(The following excerpt from Emotional Intelligence: Do Women Have An Edge? by Audrey Nelson, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
It’s 8 a.m. Monday. The staff is gathered in the conference room, catching up on the weekend and attempting to warm up to the idea of another week at work. The boss, a woman, walks in and reads the group’s mood. Who has had a good weekend, and who looks like the dog’s dinner? Who is laughing easily, and who seems distant? Who appears pensive? Now they sit down to begin business.
She knows from her “read” of the group that she should gently ask questions to one member and that she can lean hard on another. The meeting goes smoothly because she has set the stage and made adjustments according to the needs of the individuals. Chalk up another successful Monday staff meeting to women’s nonverbal fluency. This is just another example of the social maintenance women do at the office. Unfortunately, this is rarely valued and often goes unnoticed.
Women should follow the female monitoring mechanism. You have the ability to read the environment. Now make adjustments accordingly. Your teammate looks discouraged, so you can check it out. You notice coalitions; now figure how you can use them constructively. Transform your ability to figure out the inside scoop into a benefit to your boss. Use your skills at reading the politics of the group to benefit your organization.
Author Daniel Goleman gave birth to the Emotional Intelligence movement that has Fortune 50 companies taking notice and getting on board. Historically, the American management world has been characteristically male: task and goal oriented with little attention to people skills. We suffered. So did the bottom line. Companies could not retain employees. Other countries were more successful at gaining employee loyalty. The ripple effect goes on.
With the influx of women into the workplace during the last four decades, you could hypothesize that the rules of work are changing. A feminization of the workplace has occurred. We’ve undergone a shift in our thinking about how we achieve and define success. We are beginning to value people and judge our managers by how they handle their employees. And in the spotlight are personal qualities, such as empathy and adaptability. Remember emotional intelligence can be learned; while it may be a part of women’s “conditioning,” many men have or can learn these behaviors.
What Women Bring to the Table
As corporate communication trainers and consultants for the last 35 years, we remember the day not that long ago when men bad-mouthed any training that had to do with so-called “soft skills” or emotional intelligence training. Often they told us directly that they thought it was a waste of time.
“Why do I need to get along with people? I am the lead on this project and the most knowledgeable,” one engineer claimed. “Why are we spending company money and my time on this touchy-feely stuff? What a waste.”
True, he was a bright engineer. But he had zero people skills. No one wanted to be around this guy. As a result, he alienated his entire team.
How It Impacts the Bottom Line
These soft skills are not a passing fad. Strong evidence shows that these skills benefit a business. Organizations such as FedEx, L’Oreal, and Volvo boast improved bottom lines after training employees and implementing soft-skill principles. Even the U.S. Air Force, a traditionally male bastion, testifies to bottom-line profits and savings from emotional intelligence. The U.S. Air Force used the EQ-I emotional intelligence test to select recruiters (the Air Force’s front-line human resources personnel) and found that the most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in the areas of assertiveness, empathy, happiness, and emotional self-awareness. The Air Force also found that by using emotional intelligence to select recruiters, it increased its ability to predict successful recruiters by nearly three-fold. The immediate gain was a saving of $3 million annually. These gains resulted in the Government Accounting Office submitting a report to Congress, which led to a request that the Secretary of Defense order all branches of the armed forces to adopt this procedure in recruitment and selection.