Among C-suites, return on investment (ROI) drives a majority of decisions. So the thoughtful leader may be challenged to defend investment in emotional intelligence to the CFO or others. What will you have to show for building skills in emotional intelligence among key employees, or for yourself? Emotions by their nature are not bottom-line items, yet the effective leader who is skilled in emotional intelligence can point to its impact on productivity, employee retention, and morale, all of which are metrics that can be charted.
Consider the emotionally intelligent leader who has empowered emotionally intelligent subordinates to use these skills in day-to-day teamwork. As seen in Inc.com and other level-headed business media, self-regulation and self-assessment are components of emotional intelligence. Both feed directly into increased productivity.
Self-regulation—discipline—contributes to productivity because the discipline needed check one’s emotions, to avoid panic, and to remain calm in the face of adversity makes you a strong team member or leader. You are emotionally intelligent enough to recognize and control the negative emotions a stressful situation may bring. Your calm spreads to others, and your confidence makes everyone more efficient.
Rather than project an uncomfortable touchy-feely approach, managers and leaders are constantly looking inward to identify their own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Having a realistic view of themselves, they rely on team members to compensate and make the entire effort more productive.
People do not quit positions; they quit managers. The emotionally intelligent leader—the one who takes the time to identify emotional triggers, pick up on emotions of team members, and tailor each member’s motivation to her or his own needs—will appear as the ideal leader to each employee. This does not mean being untrue to one’s inner voice, but rather, presenting the right emotional response to each employee. One manager may respect the strong, forceful director while another responds better to the softer, compassionate mentor. Both employees will be more likely to stay with that leader and the company. One study identified the value of emotional intelligence in improving employee retention in the most challenging of workplaces, substance abuse treatment centers.
Morale may be an evanescent quality in business, but its effects are easily measurable. How many sick days, latenesses, and early departures does a department or company suffer? With leaders who have taken the time to build skills in emotional intelligence, employee morale improves. To best see the effects of this, consider the extreme case, in which workplace bullying is commonplace. Research shows this corrosive atmosphere not only (and perhaps obviously) erodes morale, it also robs individuals of the ability to feel emotionally intelligent. Pressured by workplace boundaries into a flight-fight-or-hide response, many employees simply miss work to avoid the bullying. Morale plummets, but so does the atmosphere of self-esteem, teamwork and emotionally intelligent confidence.
Conversely, emotionally intelligent leaders who forge strong emotional ties to subordinates will see morale improve, measurable by less absenteeism. Considering the small cost of skill-building in emotional intelligence, the ROI is very high indeed.