We’ve seen a surge in sign-ups for our session ‘Understanding & Using Emotional Intelligence’ at London Business School amongst MBAs over the past months. To the extent that we’ve been carefully monitoring their reasons why. And that was before Coronavirus came to Europe. Now, it’s clear that any further take-up will surely be in recognition of it being the must-have business fundamental for leading others through these unprecedented times. But what were their reasons before Coronavirus?
Students’ reasons for choosing the emotional intelligence elective largely fall into three categories:
- redressing an imbalance in which their task skills outweigh their people skills
- attaining better emotional self-regulation
- helping them understand what makes others tick, especially when working in more diverse teams
Here’s a little bit of background about our MBA students at London Business School. Their average age is 29, they have five years of work experience and 92% of the students are international students from 66 countries. And iOpener has been providing learning for over 100,000 LBS students across several programs for more than a decade.
During our Emotional Intelligence session, the participants:
- work on building self-awareness
- practice ways to manage their emotions in a proactive way
- build their understanding of what motivates them and others
- learn how to show empathy
- grow their social skills through a behavioral coaching exercise
On the last day delivering this Emotional Intelligence session in person before London Business School stopped all in-person classes as a precautionary measure to keep its students safe amid the Coronavirus pandemic, we had excellent attendance and, as always, we started by asking them what inspired them to choose this session amongst a wide choice of topics.
They tell us that they hope learning about and embedding more emotional intelligence will have a positive impact on their leadership styles, help them handle difficult peer relations better and tackle difficult conversations with more skill, enable them to show and express empathy more easily as well as come out of negotiations better.
They tell us that now more than ever, this is a time in which showing emotional intelligence is a crucial part of interacting with colleagues and other stakeholders. Especially as most conversations are conceivably going to be via telephone or video link.
At iOpener, we know from our iPPQ (Happiness at Work survey) data collected globally over the past twelve years that camaraderie is what people treasure most at work, that not only contributes highly to making them happier at work but also feeds their souls and fuels their ability to perform optimally.
Human beings are social beings. As Professor Antonio Damasio, author and professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, says; “We are feeling beings who also think”. And that’s because the limbic system of our brains – the area of the brain responsible for emotion – evolved before the neocortex, our thinking and rational brain. So, we feel first, then think, then do. And, in times of stress, our capacity to feel emotions overrides our thinking brain; which accounts for people’s distressed tales of losing their temper when they’re under pressure and the likes.
Think about the stress that everyone is feeling at the moment in the context of today’s work environment. People who are still going into a physical workplace every day during the coronavirus outbreak are feeling vulnerable and unsure. People who are working from home – and especially if not used to it – are feeling at best strange about the new setup and at worst isolated and disconnected. People are not just managing their own emotions but their family and friends’ emotions too. Employees are taking the strain of worrying about their children’s wellbeing as well as their elderly parents and grandparents. Apparently it’s middle aged women who are showing the most anxiety in the UK at the moment.
So, it’s time to think about the importance of human connection. And to find ways to sustain a sense of togetherness and support through these unprecedented times. A basic understanding of emotional intelligence tells you that expressing empathy to each and every person in your team is essential. They’ll be looking to you for reassurance. Even if you can’t give it entirely, you can help them feel appreciated and heard.