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Technical Expertise is Desirable. Emotional Intelligence is Essential.

As a follow-on from my last blog, when you hear about the high percentage of employees suffering from burnout, it cannot purely be that those employees are in the wrong job and miserable.

Any employer who is worth working for must surely understand that they should be looking at how they can better support their colleagues, right?

So this is for all the managers out there who know that something isn’t working in their teams, but they’re not sure a) what’s wrong, and b) what to do about it.

Regrettably it is rare that someone is promoted purely for their people skills. Indeed, one conversation that is still clear in my mind (although all was forgiven a long time ago) was when a previous employer told me that there was no future for me there, because I was a ‘generalist’.

The fact that I had successfully dealt with workplace conflict and mistrust in an extremely difficult, post-conflict environment (boy I could tell some stories, but won’t) wasn’t relevant. They wanted lawyers and economists and public policy experts, and I didn’t fit into any of those categories.

I digress.

Now I don’t know where you’re from, but if I were to tell you that I’m English, what’s the first thing that comes into your head? The Queen? Football? Brexit?

We all judge people based upon our personal beliefs and values, which is fine as long as we don’t become too closely involved with those we judge, and as long as we aren’t willingly hurting them with our opinion.

If you’re managing a team of human beings, it’s a completely different ball game (yes, it seems that the English do have a fascination with football). Expecting others to be able to read your mind and simply know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, is not only naïve, but is a recipe for trouble.

Technical expertise is desirable.

Emotional Intelligence is critical.

Why? Because …

1. If you are the type of manager who pays close attention to detail, who believes that there should be a strict distinction between work and personal life, and prefers to work on their own so that they can concentrate, you are going to automatically assume that anyone who is outgoing, loves to chat about what they did at the weekend and is constantly moving around the office, is a time-waster.

But now let’s assume that the person you judge to be a time-waster is in fact a brilliant psychologist who has never revealed their true capabilities, and who understands that a bit of sparkle will make time spent at the office easier for some of your colleagues, because a little injection of fun and laughter perfectly balances what might otherwise be an interesting but repetitive job.

How do you know which of these assumptions are correct? And how are you going to decide which of these personalities you want in your team?

Acknowledge that the colleague in question has a different way of working. If the dynamic of the team is good and they produce results, put your judgements to one side and focus on their value.

2. If you notice conflict in the team, and it doesn’t matter how senior your position, you must address it. The underlying reasons will likely have nothing to do with work, rather with a clash in personal values or cultural beliefs. You can easily prevent this sort of disagreement from escalating by doing some simple teambuilding activities to ensure that your staff understand your vision or goal.

Create a safe environment for your colleagues by establishing clear parameters about what is acceptable and what is not (there’s a link to a free download on this subject at the bottom of this post).

You’re the Leader, so Show some Leadership!

3. You understand that hierarchy is changing, and that your staff want to know that their contribution is going to make a difference to the success of your business or organization. It’s no longer enough to issue instructions and expect results in return for paying a salary and it’s not just a case of millennials wanting more attention.

Technology and globalisation have the human race evolving faster than ever before and the only way to prevent us all from going into meltdown is to get back to basics, by which I mean placing greater emphasis on face to face communication and regular feedback.

In the words of the late Stephen Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ – “seek first to understand and then be understood”.

Find out what motivates and inspires your staff, and if it means that buying doughnuts on a Friday is going to make the difference between positive and negative numbers, then do it.

If you’re constantly on someone’s back about their weaknesses, or just piling on the work because they don’t match your ideal of a hard worker and you think they’re not doing enough, you could lose a valuable member of staff.

As a manager it is your duty to understand what makes your team tick, and to appreciate that each individual will have different needs as well as different expectations about the level of support you provide to them.

To get the answers to those questions, and to develop your own managerial and leadership skills in the process, your only course of action is to spend time with your team. If you can create a safe environment in which your team can thrive, you’ll have learned that technical expertise is desirable, but emotional intelligence is essential.


You can download my free eBook ‘Creating Harmony in Your Multi-Cultural Team’ by signing up here: Send me my free eBook

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