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10 Reasons Executive Management Should Leverage Emotional Intelligence

To quote the immortal words of John C. Maxwell, “everything rises and falls on leadership”. Emotional intelligence is such a fundamental requirement for executive management such that without it their performance will be greatly stunted. Managing people and resources requires specific skillsets that enable productivity and profitability because the decisions that are taken on critical issues have immediate and future impact on the fortunes of the organization.
Being emotional is one thing, being emotionally intelligent is another thing altogether. Many leaders fail to realize that many decisions are made from a place of emotions and if those emotions are not educated, the dysfunction and chaos that will be unleashed in the workplace is better imagined. Executive management especially has to come to terms with its ability to interact with the subordinate levels of leadership in a cohesive manner via the agency of emotional intelligence. Below are some tips that might be helpful.

Avoidance of Ambiguity
One of the perks of an emotionally intelligent executive management team is the ability to achieve clarity. This is manifested in many ways from strategic objectives to operational deliverables. The allocation and appropriation of resources is a tell-tale sign of whether or not it has an awareness of the competing interests and stakeholders of the organization. For example, when there is an inability to effectively communicate the goal of the top hierarchy to mid-level leaders or supervisors – who in turn convey muddled messaging to their subordinates.
Imagine that executive management is looking at improving the growth metrics of an organization but fails to lay out the specific parameters of what it considers to be acceptable growth, mid-management might have a different (and lower) standard of growth and when this trickles down to the people are the bottom of the leadership ladder, the overall outcome will certainly be mediocre compared to the ambitious goals the executive management originally had.

Improves The Ability To Listen To Others
One of the illusions of top leadership like an executive management team is the conceited believe that they are a bunch of gods who, given their position in the organization, are heads above everyone else. Nothing could be further from the truth. Emotional intelligence helps executive management teams to take a step back to accommodate the feedback they get from lower tiers of leadership because it is easy to get stuck in a bubble of assumed knowledge. Especially when it comes to designing the customer experience, the staff members who are closest to the final consumers should have significant contributions to what changes are made to products and services that will yield the greatest utility and ensure a highly satisfied customer base.

Helps To Anchor Solutions
The natural instinct most times with troubleshooting is to assume that the challenge is caused by others, emotional intelligence when applied correctly may reveal that the problem may be with the systems not the people. For example, when a printing machine isn’t churning out the expected quota of published material per day owing to engineering faults – an emotionally intelligent executive management will seek to interrogate the immediate and remote causes of such a shortfall instead of a knee-jerk reaction like issuing the production manager a query.
Such executive management will focus on providing the necessary conditions for productivity instead of unduly wielding the big stick. At other times, it may be that the person or people in charge of production are incompetent – what emotional intelligence helps out with is the identification of the difference so that appropriate action can be taken.

Helps To Manage Diversity
Executive management doesn’t only manage competences, they manage the demography of the organization. In an age where inclusion is becoming a staple in corporate organization, it is amongst the responsibility of executive management to always ensure that the composition of the workforce from top to bottom isn’t disproportionately skewed – with exceptions where the very nature of the job requires specific staff.
Emotional intelligence especially at the recruitment stage will factor in these nuances that foster a healthy work community. The male to female ratio, the race ratio, the age distribution, inclusion of persons with disability are important parameters to gauging the diversity quotient of the organization – some laws provide a statutory quota for minority groups such as persons with disabilities. It the job of the executive management to be abreast of these requirements.

Brings About Better Negotiations
More often than not, executive management get to enter into business transactions with third-parties on behalf of the organizations. So if they are to properly present and protect the organization’s interests, they have to be armed with a high level of emotional intelligence because their actions or inactions can make or mar the fortunes of the organization they represent. Emotional intelligence comprises a knowledge on not just oneself but also of others. This awareness can be weaponized via research and market intelligence.

During the course of engaging external stakeholders or players, executive management seeks to maximize the strengths of the organization to get the best deals. Indomie for instance is aware of its brand superiority and they sell their products at a slightly higher price to distributors, ordinarily the higher retail prices should depress sales but they know that most children prefer Indomie over generic or competing noodle brands, hence the price bump isn’t an issue. Same applies to partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. Access Bank acquired Diamond Bank and the former retained its eponymous brand.

Better Motivated and More Productive Teams
Executive teams that have a high level of emotional intelligence connect with their teams in ways that the lack of such skill can’t. Famed business leader, Dale Carnegie submits that, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.” Some of the innate desires of humans include the need to be respected, recognized, rewarded etc. Knowing what to do, when to do it and how to best do it is a rare skill that if applied correctly by the executive team can greatly improve outcomes.

Better Conflict Management
Where two or three human being converge and interact, conflict is inevitable. So emotional intelligence helps executive management contain tension among/within internal or external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders include shareholders, employees etc. External stakeholders include customers and regulators etc. What happens when shareholders pass a vote of no confidence on the executive team?
What happens when employees down tools to protest the lack of a conducive work environment? What happens when regulators flags a company’s product or process for not following best practices? What happens when customers boycott the organization’s products and services owing to the failure of a brand to include an advertised feature? 1Over 30% of Basecamp employees, comprising most founding staff, recently left the company en masse, in protest of an new directive against political comments in the workplace. Emotional intelligence could have helps the executive management better manage this conflict.

Read also: Trust, an emotional core of leadership

Talent Acquisition
Generally, talent acquisition is left for the human resource department but the playbook for hiring new staff is usually routed through the executive management. An avatar of the ideal candidate should be clearly articulate and the parameters for screening also well documented. In top level recruitment however, especially c-suite positions, the executive management directly oversees the process. Many candidates come in looking and sounding like the best thing since sliced bread but upon technical interrogation and examination, the well-disguised incompetence will be unearthed.

Many candidates sometimes possess all the right qualifications on paper but a diligent engagement by a team of emotionally intelligent interviewers will probe further to reveal their soft skills and other social traits that may either be a good add or a minus to the team. Emotional intelligence is so critical in talent acquisition because if all that is achieved is to stop the wrong candidate from infiltrating the corporate fabric of the organization, that counts as a huge achievement.

For Business Organizational (Re) Structuring
Businesses shouldn’t just be organizations, they should be organisms – alive and responsive to their internal and external environments. Changes like mergers and acquisition, loss of key staff, expansion and the rests are commonplace, what should also be commonplace is the emotional intelligence required to deal with these changes. The executive management can arrive at an important conclusion that the current business model isn’t viable nor sustainable and that it needs to pivot or expand into other markets.
By and large, it will have the same human and material resources currently at its disposal – emotional intelligence in (re)allocating such is considered key. Samsung, a South Korean brand with great social awareness transformed from exporting dried fish to producing top tier electronics amongst other things and they have been unstoppable ever since.

A Much Improved Work Environment and Culture
It is often said that the intangibles greatly determine the tangibles, even if employees of an organization are well-paid and are equipped with the facilities and resources required to discharge their duties, a toxic attitude can still dampen the overarching systems of the organization. Executive management must realize that when there is no unity of purpose, where staff are better at office politics than they are at their tasks, where the voices of junior staff aren’t heard – the organization will slowly but sure morph into den of saboteurs as opposed to a team of collaborators.

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