As a manager, your primary responsibility is to ensure your team productivity by making sure your team members have the tools, resources, and capabilities needed to get the job done. But being a manager is about more than just getting ducks in a row; it’s also about recognizing and managing the emotions of your team members—and yourself. According to Psychology Today1, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.

This is further broken down into three skills:

    1) Emotional awareness, or how you sense your own emotions and those of others
    2) The ability to harness emotions for use in different tasks
    1. 3) The ability to manage emotions, such as

calming yourself down when angry

     or cheering someone else up

These skills can greatly impact the quality of work put forward and the degree of team productivity your employees reach.

The heart of emotional intelligence is the ability to truly see and hear employees beyond the surface level. Listening not only to the words, but how they are conveyed and what body language is used can help provide valuable insight into the way your teammates truly feel. The ability to discern deeper communication from these sometimes subtle clues can help you work better with your team, especially when there is difficult news to give or difficult topics to breach2.

For example, if one of your employees is having a rough day, a manager with high emotional intelligence can figure out why and work with that employee to help him or her get into the right headspace for work. In this same situation, a manager with low emotional intelligence would be left confused and frustrated with an underperforming employee.

If you’re a numbers person, it may seem easy to dismiss emotional intelligence as too “fluffy” for the workplace, but these skills have quantifiable effects on the bottom line of team productivity. For instance, when a manufacturing plant studied by McClelland in 1999 provided supervisors with emotional intelligence training, productivity goals were exceeded by $250,000 that year3. Not only does caring about emotional intelligence do good for the bottom line, but a study by Callahan also showed that employees prefer to work for someone with higher emotional intelligence4. Having a supervisor who shows empathy increases an employee’s desire to work hard and makes him or her feel more appreciated, which in turn increases team cohesiveness and productivity5.

We know emotional intelligence is important, but what can we do to increase our own awareness? Practicing empathy is a powerful first step in raising emotional intelligence. Show that you truly care about your teammates, and they’ll feel cared for and supported as a person, not just an employee, leading to increased productivity and higher workplace morale. Making your employees more aware of how they are making an impact can also build up your team. Everyone wants to feel like what they do is important; a good leader will help his or her team feel this way6.

The ability to work well as a part of a team is more important now than ever, and emotional intelligence plays a large part in that. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned! The more you practice it, the easier being emotionally aware and present becomes. While your IQ may not be as easy to elevate, your emotional intelligence can always be improved. So today, flex your empathy muscles, show a little encouragement, and pay attention to emotional cues. Before you know it, you’ll be an emotional intelligence master.