Emotional Intelligence and Learning

It was an early start this morning when I greeted the new day with a coughing fit at 4:30am – the last remnants of a chest infection. However, I took the opportunity to write this blog post about a Lunch and Learn session I attended yesterday.

We were invited to a session with Dr Ben Palmer from Genos International, an organisation that specialises in the assessment and development of emotional intelligence, motivation and employee engagement.  It was a session I enjoyed because it made me think and reflect about the content but also crystallise one particular unsettling event that occurred this week and how I responded to it.

Although I haven’t completed any formal emotional intelligence testing, it would be something I would entertain simply to confirm what I know and don’t know about myself, and how others perceive me.

Dr Ben Palmer explained, “emotional intelligence involves a set of skills that help us perceive, understand, express, reason with and manage emotions, both within ourselves and others.”  He went on to say that, “we can apply these skills to help us become more conscious of our own and others feelings and then conscious of the influence of our emotions on our decisions, behaviour and performance.”

What hit it home was an activity he got us to do.  In one minute, we had to jot down all our feelings that we could recall in the last 24 hours.  That was simple enough to do because of the event that had been playing around in my mind.

Of the 11 feelings I wrote down, seven were unproductive.  Feelings like disappointment, unheard, discounted, sensitive…

Had I been wasting my time getting these negative feelings get to me?  Yes!

So it was timely to have this short team development session on emotional intelligence so that I could reflect on if my emotions of this incident affected my behaviour and performance on my job.

A couple of days ago, I was asked to explain a blog post I wrote about an awful learning experience I had  earlier this year.   I retracted the post not because of what I wrote but because I valued the person who made that request .   I made it clear that I still stand by what I wrote because it was what I experienced: my thoughts; my actions; my feelings  – there were no embellishments.

The post had generated many comments by people and ideas of how the training may have been improved and how L&D play a role in calling out experiences that are less than ideal.   But it got me thinking about emotional intelligence as being self-aware and mindful.  Whether, rather than have written a follow up blog post on how I would have redesigned the course into a more meaningful on-the-job learning experience,  I could have done something different in the office rather than follow everyone else and just accept the learning course for what it was?

I have been blogging since 2006 with a couple of blogs and in that time, I have noticed that it has served to make me question, reflect and make sense of my work.

I have noticed that my blogging has made me more motivated towards my work and the projects I work on, seeing every opportunity to learn from. Rightly or wrongly, it’s also given me a stronger resolve on what I accept or don’t accept as quality in my profession and it irks me when something is mandated, obligated or compulsory.

My blogs have been personally transformative for me so no wonder this particular situation made me sit up and think about how I reacted in this situation.   What I write down is an expression of my thoughts, my actions, my perceptions and beliefs.  The negative learning experience was just as personally transformative for me as the Emotional Intelligence learning yesterday.

One of the highlights of yesterday’s session was a general discussion around the table about how we can incorporate emotional intelligence within Learning and Development and/or Organisational Development – making it part of the structure, systems, symbols and processes and where we support emotionally intelligent behaviour. We talked about L&D’s role in this in that we should not look at our programs as events, but more journeys with short focussed development sessions focussed on improving one capability at a time with on the job practice and review throughout the journey.  One of the key activities that the program uses is the use of reflective activities and I believe that this is something that we will be using more and more in the networked workplace in the near future.

Dr Palmer talked about Reactive Emotional Management where “unproductive emotions narrow our thinking and limit our interpretation of events.  These emotions also influence our behaviour.”  He also said that when we experience a strong emotion, we behave and respond with a default pattern and he challenged us to think about what that could be.  He gave us a list of emotional defaults and the associated behaviour and I scanned through it.

My emotional default in this situation was ‘victim’ (even my feeling words in the activity were associated to this emotion) and my associated behaviour was to “become overwhelmed by the emotion; over generalise the situation as a never-ending pattern; pick out, magnify and dwell on the emotion.”

So what can I do about this so it doesn’t occur in the future?

One way is to claim this emotion as my own and create a space around it.  So it happened, it frustrated me.  Get over it.

The reason why I had such a strong emotional reaction to it may be one because in my work and in my life, I feel the need to be and work in an open environment where both managers and staff are free to express what we think and feel constructively; to be heard; to be equal, to stand up for principles and through constructive and collaborative conversations and feedback come up with actions that benefit not only both the individuals but the organisation.

After much reflection and some good advice from my PLN, my key learning point for me is to be as authentic and open as I can be as I will never please everyone all the time.  In a connected world, it will be up to me to self manage my emotions and be self aware and in the process not lose myself or my voice.

So it’s been a good personal and reflective learning curve for me this week!

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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2 Responses to Emotional Intelligence and Learning

  1. Thanks for your comment Srujan. I I cannot comment on Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as we don’t use this (thankfully) as a factor for selection or recruitment. However the EQ is an assessment method we use for our managers and leaders.

    I know that there has been debate of IQ vs EQ over the years but for me, EQ seems to be more successful. I deliberately have steered out of exploring the whys and wherefores of this simply because I don’t know much about the topic and so reflected on my own situation and how I reacted to it.

    Thanks again! 🙂

  2. Srujan says:

    Nice post.“Emotional Intelligence is the clever use of one’s emotions.” The way or means by which an individual intentionally makes emotions work is by using them to help guide his behavior, mannerism and thought process in his or her favor. The work or corporate environment has always scrutinized and tested an individual’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Level, as it believes that the success rate of a Company depends on the IQ level of the employees who work there.

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