Why Young Bankers, Lawyers, and Consultants Need Emotional Intelligence
There’s one common thing between bankers, lawyers, accountants, and consultants. To pursue any of these careers, you need to be smart as hell and twice as hardworking.
The problem with this is that all the people you will be working with will be just as smart and hardworking.
This means that, if you want to become successful and advance in your career, you will need to rely on something more than that.
As anyone who has achieved long-term success in one of these fields will tell you, the key to advancing in a career where everyone is smart and hardworking lies in your emotional intelligence (EQ).
Without high emotional intelligence, you might be the best one at your job, but you will have nothing to show for it.
You will be underappreciated, your efforts will go unrecognized, you will miss out on promotions, and in most cases, you will be undercompensated.
On the other hand, if your hone your emotional intelligence and learn how to work successfully with other people, you will gain an edge over your colleagues, your work will become more recognized and appreciated, and you will possibly see a boost in your job satisfaction and income.
The importance of emotional intelligence for job success is not just mere speculation. A study that surveyed 515 senior global executives found that the executives with the highest emotional intelligence were also the most successful.
Emotional intelligence is also one of the strongest drivers of personal excellence and leadership.
Actually, the study cited above found that emotional intelligence was a better predictor of success as a leader compared to a person’s IQ, their academic achievement, or even relevant business experience.
According to an HBR article by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, a person could have an incisive, analytical mind, the best training he could get, and an endless stream of great ideas, but without emotional intelligence, the person will never make a great leader.
In his other book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, Goleman notes that emotional intelligence is twice as important as technical skills and IQ in determining the level of success a person will achieve.
As a young banker, lawyer, or consultant, emotional intelligence is even more important today.
The current global business environment is very complex and requires people who can work well with others across multiple boundaries, and therefore, if you want to succeed and rise above your peers, this is a skill you must hone.
But what exactly is this emotional intelligence we are talking about?
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE DEFINED
Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to observe and be aware of emotions, both yours and those of others, to tell apart the different emotions and identify them correctly, and then use this information as a guide to your thoughts and actions.
Emotional intelligence also involves the ability to manage and regulate your emotions as necessary, and the ability to help others do the same to their own emotions.
It is good to note that emotional intelligence is more than personality or charisma.
Emotional intelligence is exhibited in the ability to remain calm and collected even when facing problems and challenges, the ability to listen to others, the ability to adapt to different people, the ability to empathize with other people, helping others and showing that you value them, and the ability to create meaningful connections with others.
Emotional intelligence is all about how you relate to other people.
Emotional intelligence comprises of five key elements:
The thing about emotions is that it is impossible to handle them appropriately if you don’t know what you are dealing with.
Without self-awareness, you can compared yourself to a boat without a motor or sail sitting on top of the ocean of your emotions.
Just like the boat, the currents of your emotions will toss you whichever way they want, and there is not much you can do about it. To get into a position where you can handle your emotions, you need to first become aware of what is bubbling below.
Self-awareness, therefore, is the ability to observe and be aware of the emotions you are experiencing and recognize and understand them and how they affect your behavior.
In addition to becoming aware of your emotions, you also need to be aware of the emotions of others, and the effect of your emotions and actions on other people.
Self-awareness also includes your ability to recognize your strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses.
According to Daniel Goleman, people who are self-aware are highly adaptable, they learn from interacting with others, and are open to new experiences and new information.
People who have a high level of self-awareness are confident in themselves and their abilities, are aware of others’ perception of them, and have a sense of humor, capable of laughing at themselves and their mistakes.
Aside from an awareness of their emotions and their impact on others, a person with high emotional intelligence also has the ability to manage, control, and regulate their emotions.
By this, I don’t mean that one should try to hide or suppress their emotions.
This is unhealthy and can even lead to mental problems.
Instead, being able to control and regulate your emotions means expressing your emotions in a healthy way.
It means being able to choose the right avenue to express these emotions, and being capable of waiting for the right time and place to express what you are feeling.
Someone who has a strong sense of self-regulation does not act on impulse. Instead, even when experiencing strong emotions, they have the capability to think before they act or speak.
For instance, if you are a boss and your employee does something you think is wrong, you shouldn’t blow off the lid and shout angrily at them. Instead, a person who is capable of self-regulation would keep calm, call the employee to your office, and have a conversation with them to let them know that what they did was wrong.
According to Goleman, people with strong self-regulation skills are good at handling conflict and dealing with difficult or tense situations. They are also flexible and can easily adapt to change. They also don’t have trouble taking responsibility for their actions.
The third element of emotional intelligence is social skills, which basically refers to the ability to interact well with the people around you.
A truly emotionally intelligent person not only understands their emotions and those of others, but they are also capable of using this information to guide how they communicate and interact with others, which results in better and more meaningful interactions.
Someone with excellent social skills is capable of finding common ground with those they are interacting with, and forging and maintaining friendships and relationships with others.
They are also capable of picking up on nuances of communication such as jokes and sarcasm.
Someone with excellent social skills is also capable of interacting with people with all kinds of personalities.
As a lawyer, banker, or consultant, the ability to build and maintain relationships is very important to your success.
You need to be able to quickly develop a strong rapport with your colleagues, bosses, and clients.
To do this, you need to learn some social skills such as verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening skills, persuasion, and so on.
This is the fourth element of emotional intelligence. It refers to the ability to understand what others are going through and what they are feeling.
However, being empathetic is a lot more than recognizing the emotional states of those around you.
Being empathetic means responding to people appropriately based on your perception of their emotional state.
For instance, if someone around you has just received some great news and is feeling happy, you would probably show elation and energy when interacting with them.
On the other hand, if the person you are interacting with is feeling sad, you would probably be very careful around them, show concern for their feelings, and probably try to uplift their spirits.
People who are empathetic also have a good understanding of the power dynamics that drive relationships between people, especially at the workplace.
Such a person can easily determine who wields most power in different relationships, understand how these power dynamics influence people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, and correctly and appropriately handle different situations that rely on these power dynamics.
It is good to note that it is impossible for one to achieve empathy if they are yet to achieve self-awareness.
According to Goleman, in order to understand others, you first need to understand yourself. This shows how important self-awareness is.
Once someone has understood themselves and their emotions, they can now focus on perceiving the emotions of others, responding appropriately to the emotional responses of others, getting interested in the concern’s and worries of others, and understanding societal norms and how they influence the actions of others.
This is the final element of emotional intelligence. In this case, I am referring to intrinsic motivation, which is the drive to achieve one’s inner goals and needs. An emotionally intelligent person’s motivation does not stem from external rewards such as money, recognition, fame, or accolades. Instead, they are driven by the need to achieve internal rewards, the need to achieve flow in their activities and attain peak experiences.
People with a strong sense of motivation are action takers. They don’t sit around waiting for things to happen.
Instead, they are constantly setting their own goals, driven by a need for achievement, and are always trying to make themselves better.
They have a huge interest and focus on learning and self-improvement. They are also very committed to their goals and are more likely to show initiative in their assigned tasks.
People who have intrinsic motivation are not afraid of failure. They do not let failure keep them away from their goals, and they have the strength to keep going even when they encounter challenges and difficulties in the pursuit of their goals.
For instance, if such a person misses out on a promotion, they don’t see this as a failure and allow it to fill them with doubt and mess up their self-confidence.
Instead, they see it as an opportunity to learn, improve their skills and get ready by the time the next opportunity for a promotion comes along.
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN THE WORKPLACE
So, how can emotional intelligence help young bankers, lawyers, and consultants achieve success and advance faster in their careers?
In the workplace, your success is hugely influenced by the relationships you have with people. According to a survey carried out among workers in Belgium, majority of the respondents (99%) reported that having positive relationships with their colleagues is one of the most important things at work.
Another survey of more than 10,000 workplace relationships also found out that given a chance between working with a highly competent jerk and a lovable fool, most people will opt to work with the likeable person, regardless of the fact that he or she is incompetent.
In other words, the people you work with care more about how you relate with them compared to how good you are at your job.
This applies even when it comes to hiring and promotions. Various studies show that people who are likeable have higher chances of getting hired, being promoted, being listened to, and to be offered help by their workmates.
This means that if you want to move ahead, especially in careers like banking, law and consultancy where everyone is smart and hardworking, you have to put a lot of focus on building relationships.
Sure, brains and hard work might get you into the door, but you have to learn how to work with others, listen to them, collaborate, and adapt to different situations and personalities if you want to get beyond the door.
Below are a couple of ways through which emotional intelligence can help you build better relationships and advance faster in your career.
We saw that two of the components of emotional intelligence – self-awareness and self-regulation – make people capable of adapting to different situations and different personalities.
The adaptability of emotionally intelligent people means that they can easily work with different colleagues, bosses, and clients with different personalities and different working styles.
As you advance in your career and scale the corporate ladder, you will need to take up new roles and responsibilities.
For instance, as a management consultant, what got you to business analyst will not get you to associate, what got you to associate will not get you to associate partner, and what got you to associate partner will not get you to partner.
This means that, in order to achieve success and advance, you will need the self-awareness, flexibility and adaptability required to open yourself to new projects, new people, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.
This flexibility will help you grow your connections, your experience and your expertise, and will allow you to be more prepared for any new responsibilities that will come as your advance in your career.
Therefore, it is very important to focus on developing your adaptability.
Constantly ask your bosses and your leaders to provide you with feedback about how self-aware and adaptable you are. You can also improve your self-awareness by reading influential books, such as The Wisdom of Crowds and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
In careers such as law, banking, and consulting (as well as many other professional services careers) a lot of work gets done by teams of people.
Today, work is becoming even more collaborative, with teams from all over the world working together with the help of virtual communication technologies.
The teams are also becoming larger as people from different departments, and even industries work together to find solutions to increasingly complex client problems. In this business environment, collaboration and collegiality is a very important skill.
If you want to have a successful career in the professional services industry, you need to be able to work will with your colleagues.
Remember, in most of these firms, what matters most is the performance of the team and the firm, rather than individual performance. Here, acting as a lone wolf doesn’t cut it.
Not only are you required to make your contribution to the team, you are also required to show respect to the abilities and perspectives of your colleagues. Of course, this needs emotional intelligence.
The good thing is that you can improve your teamwork and collaboration skills by forging good relationships with your colleagues, building your network, carefully resolving any disagreements between you and your colleagues, and offering to help your colleagues with projects, even if you are not formally assigned to these projects.
The greatest indicator of great collaboration skills is how eager your colleagues are to work with you.
We have already seen that empathy is all about trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand what they are feeling, or the emotions they are dealing with. Empathy is very crucial in helping you build trust with other people.
This is particularly important when you are dealing with clients, which is a major part of what people in the professional services industry do.
If you are just getting into a career in the professional services industry, you might think that the most important part of your job is coming up with answers.
After all, you are in the business of providing solutions, right?
However, the most important part of your job, even more important than coming up with solutions, is getting clients to tell you what problem they are dealing with.
If the client does not trust you enough, they will never give you a chance at solving their problem, and if they do not do that, then you are not in business.
Gaining the trust of clients is not easy. Sometimes, it might take years.
Sometimes, a client might have you working on projects that never materialize.
However, what matters is getting the client to trust you and convincing them that you are someone who can be relied on. Once they decide to commit, they might turn out to be the biggest client you have ever had.
Building this kind of client trust is not easy. You have to show the client that you are willing to listen to their problem, and not just listening so that you can respond, but listening with the aim of understanding their problem. This is what empathy entails.
An emotionally intelligent person will try to find out what exactly the client is going through and ask questions to uncover what the actual problem is.
They will put themselves in the shoes of the client and try to look at things from the perspective of the client.
This will in turn make the client more comfortable and trusting with you.
And you can bet that once most clients start asking to work with you specifically, you are on the fast track to a highly successful career.
Networking is very important to career success, regardless of your chosen field of work.
Networking allows you to develop and improve your skills, keep a pulse on the job market and learn about any new job opportunities, keep abreast of what is happening in your industry, meet clients, partners and mentors, and gives you access to some of the resources you might need to advance your career.
Emotional intelligence is a very crucial to networking. Networking requires self-awareness, the ability to collaborate with others, and empathy.
Self-awareness allows you to recognize opportunities for networking and the right people to network with, and allows you to tailor your approach depending on the person and situation.
Reciprocity, one of the core tenets of collaboration, allows you to focus not only on what you can get from the other person, but how you can benefit them as well.
It is impossible to build a good network if all your focus is on yourself. Networking also requires the ability to cultivate the trust of others, which is impossible if you do not have empathy.
Networking is especially important when you are just starting out in your career, since it can help you find a sponsor or mentor who can have a very positive and significant impact on your career trajectory.
Networking, even within your organization, can help turn you from the virtually unknown and ignored intern to a valuable member of the organization within a few years.
To get into professional service industry careers such as law, banking, accounting, and consultancy, you need to be brilliant, and to be very hardworking.
However, everyone else getting into these careers will be equally brilliant and hardworking.
If you want to stand out from your peers and advance your career, you need to have something everyone else you are competing against does not have – emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is all about how you interact with other people and the kind of relationships you build with people.
Remember, it is the most likable, rather than the most competent, who are more likely to get hired and promoted.
Therefore, if you want to fast track your career growth, you should focus on improving your emotional intelligence.
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