Emotional Intelligence At Work: What Smart Women Know

Each month, my business column offers insight into a career topic specific to women in the workplace. The name of this monthly feature is, Career Talk For Women.

It’s no secret that the world needs more women who are shamelessly confident in their ability to serve as role models and change agents. This month, I will focus upon the vital role emotional intelligence plays in a woman’s career success.

There are so many myths about a woman’s ability to lead effectively due to gender stereotypes regarding emotional stability that I don’t even know where to begin. You may think that such stereotypes don’t really exist anymore in our society because of all the progress women have made over the past several decades. However, it is still a reality everywhere, including your community.

Not convinced? Let me share just one example that I experienced first-hand in my not-so-distant past. It involved an interview I had at a manufacturing plant for their most senior human resources leadership role. Despite my college degrees and related work experience – which includes senior leadership roles in two different manufacturing facilities, the male executive who interviewed me couldn’t seem to get past one sticking point. I am a woman. How do I know he was having a hard time with my gender? Because he told me. Several times.

He repeatedly interrupted my answers highlighting specific examples of my related work experience to pose this question, “As a woman, do you really think the men who work here are going to take you seriously? This is primarily an all-male company.” Despite my best attempts to redirect his insulting remarks, he continued to interrupt and ask that same question. I left there feeling deflated, insulted and confused.

While I don’t know the basis from which this ignorant executive was operating, I do know this; there are millions of accomplished women who battle the same stereotypes every day. Our natural ability to be more in tune with our emotions compared to many of our male counterparts is inaccurately seen as a weakness. In light of this, perhaps it is helpful to explore the fascinating role emotional intelligence plays in our career success and personal fulfillment.

What exactly is emotional intelligence? For starters, it has to do with our ability to manage our emotions in order to reach desired outcomes. It is broken into two equal parts: personal competence – how we handle ourselves; and social competence – how we handle relationships. According to a Harvard leadership study, emotional intelligence is twice as important as intellectual quotient and technical skills combined.

Since emotional intelligence is the yardstick used by others to measure our ability as competent leaders, it is important for all of us to continually work towards a high level of self-mastery and people skills. Despite what you may have been told by a misinformed person with outdated leadership beliefs, emotions play a very important role in a highly effective leadership style.

The old school way of thinking states that emotions in a business environment are distracting, cloud our judgment, and increase our vulnerability. However, high performing and cutting edge organizations understand that emotions actually serve to motivate, increase confidence and build trust in a business environment. In fact, the more complex the job, the bigger the role emotional intelligence plays in achieving successful outcomes.

Highly emotionally intelligent people of either gender understand how important it is to get in touch with the emotional side of their leadership style. It all starts with learning how to recognize what events are likely to trigger different emotions which can set off distorted thinking with lasting after-effects upon work relationships. This increased self-awareness reinforces self-management and social awareness, which in turn reinforces our capabilities in relationship management, including our positive impact on others.

For everyone, increasing your level of emotional intelligence will have an immediate impact in your decision-making abilities. It all begins with embracing, understanding and controlling the emotional side of your brain. Notice I did not say “ignoring” the emotional side of your brain.

Proudly embrace all of your female strengths which include emotional intelligence, and take the lead in showing some of your male counterparts how to use relationships as the key to building a stronger business.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a regional director and senior consultant with JL Nick and Associates Inc. She is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at ecipolla@jlnick.com or visit JL Nick and Associates’ website at www.jlnick.com.