Putting emotional intelligence at the heart of business

Employers need to value emotional intelligence in their leaders if they want to boost performance and avoid burnout a conference heard yesterday.

Smiling woman at work desk on phone


Emotional intelligence is a central part of driving better performance and productivity, a mental health conference heard yesterday.

John Amaechi, an organisational psychologist who is CEO of APS, told the MAD World Summit that it was important for employers to recognise skills other than technical ones by, for instance, making emotional skills necessary for progression.

He said it was important to recognise that different communities were more likely to suffer from particular mental health issues, but he said it should not be expected that every manager was a mental health expert. All they needed to do was spend time with their direct reports and pay attention, said Amaechi. He said it was important for people to feel that someone noticed them and any changes in their behaviour, although he said there was no point in asking people how they are if you didn’t care about the answer. “If you are serious about people and productivity and mental health, don’t ask if you don’t care,” he said.

He added that he thought there was a good chance some businesses would want to return to the old way of doing things. He said he hated the term ‘the new normal’ because it suggested we are “shackled to old traditions that threaten to snap us back”. “It nods to people whose influence has been affected by Zoom and agile working, who are frightened by them. It whispers don’t worry, it will all go back to normal and it lies to those who say it is better mental health wise that it will be new. What we need is a cultural clean slate,” he said. That would involve local and regional hubs and training of line managers in remote working.

Amaechi added that many employers still operated a culture which was about “crushing the souls of their employees”, of allowing people to burn out in six months, instead of thinking about the longer term. Companies which put emotional well being at the centre of the performance dynamic not only enabled people to perform at a high level for a long time, but also attracted external talent.

He said making connections between people was more complex with remote working, but recommended making time in meetings that was not technical, running through an agenda focused on outcomes, so that people could get to know each other. “We need to invest in each other,” he said. “The more you know about each other the more you can support each other.”

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