Emotions and a Potential Difference

Oct. 8, 2016


On October 6th 2016, BCCJ members and guests gathered at the BCCJ office to participate in an interactiveToolbox event, to learn how to harness the potential of difference, while limiting conflict and stress in the workplace. Intercultural communication experts Tove Kinooka of Global Perspectives and Rob Russell of Coach Tokyo led the session, motivating attendees to make the most of difference.

What is emotional intelligence?

Rob Russell opened the session by examining the way the human brain has developed over time from the reptilian to the limbic (emotional) to the neocortex (intellect and abstract thought). He explained that these three structures do not work independently of one another, but have established numerous interconnections through which they influence one another. 

However, it is the neocortex brain that is responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness; and emotional intelligence is the involvement of the neocortex in the process of reaction. 

Russell demonstrated by unexpectedly popping a balloon which made all participants jump. "Our instinct tell us there is danger, so there is 'fright', but we are prevented from 'flight' as our intellect kicks in to assess whether there is indeed a true threat, which we recognise there is not. This is emotional intelligence." It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

Emotional economics and empathy

Based on this example, the speaker said that recognising and employing emotional intelligence in the workplace, controlling our emotions, and focussing on positive team responses can result in a much more motivating working environment.

Russel spoke of "emotional economics", whereby businesses are beginning to realise that a focus on financial gains alone does not result in success. "Targets have to be met, but what meaning do they have if a company's employees suffer from anxiety, stress, and anger? Businesses are beginning to recognise that productivity increases significantly when emotional intelligence is taken into consideration and that placing a greater premium on people and intercultural awareness can maximise a company's success."

The participants learned that emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence (self awareness and self-management) and social competence (social awareness and relationship management). "Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies while social competence is your ability to understand other people’s moods, behavior, and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships."

The speaker also highlighted the importance of empathy in the workplace, defining it as "the ability to sense another's inner world as if it were your own without losing the "as if" quality." An interactive exercised followed in which partipants had to decide with which kind of boss they would most like to work and to reflect on different personality and leadership styles.

Russell emphasised that empathy in the workplace can result in improved well-being, increased confidence levels, greater motivation, a sense of purpose, and strong team spirit. How to empathise better? "Judge less, listen more, and keep doing it," he advised.

Why develop intercultural competency?

Tove Kinooka, Co-Founder and Consultant at Global Perspectives continued the session by illustrating that diversity, intercultural competency, and emotional intelligence are vital components for success in today's competitive global business environment.

"With the interconnected systems of the global economy in full swing, many companies find themselves in intercultural ecosystems. Like it or not, cultural awareness across nations is becoming a must for all, managers and employees alike."

In her presentation, Kinooka illustrated the tangible benefits of diversity for business, including the positive impact on innovation and creativity, improved problem-solving competency and team flexibility, a better understanding of customer needs and of new markets.

The speaker gave tips on how to best leverage one's emotional intelligence and intercultural competence. In terms of self awareness, said Kinooka, "it is possible to develop improved intercultural sensitivity and to build greater commitment". Referring to self management, Kinooka said that skills can be developed to block instinctive behaviour in order to advance intercultural communication and manage uncertainty.

In an interactive activity with the participants working in four different groups, the speaker then illustrated how important it is to be aware of differences in the way people from different cultures communicate and consider ideas at work. Kinooka gave them a situation where employees from different cultures clashed in their work approach and found it diffucult to find a solution. She asked the participants to tyr to identify the issues.

The speaker explained that there is a way to frame and understand different work behavior in various national cultures if you recognise the elements. She referred to Erin Meyer's 'Culture Map' and her framework of eight different scales in understanding distinctions between working cultures and to build awareness of benefits, challenges and hidden biases:

  • Communicating – Are they low-context (simple, verbose and clear), or high-context (rich deep meaning in interactions)?
  • Evaluating – When giving Negative feedback does one give it directly, or prefer being indirect and discreet?
  • Leading – Are people in groups egalitarian, or do they prefer hierarchy?
  • Deciding – Are decisions made in consensus, or made top-down?
  • Trusting – Do people base trust on how well they know each other, or how well they do work together?
  • Disagreeing – Are disagreements tackled directly, or do people prefer to avoid confrontations?
  • Scheduling – Do they perceive time as absolute linear points, or consider it a flexible range?
  • Persuading – Do they like to hear specific cases and examples, or prefer holistic detailed explanations?

Image source: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

"Awareness of these different management styles can have a significant impact on negotiations and can greatly enhance employee satsifaction and ROI for businesses." said Kinooka.

"We at Global Perspectives strongly believe that to develop competency in any area, it is essential to look at the big picture. Without first establishing self-and cultural awareness, one cannot fully benefit from competency development training. Likewise, if training is not followed up with further support, much of what is learned will be forgotten and not implemented."

Russell added, "Diversity is a wonderful thing and a limitless and seriously untapped resource which is still very much under-invested. Understanding and empathy are the key to unlocking this huge potential."

Event photos on the BCCJ Flickr site HERE

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