Get Social: Cultivating an Intelligent Workplace [Part 2]

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A group of friends enjoying a fun momentWe all know that the success of any company depends on the productivity of its workers. And productive workers need to be led by people who understand the who, what, when, where and how-to of customer demand. Entering from stage left —intelligence.

Along with an intelligent management team, productive workers also need leaders who are, well…people. No one wants to report to a robotic, monotone, emotionless and nonsocial person. Employees need managers and supervisors who are aware of them and their coworkers; who have the ability to be empathetic and understand the importance of people skills. Entering from stage right social.

Combine the two and what’s left at center stage? Social intelligence.

In part 1 of this article we talked about how emotional intelligence is not only important for our careers, but for our overall well-being. The social aspect is no different.

From consultants and entrepreneurs to professors and authors, check out what a few industry experts had to say about how you canunderstand, cultivate and ultimately benefit from social intelligence in the workplace:

What is social intelligence?

Social intelligence is the ability to “get outside yourself” and interact with people on a personal, transparent level. It means being aware of others, sensing their own emotions and disposition, and working with those elements to establish rapport, trust and respect. I think the greatest impediment to social intelligence is speedgoing too fast, being too impatient to allow the social interaction to develop and mature.

Paul Heagen, Executive Coach and Author of The Leader’s Climb

Social intelligence implies an awareness of the social environment and the needs of others. Bottom line, business is done by people. Building relationships across the organization can be critical to success. Learning how to interact with individuals at different levels of the organization is critical to career success. Helping other people look good can win you a long-term ally. Empathy for others is also important in building and maintaining professional relationships.

Lynne Sarikas, Executive Director of the MBA Career Center, D’Amore-McKim School of Busines, Northeastern University

In my view, it’s important to recognize that in order for “intelligence” of any sort to be meaningful it needs to be realized as a skill. In the other words, intelligence is “being able to” not just “knowing about.”

Social intelligence is an awareness of the “social space” in which we interact with others and the ability to move effectively within that social space. This includes building relationships and establishing connections and being able to establish and maintain relative identity (who you are to another person and who that other person is to you) with a broad range of people at various levels of power and authority.

Dr. Peter Yaholkovsky, Business consultant, Coach, LifeScape LLC

Why is social intelligence important in the workplace?

We don’t generally have an awareness of the importance of something until we know what it is. It’s like when you learn a new word, and suddenly that word is everywhere you go that day.  The word was always there, it just wasn’t on your conscious mind yet. Same with SEI (Social Emotional Intelligences). Once you learn the basics of SEI you realize that SEI is all about the workplace!How can one not improve in the workplace if they have new skills that allow them to have a better relationship with themselves, others and their environment?  Once we are also speaking the same language and using the same skills, job efficiency and effectiveness will also increase. The numbers of conflicts in the workplace lower dramatically and the number of absences decreases as people have the skills to ask for their needs both at home and in the workplace.

Stan Davis, Managing Director, HAP (Human Accelerated Performance)

Social intelligence is important in the workplace because, as a manager, if you can’t effectively work well with others, then your chances of success and efficiency decrease significantly. People skills are a key aspect of any truly effective manager, and understanding the motivations and personalities of those who work for you goes a long way.

David Bakke, Editor, Money Crashers Personal Finance

How can employers develop and strengthen their social intelligence capabilities?

They study it; work on it, practicing it relentlessly. Especially if a leader or managerit is a necessity of their rank. They need to spend contemplative time to review: what went well, what did not, why? What was my part? How can I improve? What was the group process? Who makes up the group? It is fun and makes the workplace more interesting than judging others or getting into gossip. That is the sign of an uninformed mindit is far better to look at what you can do and work to the betterment of all.

Joyce Mikal-Flynn, Associate Professor, Sacramento State University

For an employer, the challenge starts with wanting to they need to care about it. Since they are, for the most part, at or near the top of the hierarchy in their organization, the challenge of cultivating openness, which is key to social intelligence as well as essential for effective learning, is compounded.  They can’t “order” their employees to be more open, of course. And their employees will be more skilled at pretending to be authentic than the employers are at detecting inauthenticity. It’s not impossible, but it requires a certain sensitivity because of the power difference inherent in their roles.

Dr. Peter Yaholkovsky, Business consultant, Coach, LifeScape LLC

By Shala Marks