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IN THRIVE GLOBAL: How Can An Emotionally Intelligent Company Avoid Burnout?

An emotionally intelligent workforce will handle the future better and avoid burnout.

By Caroline Stokes, CEC, PCC, Author ‘Elephants Before Unicorns: Emotionally Intelligent HR Strategies to Save Your Company’ (Entrepreneur Press, 2019)

It’s time to think differently for you, your teams and your company.

Over the next five years, industries will undergo disruption as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and economic changes take hold. As an executive coach and a recruiter to innovation leaders, I often encounter the real need to nurture an individual’s capacity to evolve their mindset so they can collaborate, innovate, self-direct and problem-solve on a regular basis, usually in industries relying on creative, engineering and marketing fields where high-performing individuals often don’t know how to evolve their emotional intelligence.

Instead of a competitive mindset within organizations, tomorrow’s organizations require a creative, collaborative and emotionally intelligent mindset. Companies have discovered that while it is easy to train people for technical competence, it is very difficult to train people for emotional competence.

The world’s leaders and business innovators met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The best minds wrestled with two important priorities that govern our businesses and society:

  1. How to create a global consensus on deployment of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and avoid a “technology war.”
  2. How to reskill and upskill a billion people in the next decade.

Both of these priorities build on the 10 top skills the World Economic Forum identified four years ago as necessary by 2020:

1. Complex Problem Solving

2. Critical Thinking

3. Creativity

4. People Management

5. Coordinating with others

6. Emotional Intelligence

7. Judgment and Decision-Making

8. Service Orientation

9. Negotiation

10. Cognitive Flexibility

2020 is moving forward at tremendous speed, but have you considered how your company stacks up? What has your company done to foster emotional intelligence among your leadership team and employees? If you’re waiting to hire the unicorn that will take you there, it’s time to spend some time developing an emotionally intelligent company. 

Too often I see mistaken thinking that one strategic hire with the right EQ will evolve the organization’s ability. In reality it starts with you and the other leaders in your company – simultaneously – whilst assessing your organizations culture and vision to be integrated throughout the departments. A healthy leadership team with highly developed EQ can transform the entire organization into an emotionally intelligent organization with a strong cultural philosophy that helps your organization stay strong and even attract and acquire the right people who will make it stronger. It’s like the old adage: On an airplane, put on your oxygen mask before helping your seatmate. Your company leaders must first tend to their own EQ development if they’re going to help the organization become healthy for the fourth industrial revolution marathon. 

Here’s my 3-step process:


Assess your leadership team’s EQ. Let’s say, for example, that the CEO and CFO of your company are constantly at odds. On the surface, the cause of the conflict appears simple. The CEO has grand ideas; the CFO claims they’re not in the budget. After conversations with the CEO, the CFO comes away frustrated. He does not feel that he can express himself or that the CEO understands where he is coming from. The CEO, by contrast, is constantly annoyed by what she perceives as the CFO’s “small-minded thinking.”

Both take an EQ assessment and the CEO scores very low on impulse control, while the CFO scores low on assertiveness. The assessment does not say that either the CEO or the CFO is a “good” or “bad” person. It merely provides information to help them both gauge their current EQ and understand the other person’s EQ.

With this information in hand, the CEO and CFO are able to have an honest conversation. The CEO acknowledges her impulsiveness and recognizes how it must frustrate the CFO, who has the budget to worry about. The CFO talks about the difficulty he feels being assertive and commits to speaking up more. He asks the CEO for support in this so he can feel heard in their conversations. The CEO agrees. Going forward, the two can relate to each other from a heightened place of understanding. 

The CEO and CFO can then model these behaviors for the rest of the staff, creating a culture that fosters and rewards an emotionally intelligent mindset. A leadership team with a high EQ will develop the type of corporate culture where being able to understand body language to discern how a person is reacting to a situation is seen as just as important as balancing a profit and loss statement or giving someone the right change at a fast-food restaurant. Technical skills can be taught, but emotional intelligence is part innate and part nurture and the more the leadership team can demonstrate its own EQ, the more likely company will be ready for the fourth industrial revolution. 


Where is your company now? Where does it need to go? It’s time to identify your workplace EQ, not just each individual worker’s EQ. It’s time to review your culture from the inside out. Take a cold, hard look at what your employees, former employees, customers, competitors, industry influencers, even employees’ spouses with their insider ability to influence their partners career goals. Think about your company, your products, your employer brand, how your employees treat people internally and externally throughout each department. This creates a true gauge of your blind spots and gaps in your organization’s complex behaviors so you can address them—not with excuses and legacy thinking of “we’ve always done it this way”—but by focusing on how to create solutions for every challenge your company faces from diversity and inclusivity to fail fast methodology to retention and recruitment to talent attraction to creating solutions for every daily or every long-term strategic challenge.


Just as consumer’s Amazon and internet buying behaviors have irreversibly impacted the traditional retail market model since 2000, the fourth industrial revolution will dramatically impact the way we work. Today, $1.3 trillion is being invested in digitally transforming the way organizations will be run. Scott Hawthorn, CEO of Native Shoes, is a testament to that. He went through a leadership evolution of discovery, understanding, purpose and mission which further led company-wide culture transformation process, which requires all team members to get involved with their own leadership transformation, mission and agreement on organizational behaviors such as adopting a ‘what if’ mindset and acting as activists in their roles. This process took three years. The result? Hawthorn created a company of talented leaders collaborating with a single focus on a company mission that relates to what its evolving customer base wants. 

The most successful companies will spend time on their EQ strategy now, not when it’s at crisis point. If your leadership team waits for the fourth industrial revolution to assess its organizational EQ, it will be too late. Just look at how the retail landscape has evolved. Wishful thinking and ignoring the elephants in your path will have you either seeking a new role or being the one to turn the lights out when your company files for bankruptcy. The crisis is now. Your competition and any new entrants to the market could steal your cake just by having an agile mindset and a culture that attracts the right people and the right customers. 

The companies who will prove the most resilient amidst the advance of AI, automation and robotics will be those businesses that have developed their organization’s cultural emotional intelligence. The future of the workforce is emotionally intelligent people and their corporations.

To assess your organization’s emotional intelligence take this short online assessment from the book ‘Elephants Before Unicorns: Emotionally Intelligent HR Strategies To Save Your Company’ (Entrepreneur Press, 2019).

Originally published by THRIVE GLOBAL