unkindly about the manager and decrease their productivity. Project or change managers skilled in leading with emotional intelligence can manage these situations and individuals more effectively, moving them forward in a constructive matter.
Google leads the way in workplace EQ training
When emotions run high, they change the way our brain functions, reducing our interpersonal skills, impacting cognitive abilities and decision-making capacity. This can lead to conflict, which then further exacerbates the stress responses and it becomes a vicious cycle. Google noticed this and in 2006 an employee engineer by the name of Chade-Meng Tan developed ‘Search Inside Yourself’, a training aimed at teaching the folk at Google to be more mindful of their emotions, thoughts and behaviours. It’s since gone onto being one of the most sought-after Google trainings around, with waiting lists in the thousands. At Aldi Australia, Store Operations Director, Joanne Brown, has credited embracing Emotional Intelligence training with the success of the chain across the nation. Part of the success of EI training is that it helped to build strong teams based on mutual trust and respect. That meant that even when tough conversations needed to happen, they have already established a positive environment that valued everyone’s contributions, as well as clear goals that allow them to shift the focus to what is best for the customer and meeting team goals together.
Manage and express your emotions
The most effective training for improving your emotional intelligence focuses on the management, awareness and expression of emotions. One of the important shifts in thinking around emotions, especially in the workplace is that suppressing emotions and keeping a stiff upper lip isn’t always the best approach. Instead, Emotional Intelligence advocates expressing feelings with empathy, compassion and self-awareness of our own role when things go wrong. Developing a strong sense of perspective, that things can, and will go wrong, but they’re generally fixable is important to building emotional resilience too. Not only are these teachable skills, they affect and improve you or your employees brain capacity no matter what age you start. When workplaces support emotional intelligence training, they are not only building happier places to work and improved communication, but they can expect to see an average of 2.3 times return on investment for every dollar spent.
Are you an emotionally intelligent leader?
Even if you answered yes to that question, chances are, you’re here reading this because you or someone in your team is feeling overwhelmed. When you find ways to build your capability in your Emotional Intelligence, you can dramatically improve your ability to be resilient and course correct when emotional intelligence strikes. When you truly understand Emotional Intelligence, you can then pass that onto your team in the way you plan, interact and execute your role, so your team becomes more resilient to overwhelm as well. Over to you If your workplace could benefit from personalised coaching or training in building Emotional Intelligence, resilience and reducing the stress of overwhelm, we have facilitators and coaches who can help. Click here to get personalised proposals and free quotes from our community of emotional intelligence experts.