Emotional intelligence & psychological safety w/ Kelly Newman
Listen to our full interview with Kelly on Engage Your Tribe:
Emotional intelligence, or EI, has become something of a buzzword in the corporate world, meaning that it gets thrown around a lot as something that every leader, communicator, and organization can and should improve.
But what does EI actually mean, and is it really as important as those who peddle solutions for improving emotional intelligence would have us believe?
For Kelly Newman, a facilitator, emotional intelligence consultant, and executive coach with BlueEQ (a firm that helps organizations assess and improve their EI), emotional intelligence is about a person’s or organization’s ability to accurately recognize and modulate their emotions and behaviors and to understand how they come across to others. At the same tie, EI also speaks to the ability to read people and their emotional state in order to better influence their behavior.
EI is crucial for customer, prospect, and employee engagement, Newman say, insofar as engagement, at its core, means forging a connection with your audience. And connection happens most readily when you’ve created a psychologically safe environment, i.e. an atmosphere in which people feel that it’s safe for them to engage and respond.
For example, Newman says, during a brainstorming session, employees are going to be willing to engage and participate when the leader sets a positive and optimistic tone and creates an atmosphere or openness to new ideas. But employees are going to be less eager to toss out ideas if the leader projects a pessimistic attitude. In that atmosphere, employees are going to feel less safe participating because they’ll fear having their ideas shot down and being made to look stupid.
It might seem obvious that creating a psychological “safe space” is more conducive for engagement. But Newman’s point is that in order to create an atmosphere of psychological safety, you have to be self-aware enough (i.e. have a high-enough degree of emotional intelligence) to affect the proper tone and behavior and to register in real time how your tone and behavior are coming across to your audience.
Emotional intelligence and psychological safety are useful concepts for sales and marketing, too. In the B2B world, especially, establishing meaningful business relationships with prospects is crucial for closing deals. And the first step usually involves sharing an idea or insight or piece of content that connects with the prospect on an intellectual and emotional level and that invites them to respond and engage. In a world of constant noise and distraction, the ability to calibrate your emotions and behaviors to align with the needs and (often only partially realized) concerns of your prospects can be the difference between cutting through the noise and engaging prospects in a way that results in sales, or being just another voice clamoring for attention.