Emotional Intelligence in the Zoom World

by cauri jaye

The Center for Creative Leadership, one of the largest international providers of executive education, has found that a lack of emotional competence is the main cause of executives being derailed from their career paths. How can we all grow our emotional intelligence now that so many of us are working remotely?

Our current circumstances have begun to rewrite many of the rules of the past. At work, we’ve rapidly become more comfortable with hiring remote talent from anywhere on the globe resulting in increased output and decreased overhead. We’ve also refined our methods of communication using tools like Zoom and Meet, allowing us to avoid travel time and office costs.

Despite these increased efficiencies and multiple methods of communication, the changes to our new work environment may not create a net positive result. Migrating workers to full-time remote environments fully dependent on technology, creates a negative side effect: relationship decay as a result of inhibited emotional awareness. Research indicates that building and maintaining interpersonal relationships does not happen as effectively over electronic communication.

How to increase the effectiveness of video calling

Remote teams struggle with effective communication while leaders struggle to foster collaboration, culture and trust. We need greater emotional intelligence (EQ), the trait that the World Economic Forum called “one of the most necessary to modern hiring.” But can we maintain and grow our emotional intelligence in a remote environment?

The importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace 

The World Economic Forum also identified emotional intelligence as one of the top ten job skills required for professionals to thrive.  In an increasingly diverse workplace, the ability to detect and interpret other people’s emotions becomes even more valuable. The ability to empathise helps all relationships: sales people get more sales, leaders get more productivity, teams get better culture, companies get more loyalty. Everybody wins.

"The ability to empathise helps all relationships: sales people get more sales, leaders get more productivity, teams get better culture, companies get more loyalty. Everybody wins."

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The SNAFU principle and other organisational screw ups

Historically, companies have organised themselves in a hierarchical punishment-reward structure. Two major problems arise with this approach. 

First: if people want to be rewarded and not punished they underplay or hide the bad and exaggerate or amplify the good to their higher-ups. This means the higher up you go, the less you know about what is really going on (writer Robert Anton Wilson popularised this as the SNAFU principle).

Second: it creates a competitive environment where the more ruthless you act, the higher you rise. Less ambitious personalities often contribute more to innovation, creativity, culture, agility and loyalty - also the traits that hold companies together and move them forward. 

We can see the damaging results in many larger companies' reduced innovation, which means they have to buy smaller companies to reinvigorate themselves, only to have a subsequent brain-drain after stifling these innovative personalities in the acquired agile startup.

A trustworthy solution

So how do leaders counter these failures and maintain innovation? By developing a culture of trust. Baking trust into a culture requires emotional intelligence. Leaders who have high EQ communicate better, collaborate more, and can better strategise. Emotional intelligence helps generate trust.

Leaders with higher EQ achieve their goals and succeed in their careers more than those with higher IQ results. Studies show that on average 85% of a person’s financial success comes from their emotional intelligence and the remaining 15% to technical ability and IQ. 

So what can we all do to strengthen our emotional intelligence capabilities? 

How to strengthen emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence can be learned,  and just like other competencies, it can be developed and improved over time. Some people find it easier than others, but we can all get better.

Much like developing a muscle for improving physical performance, the more we focus on it, the better we can get. 

1 - expand your EQ

A simple way to start: learn about new emotions. People who learn the names and meanings of a longer list of complex emotions immediately start to recognise nuanced reactions and can more easily navigate other people's emotions - and recognise their own. 

English in particular has a plethora of nuanced emotions. For example, happy can mean content, chuffed, joyful, delighted, elated, overjoyed, ecstatic, orgasmic. The more you know the more you can sense. 

2 - extend your EQ

Learning emotion names represents a great shortcut to increased EQ, but the deeper learning you have, the more you’ll gain. Affective science (the study of emotions) has come a long way, as has cognitive psychology (how we think) and neuroscience (how the brain works).

The more you understand about the interaction of brain function, thought processes and emotional processes, the better you can understand how we relate to each other. You do not need a degree in neuroscience to learn more about your brain; start with this book and video

3 - evolve your EQ

Once we become aware of our own emotions (self-awareness), then we can begin to regulate those emotions. For example, with self-regulation we take a breath when under stress and identify our emotional state. This pause allows us time to act to the benefit of all involved.

However, to best know what action to take, we need to be aware of the emotions of others involved in that stressful situation. This social awareness allows us to make better choices as we have all the necessary ingredients: our own emotions, the emotions of others, and how we process those emotions. 

As we approach situations this way more frequently, our social skills will grow and soon we have raised our EQ and can enjoy all the benefits that come with it.  

Every single small step we take to develop our emotional intelligence pays back in spades as navigating our environment becomes easier and easier, especially in a globalised and video-connected world.

How tech can increase empathy

We can rethink technology to enhance remote calls. The debate has always been whether we adapt to technology or whether it adapts to us. An engineer would say we adapt; a user would say tech adapts. We do have another option. phone photo

With machine learning, we can create augmented intelligence where both the machine and the human improve together. We can see the beginnings of this in the real-time closed captions from Google meet. The captions from their artificial intelligence do not have a 100% accuracy, however, seeing another's speech transcribed live enhances our ability to understand each other remotely. 

Our team chose to address this opportunity by building a tool that provides emotional intelligence assistance in video environments - EQ on demand.

"Our team chose to address this opportunity by building a tool that provides emotional intelligence assistance in video environments- EQ on demand."

For example, our tool shows state of mind bubbles next to participants during video calls to enhance each other’s understanding. These empathic enhancements increase self-awareness and social awareness in real time, enabling everyone on the call to adapt their response with more in-depth information- an augmented emotional intelligence.

Video only captures two of the main channels of non-verbal communication - facial expression and gaze. Depending on the camera setup, we often miss posture, gesture, and proxemics (the amount of space that people feel necessary to set between themselves). We can help understand everyone’s state of mind remotely as if we were talking face to face - an empathic super power.

In our new remote world, more tech will emerge to help bridge this gap. In the meantime, each individual can take action to enhance the experience for everyone.

A path to better remote collaboration

Gaining emotional intelligence requires a three step process:

    1. expand EQ: educate ourselves about emotions 
    2. extend EQ: learn a bit of how the brain and emotions actually work
    3. evolve EQ: use self-awareness, self-regulation and social-awareness to build social skills

It’s a new world: stay physically distant but socially close.

Tags: EQ, Empathy

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