Why is emotional intelligence in leadership and in meetings important ?
Dr. Madeleine de Hauke explains the importance of emotional intelligence and gives leaders tips on how to be emotionally intelligent, both day-to-day and in their meetings, and highlights the benefits they can expect from it.
We are always sharing guidance on how to organise and run efficient business meetings, how to assign roles, how to have a clear agenda and objectives, how to take minutes, how to assign actions and follow up on decisions... all of which are incredibly important.
But since meetings are highly social in nature, what about the other significant factors, such as the emotional intelligence of the meeting leader or its participants?
In this interview, we dive into this topic in an insightful interview with Dr. Madeleine de Hauke, CEO of Business4Good, a consulting company which provides coaching in emotional intelligence and on meetings.
What is emotional intelligence and what are its most important elements?
Madeleine de Hauke: Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a way of leading, managing, and interacting with people — including yourself. It is a way of thinking and a way of being. The most important elements of EQ are the ability to relate to yourself – and others – from a paradigm of trust and acceptance.
In our leadership development programs, we often run sessions on emotional intelligence in leadership. In those sessions, I find that helping participants experience EQ first-hand is more powerful than explaining theories or definitions to them. So, I ask them to do a simple exercise I learned from the late Sir John Whitmore (the father of corporate coaching):
To experience emotional intelligence first-hand: Recall someone you loved being with when you were younger – not a parent, but perhaps a grandparent, a teacher, or another role model. Think about this person’s attitudes and behaviours when you were with them.
Once you have them firmly in your mind, write down your answers to these two questions:
- What did they do that you liked so much?
- How did you feel?
After asking these two questions to hundreds of leaders, I have observed some common themes.
- Listened to me,
- Believed in me,
- Challenged me,
- Trusted me,
- Accepted me,
- Respected me,
- Gave me their time and full attention, and
- Treated me as an equal.
- Cared for,
- Enthusiastic, and
This simple exercise often empowers leaders to be more like ‘the important person’ in their life. When they want to tap into their emotional intelligence, they ask themselves “what would they do in this situation?" and then proceed accordingly.
The most important elements of EQ are the ability to relate to yourself – and others – from a paradigm of trust and acceptance.
Why is emotional intelligence in leadership important? Was it always considered to be important?
Madeleine de Hauke: The importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace has been known for quite some time. The term ‘emotional intelligence’ was popularised by Daniel Goleman in 1995. Goleman was concerned that traditional cognitive tests like IQ were not effective in predicting success in life. He famously said that “it’s not cognitive intelligence (IQ) that guarantees business success but emotional intelligence (EQ)”. He described emotionally intelligent people as those with four characteristics:
- Good at understanding their own emotions (self-awareness)
- Good at managing their emotions (self-management)
- Empathetic to the emotional drives of other people (social awareness)
- Good at handling other people’s emotions (social skills)
Today, the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace is recognised and people are becoming increasingly aware of it. Indeed, the world is both more complex and more connected than ever.
Leaders are increasingly called to manage international, multi-disciplinary, and multi-cultural teams – a trend that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And even local teams are operating on a hybrid model, often working a few days a week in the office and a few days working remotely. I think it’s impossible to run high-performing remote or hybrid teams without a great deal of EQ.
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Another trend that the recent health crisis accelerated was well-being at work: it became clear, very quickly, that employees were getting burned-out, resulting in sick days and lost productivity. Leaders suddenly needed to be responsible not only for productivity and results, but also for employee well-being, which recent history has taught us are directly linked. I think this put a lot of pressure on leaders — who weren’t necessarily equipped to handle it because they were also navigating the crisis themselves.
Burnout is what we really need to avoid for leaders and their teams. We know that with emotional intelligence, you can achieve much more with less. It's much easier to get results when people feel accepted, welcomed, supported, and understood, and when they don't feel judged. This way, individuals will perform better and be less stressed. So, today more than ever, leaders need to be emotionally intelligent and develop their emotional intelligence.
In addition to this, for the first time in history, we have five generations working side-by-side in the labour market. And the younger generations are re-defining leadership. All this means that leaders are obliged to lead from a paradigm of trust and acceptance, and need to get comfortable with “checking-in” instead of “checking-up” on their employees.
What is emotional intelligence in meetings?
Madeleine de Hauke: Meetings are intrinsically social affairs because they're made of people. So you're constantly navigating emotional intelligence any time you have a meeting. So, you’ll often get at least one or two people who “push your buttons”. I lovingly call these people “Meeting Monsters” (they’re the ones that consciously or unconsciously threaten the productivity and outcomes of your meeting).
So, tapping into your EQ to self-manage your own emotions and instinctive reactions becomes equally important as managing others and the meeting dynamics. Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Your mindset: Try to hold the person in unconditional positive regard, despite your own inner emotions. Assume positive intent: Most people are simply doing their best.
- Commit to taking care of your own needs. Ask yourself: “What is the reason I am reacting so strongly to this person? If my emotional reaction was actually pointing out an unmet need – what would that need be? How can I commit to fulfilling this need?” Once we commit to taking care of our own needs, we find that meeting monsters no-longer have the power to push us to our limits.
The biggest mistake leaders make is avoiding conversations. EQ is also about being able to have tough conversations in a respectful way.
How can leaders demonstrate emotional intelligence in meetings?
Madeleine de Hauke: As already mentioned, the first step is to commit to taking care of your own needs: “the oxygen-mask theory”. Ask yourself: what do you need? For example, for some people it means making sure you come more prepared so you feel confident about speaking up in a meeting, for others it might mean having a pre-call with a key person to make sure they can discuss a particular topic in the meeting.
The second step is to make it easy for people to give you what you want in the meeting. To do so, you need to clarify the ground rules for the meeting and specify the desired outcome. For this I have created the C.O.P.E Model (Captain, Outcome, Process, Equity), based on science and the experience of hundreds of meeting organisers and participants:
- Captain: Each meeting needs a meeting leader, who makes or breaks the meeting.
- Outcome: If we don’t know where we are going, we are likely to get lost at sea. It’s highly important to articulate the desired outcome before and during the meeting.
- Process: You have a destination and you, and everybody involved, need to know how to get there. Have clarity on the process which will help you reach your objective and clearly share this process at the beginning of the meeting so everyone is onboard.
- Equity: Make your meetings inclusive so all participants have equal opportunity to contribute.
Today’s leaders are obliged to lead from a paradigm of trust and acceptance, and need to get comfortable with checking-in instead of checking-up on their employees.
What impact can emotional intelligence have on meetings? Which benefits leaders can expect from it?
Madeleine de Hauke: Emotional intelligence will allow far more collaborative, productive, innovative, and enjoyable meetings, which will be shorter and result in better decisions. It might feel like taking an EQ approach to meetings takes too long – and it’s true, you do need to prepare, which can be challenging in today’s reality of back-to-back meetings. But think of it as an investment: You are investing your time up-front in order to receive the dividends in your future meetings.
When you have a “meeting reflex” (by that I mean call a meeting for everything and anything) you end up creating a meeting tsunami that gets you nowhere and can hijack your life. On the contrary, if you consciously prepare your meetings, you have fewer meetings, better meetings, and you get more done. However, meeting success does require that up-front investment.