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Emotional Intelligence in Remote and Hybrid Work

Emotional Intelligence in Remote and Hybrid Work

Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. But do business leaders have the skills to lead in today’s far-flung work environment? Sandra Thompson, Founder and Director of the Ei Evolution CX & EX Consultancy, shares why emotional intelligence is essential for leading remote teams to success and what it takes to develop game-changing EI skills. Read her expert insights below and hear what she shared with us on Conversations That Matter.

 

This is serious. It’s about remote and hybrid work.

Would you expect someone, with some basic car maintenance skills to fix the brakes on your car? Would you trust someone who has been awarded a Red Cross first aid certificate to perform open heart surgery?

If your answer to those questions is a resounding no, how then do you expect your staff to work confidently, competently and happily in a completely different environment, requiring a completely different approach (to be effective) when they haven’t been given the skills to do so?

I’m talking about the skills you need to be EXCEL at remote and hybrid work.

Remote and hybrid work are now considered business choices (no longer the temporary fix to where we work in the pandemic), and you have to train people to perform well in these conditions. There are specific skills we should all practice to DO remote work well. And it just so happens that when you have Emotional Intelligence (EI) it’s far easier to adapt these skills.

Want to Learn More About Leading with Emotional Intelligence?

Check out our discussion with Sandra Thompson on Conversations That Matter.

When your teams have EI, and they learn “remote work skills,” they will realize their true potential and you’ll reduce their likelihood of experiencing burnout and the anxiety that often comes with this work approach.  More on that here.

Below is a list of the skills you need to become better at remote and hybrid work and some exercises you can practice to improve your skills. The brilliant news is that when you have Emotional Intelligence (EI), you are more likely to have the mindset needed to adopt these skills with ease.

The skills

Well before the 2020 pandemic, a mother and son team, Roberta and Nathan Sawatzky, interviewed employees who worked for “remote-first organizations” to find out what skills people needed to be brilliant at remote work. We’ll explore three of the eight here:  

1. Communication

A staggering 97% of employees believe communication impacts their task efficiency on a daily basis. Did you know that communication barriers could be costing businesses around $37 billion a year?  People in remote-first companies work twice as hard to ensure that their communication is clear, concise and consistent because they know that it can be tricky to read the usual signals you get from face-to-face interaction and that so much can be lost in the absence of synchronous communication.

People in remote roles are phenomenal communicators. They are careful with the language they use and they ensure that the meaning they are conveying is clear. They check to ensure that the messages they send are clearly received, and they also honor people’s personal communication preferences.

Communication preferences are all about how we like to communicate with one another—some people love email, some Slack, others would prefer to hop on a Zoom call to get some clarity. Being proactive and asking about people’s preferences saves time and confusion and avoids conflict.

Check out this set of communications guidelines and template so that you can become more intentional with your communications, experience less conflict and gain greater clarity.

When you have EI, you are more likely to notice differences in people’s communication which can signal to you that something might be awry. You’ll notice the subtle changes, which means that you may be able to deal with something calmly early on rather than address behaviors that might be more dramatic and damaging. When you practice EI, you are more likely to ask a person good open questions which will help them share enough with you so you can give them the support they need.Sandra Thompson, Founder and Director of the Ei Evolution CX & EX Consultancy

2. Self-motivation

You can create the conditions to improve your self-motivation skills when you know what to do.  Because remote work can’t be physically supervised, the work has got to be meaningful to the individual for them to want to press ahead, and it needs to be focused on delivering to others’ expectations.

Remote-first organizations measure productivity by results (rather than the amount of time you spend at your desk). If you’re not measured by results, it’s going to be harder for you to resist procrastination remotely. We have all been there.

There are three things to do to fire up self-motivation:

Understand what drives the individual you manage.

What are their core needs? Once you understand these, you can adapt your approach to them and position their work in a way that will be meaningful to them. The brilliant folks at Innovation Bubble have created Neopic and Neo archetypes—four different archetypes with distinct needs—along with tools to help each member of your team based on their archetype.

Help them understand the critical role they play in making a difference to people, either other staff or customers.

This is called “line of sight,” which means they can see how what they do contributes to the Businesses Strategic Objectives. There’s a story about a janitor at NASA saying to President Kennedy that he was helping to put a man on the moon. You get the picture. (Caution: this approach doesn’t resonate with everyone.)

Be crystal clear about the task to be completed so that you can manage expectations.

Very often tasks are left open to interpretation, and this causes no end of avoidable conflict. You know those SMART objectives? Well, add some expectations on how you would want the work to be delivered, if you’re the manager. Next, get your team member to break down the overall tasks into subtasks which they can then track autonomously.

Two of the 12 EI competencies—Achievement Orientation and Positive Outlook—are fundamental to Self-Motivation. When you practice EI, and apply the three exercises above, you’ll be firing on rocket fuel! Sandra Thompson, Founder and Director of the Ei Evolution CX & EX Consultancy

3. Curiosity & critical thinking

According to the Harvard Business Review, 92% of people credited curious people with bringing new ideas to teams and viewed curiosity as a catalyst for job satisfaction, motivation, innovation and high performance. Yet, only 24% of people reported feeling curious in their roles. More shockingly, 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at their work.

The fact is that curiosity and critical thinking are essential if you are going to be successful in a remote or hybrid environment. You have to figure stuff out for yourself; but before you can do that, you need the drive to do so. Working independently requires being independent. You need to be resourceful, persistent and self-sufficient.

Here are some things you could do to exercise greater curiosity and to encourage others to welcome your curious approach:

Treat things as an experiment. 

Reinforce that you are trying something out, and that it’s not permanent. Remind yourself and others that this work could stop if it does not work the way it was intended. (This reduces the fear of failure.)

Explore the risks and make them clear at the outset of whatever you are doing.

Make sure everyone can see the potential risks involved with your new ideas, and remind them that there is plenty of time to work out a Plan B if something does not go to plan.

Ask yourself "what if," "and then" and/or "how true is it"?

These are all great techniques to help you explore more.

Consider asking other questions.

What is the problem? Where is it coming from? Is there anyone that can help me overcome my barrier? Are there any resources I can find that can help me solve this issue?

People with EI naturally have an open mind. They manage their emotions in such a way that they don’t feel afraid or threatened when presented with a challenging question or a fresh perspective. They seek to understand, not to judge or close downSandra Thompson, Founder and Director of the Ei Evolution CX & EX Consultancy

Additional exercises to get you started.

Consider setting one thing to practice a week to see how you progress. The trick is to do one small thing frequently, and you’ll see incremental change over time. Hear what Susan David says about Tiny Tweaks and check out Jason Clear’s (author of Atomic Habits) advice on gradual and dramatic change.

These are just a few of the skills you need to be triumphant in the remote and hybrid space. If you’d like to find out more about leading with emotional intelligence, visit Ei Evolution online and follow us on LinkedIn.

This article has been brought to you by Sandra Thompson, founding director at Ei Evolution. Find out more about her Applied Customer Experience and Emotional Intelligence course, her CX Game and her upcoming HR course here.

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