Daniel Goleman tells EQ Summit mindfulness can help employees tackle ‘emotional hijacks’

Softer skills such as emotional intelligence are becoming more important than ever in today’s unpredictable business environment, speakers told the EQ Summit 2017 yesterday.

Experts at the summit explained how research now showed emotional intelligence could be an instrumental factor in both the success of creative leaders and how motivated and hard working employees are.

Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, stressed the link between mindfulness and emotional intelligence. “How well you do in your life depends on cognitive control,” he said.

When your brain suffers “an emotional hijack” you are incapable of thinking about anything else but the threat, he explained. However, the part of the brain affected by this “takeover” – the amygdala – gets calmer through the practice of mindfulness, and becomes less reactive to stressful stimulus.

However, “mindfulness can get you a long way with emotional intelligence, but it can’t get you everywhere,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Martyn Newman, psychologist and managing director at RocheMartin, said line managers often felt their role was about reducing deviance and error, but they also need to focus on getting the best from employees. “People will work hard in direct proportion to how much they like you, and how much they like you is in direct proportion to how you make them feel,” he said.

Newman spoke about intrinsic motivation, explaining that often the joy of the challenge and solving the task is satisfaction and reward enough. “If you want innovation you need to cultivate intrinsic motivation and build capacity for social and emotional connections with your organisation,” he said. “People need meaning and meaningful relationships to do their best work.”

He added that for employees to achieve self-actualisation – the realisation of their talents and capabilities – organisations need to establish two conditions as “the absolute bedrock of organisational culture”: psychological safety and emotional connections. Leaders who foster psychological safety significantly reduce the limits on creativity by reducing the biggest fear, which is risk.

Also speaking at the event, Sir Ken Robinson, author, TED speaker and expert in education and creativity, discussed “the pulse of innovation” and said that for organisations to innovate successfully they need to make better use of their talents and resources.

He added that the  talents within people are a lot more diverse than we appreciate. “A lot of talent is lying in wait for the time when it is discovered and can be developed,” he said.

Robinson also argued that organisations need to be more adaptable. Every human organisation is prone to collapse or fading away, he said, and, although there are external struggles, companies often fail to survive because of internal issues.

“Successful organisms adapt to their surroundings,” Robinson said. “Often when people don’t fit the system they are deemed a problem and instead of changing the system we try and change the person.”

Using resources differently is often key to solving problems that appear complex at first, Robinson said. “There is lot we can do to help people to be more creative and I think that’s one of the roles of leadership – ideas needs to be encouraged, valued and implemented,” he added.

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