Written by Shola Kaye.
Today’s reality is marked by culturally diverse teams working remotely, digitally native employees who value meaning and engagement, and extensive efforts to upskill and reskill the workforce. We’re also experiencing a raft of anxiety and wellness issues, such as burnout and fears about job stability, exacerbated by the extent and pace of change.
Emotions impact success, especially in the future world of work. Managers lacking empathy can cause employees to quit or become less engaged. Disgruntled, demotivated employees can derail a project. Individuals with poor social skills and low degrees of self-regulation can create unhappy environments, low in psychological safety, with a knock-on impact on innovation and creativity.
Employers who can create a climate of emotional stability in the face of so much turbulence will win the workplace battles currently raging for retention, engagement, innovation and loyalty, and will be as ready as any organisation can be for whatever the future may hold.
As a Leadership, Empathy and DEI speaker for global corporations such as GSK, Google, Oracle and HSBC, I’m committed to incorporating elements that increase Emotional Intelligence (EI) into every speech, whether or not EI is the theme.
Let’s look at how being emotionally smart can prepare you and your organisation for what’s next.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The five dimensions of EI are: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy, Social skills.
- Self-awareness empowers individuals to recognise their strengths, weaknesses, and triggers, allowing for targeted personal development.
- Self-regulation enables them to navigate change and stress while maintaining a steady course.
- Motivation rooted in emotional intelligence fuels intrinsic drive, allowing individuals to adapt and learn in the face of uncertainty.
- Empathy facilitates improved communication and collaboration, enabling teams to collaborate across physical and virtual boundaries.
Lastly, the social skills fostered by emotional intelligence form the bedrock of effective leadership, enabling leaders to inspire, influence, and build strong relationships.
According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, Motivation and Self-Awareness are the fourth most in-demand skills for workers, while Empathy and Active Listening follow closely behind.
Developing audience EI during interactive keynote sessions
Unless my clients ask me not to, I incorporate interaction into all my keynotes. The keynote becomes an active rather than a passive learning experience, resulting in improved EI capabilities, greater retention and higher impact.
Two elements of a keynote speech that increase EI are storytelling, which helps us flex our empathy muscles, and opportunities for self-reflection, helping to develop self-awareness.
Activities that allow for audience members to engage and share with a partner – or in the chat if it’s online – result in participants practising their social skills and enjoying a bit of time and space for self-analysis.
For example, during the interactive keynote Inclusive Leadership: Develop Cultural Awareness, Create Psychological Safety and Unleash the Potential of Your Global, Remote Teams, I ask audience members to find a partner and take three minutes to discuss a time when they code-switched (changed their behaviour or adapted their culturalnorms in order to ‘fit in’).
This simple exercise provides opportunities to:
1. Display empathy while listening to your partner’s experience.
2. Develop self-awareness by reflecting on whether you’ve had to code-switch in the past, and why.
3. Practise social skills – It can be awkward having to share a story with a work colleague during a three-minute exercise. Do you participate with grace or obvious reluctance?
4. Exercise self-regulation – Are you the person who hogs the entire three minutes, denying your partner the opportunity to speak, or do you limit your sharing to the allotted time?
5. Motivation – Perhaps you’d rather sit in silence with your arms folded, but can you find the motivation to participate in the exercise with enthusiasm and openness?
Self-awareness can also be developed by simple ‘rate yourself’ exercises, fantastic for getting people to self-reflect during virtual keynotes. During Elevating Empathy: The Power of Effective Listening, I ask questions such as:
- How courageous are you? Do you engage with people different from yourself? Do you reach out to people even when you might be rejected? How would you rate your levels of courage? The audience is encouraged to self-rate and share in the chat their guesstimated score using a traffic light system. Green if it’s a behaviour you’ve mastered, yellow if you’ve a way to go, red if you’re struggling.
The self-reflection can be extremely valuable and by the end of the session there are often many hundreds of entries
in the chat. Event planners usually regard these high levels of engagement as the sign of a successful session and audience members feel grateful to have been actively included.
Audience feedback tells a story
In most workplaces, employees are so busy that even a minute or two each day to self-reflect on their actions and performance can seem like an unaffordable luxury. The oasis of opportunity to stop and self-assess during an interactive keynote is a gift.
Here are a few direct quotes from keynote attendees who’ve experienced powerful insights during these moments for reflection:
- “Very interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve always been a big rambler and I can interrupt regularly so as not to lose my train of thought (thank you ADHD lol), so I’ll try to step back and write thoughts down for later rather than having others think I’m dominating a meeting.” – Director, Medical Regulatory Industry
- “This was an Informative and interactive session that makes you think about how you communicate, engage, listen, respect and include others in both work and home environments also.” – Team Lead, Pharmaceuticals
- “I learned a lot about myself – I grew up in a conservative predominantly white area of the US, and I’m a queer Latina. I have realized over the years that I’ve changed the way I communicate to make people comfortable, I don’t know that I’ve ever vocalized this feeling. This helped me articulate what I am feeling/doing.” – Manager, Professional Services
The impact often extends beyond the workplace.
One senior leader from a global entertainment corporation shared that he needed to rush home from the keynote to repair a rocky relationship with his wife using skills he’d just learned. A VP of Sales joyfully mentioned that she’d had a breakthrough conversation with her teenage child after realising that she rarely gave the child the space to respond freely and be themselves.
Keynotes don’t need to be passive. They’re an opportunity to develop valuable EI skills in real time, helping to future-proof your organisation. And when employees know their employer is investing in their personal and professional growth with sessions like these, they experience gratitude, higher levels of enthusiasm and improved performance.
So use your next keynote to develop your workforce’s emotional intelligence, preparing for the future of work with enhanced abilities to collaborate, innovate and lead.
Reach out to LSB to book an in-person or virtual interactive keynote.
Shola Kaye helps global organisations prepare for the future of work using the power of emotional intelligence, effective communication and inclusion nudges. Shola’s work is frequently described as practical, easily implementable and inspiring.
Successful companies are seeking to create environments of compassion, collaboration and inclusion, supporting their ever-more diverse, often remote, teams. They call on Shola to support their employees, helping them increase innovation, bolster belonging and develop engaged, loyal, productive environments. Shola’s clients include American Express, Deloitte, Google, Meta, IBM, Nestle, Henkel, GSK, Reckitt, HSBC and Oracle.
Interested in booking Shola Kaye as a keynote speaker for your next event?