10 Ways HR Leaders Can Lead With Emotional Intelligence

January 11, 2022

Leading a workplace that fosters communication, increases productivity, and helps employees and managers alike feel empowered to do their best work takes time and effort. 

One of the most effective ways to create this kind of workplace environment is by increasing the level of emotional intelligence within the organization.

Most people think of emotional intelligence as a “soft skill” that can only be developed on an individual level, and while emotional intelligence training can help individuals thrive, it can also be implemented across an organization to improve employee engagement, performance, and increase the bottom line.

10 Ways HR Leaders Can Lead With Emotional Intelligence

1. Model EI in the job interview 

When interviewing job applicants, talk openly about the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) and ask questions that help you understand your candidate’s ability to:

  • Be aware of both their own and other people’s emotions
  • Recognize and regulate their behaviour 
  • Manage their emotions and adapt to different environments

Some examples of interview questions you can use include:

  • Tell me about the time you faced an ethical dilemma at work. How did you deal with it, and what was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when someone criticized your work. How did you respond, and what did you learn from it?
  • How would you resolve a conflict between work colleagues?
  • Tell me about the time you had a conflict with a supervisor. How did you resolve it?

By focusing on emotional intelligence from the first interaction, you can model the kind of behaviour you want to see and give your candidates a clear understanding of your company’s goals and values. This helps reduce turnover, employee friction, and produces teams who work effectively together.

2. Don’t act like you know everything (be “real”)

One of the easiest ways to showcase emotional intelligence is to be “real” with your employees and colleagues by admitting when you don’t know something.

This can be a challenge for even the most seasoned leader, as we often feel pressure to have all the answers and to be able to solve any problem that comes our way. 

However, being vulnerable and saying “I don’t know” reminds those around you that you aren’t perfect, and by extension, you don’t expect them to be perfect as well.

When you don’t know something, say so and follow up with statements like “let’s find a solution together” or “let me look into it and get back to you when I know more.”

3. Encourage empathy and awareness

One of the best things you can do as a leader is learn how you react to change, and how others around you interpret and make sense of the same challenges. 

In fact, 76% of employees believe an empathic organization inspires more motivated employees. 

Fostering empathy by understanding how we react to change and challenging situations, we can lead by example and model the empathy and awareness workplace teams need to feel in order to trust one another and thrive together.

4. Make yourself and other leaders accessible

Employees who feel like they can connect with managers on an emotional level are more likely to raise concerns, share ideas, and ask for guidance and support. 

One way to make yourself and other leaders more approachable is to implement a “coach approach” and create a mentorship structure within the company. Not only does this break down barriers by creating deeper relationships between leadership and employees, but it can increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and help more diverse voices and perspectives to be seen and heard.

Learn how to develop emotional intelligence with us! Sign up for our February EQi 2.0 certification that’s already been pre-approved for CPD credits with CPHR Manitoba and CPHR BC & Yukon. Click here to join us.

5. Practice active listening 

Fostering emotionally intelligent workplaces means that everyone needs to feel comfortable speaking their mind and feel like they’re truly being listened to.

Active listening means giving your full attention to the person speaking by taking actions such as:

  • Being neutral and nonjudgmental in your replies
  • Being patent and not “filling” silence with your own thoughts
  • Giving nonverbal feedback like smiling, eye contact, leaning in and mirroring
  • Reflecting back what the other person is saying
  • Asking questions for clarification
  • Summarizing the conversation 

Active listening builds trust and demonstrates a desire to understand as well as offer support, feedback, and empathy to the other person. 

6. Show your vulnerable side

Being vulnerable is often confused with weakness, but the opposite tends to be true. In fact, teams led by people who are open and vulnerable are stronger and more successful.

Being vulnerable doesn’t mean tearful confessions or sharing intimate secrets; often it comes down to a few simple factors that help leaders seem more approachable and relatable.

Some examples of vulnerable leadership include:

  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Admitting that you’re still learning and growing
  • Investing in self-development courses and training
  • Reflecting on ways you can improve your leadership abilities

7. Be aware of other’s mindsets

Also known as “reading the room,” being able to perceive how others are feeling and reacting to a particular situation, and shaping how we react in kind, can improve the odds of a successful outcome.

In fact, a recent Salesforce study found that employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. 

For example, being aware of how you react to stressful situations and learning to perceive how those around you react in their own way can help you lead with empathy and react with compassion and understanding, which increases trust between you and your team.

8. Celebrate team and employee performance

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is when they only react to setbacks and failures instead of actively celebrating successes and positive outcomes.

When your employees don’t feel like their efforts and work are being seen, they tend to disengage and reduce both the quality and quantity of their output. 

An exhaustive study by The Engagement Institute found that disengaged employees cost companies up to $550 billion a year, which means that not only can celebrating your team’s successes increase their overall job satisfaction, but it can increase revenue for the business as well.

9. Create trusting relationships 

Employees need to feel seen, heard, and supported in order to do their best work. 

Leaders who can showcase emotional intelligence can create trusting relationships that lead to deeply connected and communicative teams that empower each other, care deeply about each other’s success, and work more effectively as a team.

A recent finding by Gallup shows that employees who are highly engaged in this way are 21% more profitable because their employees feel central to the company’s overall strategy. This, in turn, increases retention, decreases employee dissatisfaction, and can even result in up to a 41% reduction in absenteeism. 

10. Take action on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

Increasing emotional intelligence within the workplace means taking action to prioritize DEI whenever possible. 

Not only does taking action on DEI help all employees feel seen, heard, and valued, but studies have shown that racially diverse teams provide 35% better performance compared to more homogenous teams. 

However, it’s not enough to state that you’re committed to taking action on DEI; you need to lead by example and take action to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for everyone.

Start improving HR results with emotional intelligence today

The first step to building a more emotionally intelligent workplace is to invest in your own learning. Our EQ1 2.0 certification is the perfect place to start since it will give you a framework and the certification to perform assessments for your team.

The next step is to subscribe to our email newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest training opportunities for you and your team and to have useful resources like this article delivered right to your inbox once a month.