It’s an interesting dichotomy that as our world continues to get more interconnected, the number of human interactions we have seems to wane. Next time you’re at a restaurant, I encourage you to people-watch for five minutes and count how many people are not glued to their smartphones. Additionally, I will be the first to admit that I play more strangers on Words with Friends than people I actually know – which I do enjoy, but the irony is not lost on me.
And yet, more and more we are learning that human interactions are critical in business and critical in life. Answering emails at your kitchen table or while you walk down the street can be a win for responsiveness, but it’s a loss for humanity. Walking this fine balance between high productivity and obsession, between apathetic frequency and emotional investment, is what is setting apart good leaders from great ones.
All leaders are humans first, and when those individuals tap into the power that label provides, they can reap the benefits. Leaders who are “emotionally intelligent” in their ability to manage their own emotions and handle the sentiments of those around them are better positioned to establish authentic relationships with their employees and peers, as opposed to participating in mere transactional exchanges. Emotional Intelligence is even the topic of one of our latest HCI surveys, which you can participate in by clicking here.
Moreover, individuals who have high EI not only function better in the boardroom, but experience more fulfilling lives. How we spend our time is a candid indicator of what we value, and while a hard worker is appreciated, a hard worker who takes time to coach her daughter’s soccer team is arguably even more in tune with what is important. In his book, Be Excellent at Anything, Tony Schwartz summarized, “Whether it’s evenings and weekends truly off, longer and more regular vacations, brief breaks during the day a ninety-minute intervals, short afternoon naps, or a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night, the overwhelming evidence is that our health and productivity are enhanced by a rhythmic movement between work and rest.”
Supplementing this is the movement toward more flexible work arrangements and work environments that accommodate family-friendly policies and benefits. More than just “perks,” these policies empower employees to design schedules that are most effective for them, and in turn, ensure that the company is getting their best work. Smart organizations and leaders recognize that engaging a whole person is more than just job satisfaction. It is about fundamentally understanding what motivates performance, and how workplace policies and development opportunities can be leveraged to increase employee effort and commitment.
The waters of leadership today are undoubtedly treacherous. Variables like generational differences, remote workers, global locations and cultural idiosyncrasies have amassed into a large body of challenges facing organizations. Addressing these struggles is not going to be simple or easy, but the approach may be just that. Break it down and start with the human aspect. The emotional quotient. The work/life balance. After all, sometimes even your smartphone deserves a break.