Leading with Heart: Claude Silver on the transformative power of EQ in HR
- 6 Min Read
“Teach people how to create psychological safety for themselves and others. From there, focus on training people to be more courageous and vulnerable with who they are. You can’t expect vulnerability without having created a safe space first.”
Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been found to improve inclusivity, innovation, and job satisfaction. Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer, at Vayner Media, is a strong advocate for the role of emotional intelligence and for creating a culture of empathy.
There is now substantial research to support the connection between EQ and factors such as trust and project or team success. It is now a vital part of healthy workplace culture, and a must-have skill for HR leaders to embody, exercise, and train. In this Q&A with HRD, Silver takes us through the concept of emotional intelligence, how HR leaders can engrain EQ in company culture, and how this can help achieve business-wide goals.
1) When organizations focus on IQ over EQ, what ramifications does this have for work culture?
Claude Silver: IQ is a given. Everyone focuses on IQ from the moment we go to school. We are taught to not focus so much on our emotions or the tenants and skills of emotional intelligence. Instead, we show our smarts with cognitive intelligence. When you get into a work culture, and that work culture is based around IQ over EQ, you have an emotionless culture. An emotionless culture is flat, fearful, and political. It creates a culture that favors this specific type of intelligence. People will jockey to be seen and heard by the leaders or C-Suite who value this intelligence. Intuition, gratitude, humility, and all the other soft skills that we know and love go out of the window.
2) How can HR leaders introduce the topic of emotional intelligence in the workplace (at all levels of seniority)?
Claude Silver: It’s absolutely the job of all leaders, not just HR leaders. Firstly, there needs to be a specific learning and development curriculum and training programs that teach people to be vulnerable and learn how to remove their armor. It’s going to be very tricky to do if the leadership doesn’t set an example by embracing emotional intelligence. If it only sits with HR, the team may not have the strength they need to push this out across the organization. I’d recommend bringing in outside trainers that have credibility in coaching emotional intelligence.
Secondly, remember that it’s a journey, and make sure other leaders know it too. It won’t happen after one training session. After a few, there may be some people who feel ready to share more about themselves. But many will still feel uncomfortable and prefer to keep their work as their work, and their home life as their home life. You must have credible trainers, and it has to be blessed from the top.
3) What principles or tenets of EQ should HR leaders embody and demonstrate?
Claude Silver: There is no hierarchy to the skills or principles leaders should develop. Some of the most important tenants are empathy, compassion, kindness, gratitude, humility, authenticity, and particularly vulnerability, and courage. The magic happens when HR leaders see vulnerability and courage as a strength rather than a weakness. Their teams, people, and fellow leaders follow suit.
4) What training or practices can HR deliver to help develop emotional intelligence amongst employees?
Claude Silver: You need to help people connect with one another. To feel a sense of belonging in their own skin. To help people feel like they matter to your organization. So, I would absolutely start with training that brings people together in a safe place. Teach people how to create psychological safety for themselves and others. From there, focus on training people to be more courageous and vulnerable with who they are. You can’t expect vulnerability without having created a safe space first.
Training on communication skills and styles is vital. You never know what someone else is going through unless they share it with you. Even before the working day started, what might have happened that morning? Were we late to get the kids off to school? Was the dog sick? Did we fight with our spouse? Train people to ask and talk.
Lastly, feedback. Specifically, how to deliver and ask for feedback. Doing this with candor is a challenge, and once again starts with creating safety, and a connection with your team. When people have a sense of belonging, they begin to remove their armor, let the culture in, and let life happen.
5) How can EQ be measured and tracked to ensure development in this area?
Claude Silver: Of course, there isn’t one measure of ROI. You could aim for less absenteeism, more creativity, and innovation, or greater camaraderie. And of course, remember we’re in a hybrid working world. You might not be able to see the changes as easily.
I often say by speaking with people, you can find out what their vibe is. You can listen for fear, cynicism, gratitude, joy, or excitement. In practical terms, you’ll have to survey people. There are also all kinds of psychometric testing. Track results over time as you flood your culture over time with emotional intelligence training. Test and survey again. What has changed? Where have you, or your people, grown? What has the training missed?
6) How can HR leaders tie the need for EQ to business goals?
Claude Silver: Develop core competencies. Core competencies are both foundational and functional. Foundational core competencies define how we act. It is who we are, and what we value. It is how we expect every person, regardless of level, to act on the skills and traits of emotional intelligence. Functional core competencies are the skills to get the job done. If you can marry both together so that they exist simultaneously, it can really help drive business goals.
Review people and give them an update on their progress. Are they hitting their target goals? Are they bringing in top-line revenue? But really consider, are they also leading with courage and candor? Is psychological safety helping them realize these goals? These competencies have to exist simultaneously.
7) How will EI help HR leaders remain optimistic in an uncertain business landscape?
Claude Silver: HR leaders are burned out. They need something that is going to come from outside the HR department. It’s time to train other leaders on emotional intelligence, psychological safety, and communication skills, so they can begin to give back to HR leaders. As HR leaders, we want to offer service to our employees. But you cannot give from an empty cup. It must come from leadership, the C-Suite, and other outside influences. A leadership team that supports and treats its workforce as humans relieves so much of the pressure of uncertainty.