Jun 15, 2022

EQ for Agile Workplaces

Written by Mariateresa Romeo

How emotional intelligence can help you succeed in an agile work environment.

Our way of working and the approach to work changed drastically in the last two years. Boundaries disappeared, new technologies were rapidly introduced, and innovative solutions were enabled to streamline decision-making. Organizations reinvented their business and operative models to survive and, in some cases, innovate themselves at the urging of finding a “new normal.”

Terms like “agile” but also “fluid” or “liquid” are now used to describe the way organizations are intentionally reinventing themselves to operate in an even more uncertain and unpredictable environment.

An agile organization stands out for flexible and horizontal structures, meaning that the hierarchy is less marked than the traditional organizations. Leaders are more conscious of the turbulent and unpredictable forces of change that could affect organizations (such as climate changes, digital disruption, and supply chain issues) and feel the urgency of developing an adapting capacity moving forward. This type of organization constantly evolves, developing fast and transparent working methods, reducing bureaucracy and streamlining communication flows.

Organizations offer a dynamic and flexible work environment, concentrating more on the outcomes and capabilities and less on when and where employees complete their tasks. On the other hand, behaviors that make an organization successful have changed: individuals need to be adaptive, open to exploring new working styles within the same organization, and able to deal with a more diversified and fast-changing workplace.

What competencies do we need to succeed in this unique work environment? Emotional Intelligence (EQ) comes into play when individuals need to develop adaptability to changes, mainly when dealing with mixed feelings in new and unexpected situations.

It is the capacity to blend thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions, consisting of a learnable, measurable, scientifically validated skillset.

Based on my experiences with complex and fast-changing organizations, I think some emotional intelligence skills are essential for our adaptability in a fluid workplace.

Recognize your pattern

The lack of hierarchies and fixed roles in the workplace can undermine routines and consolidated behaviors and requires us to continuously assess any new situation and thoughtfully determine the best response. The more we are used to running on autopilot, unconsciously reacting based on habit, the more we will need time and effort to familiarize ourselves with new situations.

Recognizing Patterns is our ability to acknowledge frequently recurring reactions and behaviors. Developing this competence allows us to analyze our behaviors quickly, understand our resistance to the novelties of the situation and tailor our responses accordingly.

Practice the “pause, evaluate
and respond” process

For several years, organizations have invested in simplifying employees’ interactions and encouraging multi-directional communication through multiple channels. During the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous companies became aware that their contact with employees was no longer fit-for-purpose. Nevertheless, internal communication problems resulting from the extended use of social media and new technologies were well-known long before the pandemic.

This topic would deserve a lengthy analysis on its own. However, I want to emphasize how communication mistakes, such as information overload, lack of feedback, and inappropriate messages conveying emotional triggers and responses, could be avoided by being more intentional and using consequential thinking.

A good practice to solve conflicts or make decisions when we have little or too much information is to pause and give ourselves the time to evaluate the available options risks, costs, and benefits. In this way, we can gain a new perspective, harness the emotional effects of being caught in a rush or hijacked by anxiety, frustration, or anger and take actions more aligned with our long-term goals and purpose.

Develop your Inner Motivation

Usually, we do appreciate the opportunity to perform various activities, develop new skills and collaborate with different groups. However, in the long term, we might feel frustrated by excessive changes or a wide range of novelties. Even the excitement of being involved in new teams and working with people we have never met can decrease over time and strain our engagement and motivation.

Our intrinsic motivation helped us adapt to a forced remote work environment, maintaining and, in some cases, improving our performance when everything around us was changing. This competence can also help us navigate the “new normal” and succeed in organizational contexts, evolving toward an agile or fluid model.

Engage intrinsic motivation means to be energized and driven by personal values and commitment and not only by external factors, such as recognition, the sense of belonging to a specific group, and in general, others’ endorsement.

Passion, alignment with values, and a sense of belonging or purpose are strictly related to the organization in which we operate but are also self-perpetuating.

It might seem obvious but being successful in an agile organization entail learning to be agile as an individual in the first place. The first step toward an “agile behavior” might be to assess your EQ through a reliable, well-validated, internationally normed tool. An EQ assessment can undoubtedly provide clear feedback on how you use your emotional intelligence skills and outline the path to improve them.

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