Developing Emotional Intelligence with Business Simulations

What are the elements of emotional intelligence necessary for organisational development and transformation?  And how can we highlight and develop them?

A vital factor in organisational performance and success, emotional intelligence refers to a set of skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.

Dr. Steven Stein, best-selling author of The EQ Edge and The EQ Leader, describes an emotionally intelligent organisation as one which has an ability to accomplish its goals and successfully and efficiently cope with change while being responsible and sensitive to its people, customers, suppliers, networks and society.

But what does this look like each day in the workplace?

It looks like self-actualisation; the willingness to persistently try to improve yourself and your organisation.  It looks like optimism; a strategic approach to dealing with difficult situations and remaining resilient in overcoming challenges.  It looks like social responsibility; being willing to contribute to your organisation and to your industry.  It looks like flexibility; adapting to unfamiliar, unpredictable or dynamic circumstances.

For organisational development and transformation, how can these skills be explored and enhanced?

developing-emotional-intelligence

Finding Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

Emotional intelligence soft skills such as listening abilities, self-actualisation, collaboration, optimism, adaptability and stress management can be hard to measure but can more easily be seen during a business simulation; an experiential learning activity where participants deal with challenges similar to those found in the workplace.  These are incredibly valuable in providing insights into an individual’s emotional skills and attitudes. Simulations can help to highlight the gap between our intent and impact; between what we say and what we do – especially under pressure.  An effective simulation challenges our knowledge, emotions and skills, just as any work environment would.

Within minutes of starting a simulation, participants are immersed in an experiential learning environment that helps them derive immediate, applicable meaning for their real-world organisations.  In simulations, participants experience the common tasks of communicating with customers, managing budgets, developing stakeholder relationships, changing markets, etc. Participants work as individuals and in teams to consider and discuss possible solutions to the challenges they face. Immediate debrief sessions ensure that feedback is provided in a timely manner and is easily linked to behaviours and actions.

Well executed simulations can reduce the time required to engage in behaviour and then see and understand the consequences of our actions. The reality and complexity of many modern workplaces mean that the connection between learning and consequences can often be blurred or missed, without the time to reflect and assimilate. They offer instant opportunities for feedback and reflection in a way that traditional classroom or online training cannot. This allows for immediate insights into our behaviour and the impact it has on those around in our workplace.

Simulations also provide a safe learning environment, where we can develop by stepping outside of our comfort zone to try new ideas, experiment with behaviours, take risks and make mistakes, all without endangering ourselves or our organisations.  In terms of emotional intelligence, this can mean trying new styles of communications, new ways of building relationships, new methods of decision-making and problem-solving.

In offering experiential learning in a safe environment with an opportunity for immediate feedback and reflection, effective business simulations can provide a powerful and effective tool to explore how we express ourselves, develop social relationships, cope with challenges, solve problems and accomplish our goals.  And, in doing so, develop and transform emotional intelligence; in both the individual and the organisation.


lsp-tanya-00056-editTanya Sheehan is an IMI associate on the IMI Diploma in Organisational Development & Transformation. Tanya is a Business Psychologist, certified trainer and accredited coach who works in the technology, pharmaceutical and finance industries.