How to improve your emotional intelligence
Studies show that EQ separates the star performers from the average. Julie Burniston hears from course leaders about the growing professional importance of empathy and understanding
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a fundamental factor in achieving success, both in our personal lives and professional endeavours. It encompasses the ability to recognise, understand and effectively manage our emotions, as well as those of people around us. EQ equips us to engage in effective communication, demonstrate empathy, resolve conflicts and make well-informed decisions.
ICAS training partner BPP offers a course – Improving Your Performance with Emotional Intelligence – that provides participants with practical models and strategies to enhance their EQ. By developing a deeper understanding of emotions and their impact, individuals can cultivate greater self-awareness, regulate their feelings and navigate social and business interactions with increased sensitivity and effectiveness.
David Bittiner - Director, BD Consultancy
My career journey began as a solicitor in the late 1980s, working as a litigator. I realised, though, that being a lawyer wasn't the right path for me, prompting my move into understanding how businesses can grow and communicate.
After spending six years as the Head of Business Development and Marketing at a law firm, I joined BD Consultancy in 2014, where my focus shifted to helping organisations win and retain clients. A significant portion of my work revolves around training CAs and other professionals in EQ, which entails self-analysis, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness and social skills.
As professionals we have dual careers to manage – one centred on technical excellence, the other on networking and leadership. With rapid advances in AI and tech, differentiating ourselves through interpersonal skills and empathy is increasingly vital. Studies show that two-thirds of our success is EQ and one-third IQ. Luckily the former can be learned and developed, unlike cognitive intelligence, which is relatively fixed.
In my courses, I kick off with self-analysis questionnaires to help participants delve into their EQ skillset. We explore various topics, such as self-regulation, managing workplace behaviours, passive/assertive behaviour, motivation, goal-setting, social awareness, empathy and understanding clients’ perspectives. These aspects are significant in finance and accountancy, which people don’t always associate with approachability and empathy, but where those traits are becoming more important in clients’ expectations.
The growing recognition of EQ has led to a higher demand for these courses, which is a positive thing. I firmly believe taking the time for self-analysis, understanding motivations and developing communication and empathy skills are crucial elements for professional success and will ultimately foster better workplace relationships and overall wellbeing.
Rebecca Bridges - Postgraduate law lecturer, coach, entrepreneur
My career journey began in 2010 when I qualified as one of the UK’s youngest solicitors. I practised law rigorously for 12 years, specialising in employment, business immigration and general litigation.
I also provided training for clients on legal matters and had the privilege of lecturing and speaking in front of judges. But as the workload in business immigration slowed, I opted to focus more on lecturing. I've long had a keen interest in self-development and supporting others, immersing myself in books by experts such as Daniel Goleman. This has driven my passion for EQ – now my primary focus is training the next generation of professionals in this crucial soft skill.
EQ is vital in all aspects of life, both personally and professionally. If one wants to enhance productivity and achieve success, it’s essential to work on developing emotional intelligence. The courses I offer are interactive and reflective, and the results you obtain are directly proportional to the effort you invest.
Typically, attendees are looking to improve themselves, or have been directed by their employers as part of their CPD. Some participants may have limited knowledge of EQ, while others are just beginning to learn about its significance. Realising its importance, one attendee said "the course should be a compulsory module for any professional". Indeed, the WEF lists "empathy and active listening" among the "10 most in-demand job skills".
Unfortunately, it is often overlooked in sectors such as law and accountancy, even though it can make a substantial difference to one’s career. I have witnessed academically excellent individuals struggle due to their lack of social skills and interpersonal development.
As you move into leadership roles, EQ is even more crucial because you need to grow as a person in order to develop others. I have personally experienced its positive impact in managing client relationships and securing work from other law firms. It plays a pivotal role in relationship management, cultural awareness, and effective communication with clients, colleagues, and superiors.
In light of the challenges presented by Covid-19, I believe there is an EQ gap that needs to be addressed at various levels, including client cultivation, team dynamics and overall business development.
EQ can be taught, and it’s a distinguishing factor that sets star performers apart. By setting smart goals, breaking them down, and consistently working towards them, anyone can develop EQ. And they will find that doing so has a hugely positive impact on their lives.
Book Improving Your Performance with Emotional Intelligence here