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Driving business success through emotional intelligence

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In an industry where customer service is king, having a high level of emotional intelligence is essential for hospitality staff – and can even boost the bottom line. But can self-awareness and empathy be taught and learnt? Click. explores

The cornerstone of successful service delivery, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions – as well as the emotions of others. Comprising five components – self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skill – EI is one of the most important skills employers will seek by 2022, according to a World Economic Forum report.

“Emotional intelligence is a core skill. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a have to have,” says Michele Nevarez, CEO of Goleman EI. “Up until this point, society has really placed the predominance of its focus on technical training, development of specific skills, and IQ, but the truth of the matter is the differentiator, most certainly, is emotional intelligence.

“Within the context of hospitality, there is a huge space for emotional intelligence. Empathy, for example, is especially important in this industry. Think about difficult customer interactions where you have to deal with someone else being triggered and handling your own emotions at that moment. If you’re able to pivot to a place of empathy and compassion on a genuine level, that makes all the difference in terms of how a guest feels in your property – which really matters from the moment they step through the door.”

The suite of skills

Emotional intelligence evolves over time, but what are the key skills businesses should focus on to start increasing it in the first place?

“Traditionally, emotional intelligence is split into four domains and 12 competencies, but when we teach them to people who actually want to develop the emotional intelligence suite of skills, we introduce them as foundational skills and relationship skills,” continues Nevarez. “The foundational skills – self-awareness, focus, emotional balance, empathy, positive outlook, and adaptability – are what we consider pre-requisites for the development of all the other competencies including conflict management and teamwork.

“These foundations are absolutely teachable, learnable, and practicable. The key is how they’re curated in a program. The issue I see across the board with learning and development is the pedagogy [the method of teaching]. We tend to think that because we understand something, it’s the same as learning it and that simply isn’t the case. It’s important that if we’re going to try and take these things on board that we actually have a model that’s based on how you build new habits and change old ones. For us at Goleman, it’s a simple model of learning, applying, and reflecting. I think the key to anything is practicing and training in it.”

The benefits of EI in the workplace

Along with cultivating a strong culture of empowerment, investing in emotional intelligence training can help boost your bottom line. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review, in partnership with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, revealed that 40% of emotionally intelligent organizations report higher levels of customer loyalty. Additionally, stronger customer experiences (38%) and customer advocacy (31%) were also reported.

Working with EI experts, Crowne Plaza launched “Dare to Connect” – a training program to help staff become more attuned to guests’ needs through the development of emotional intelligence skills. Training modules focus on vulnerability, self-belief, connection, anticipation, authenticity, and perseverance.

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'Emotional intelligence is a core skill. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a have to have.' Photo: credit to Alexis Brown, Unsplash


“Travelers, particularly business travelers, don’t just want functional, efficient service,” says Natalia Perez, Head of Crowne Plaza Brand. “Many feel a lack of human connection when away from home and look to our hotel employees to fill this void. By investing in training to empower colleagues to make emotional connections with guests, we equip them with the tools and confidence to break down barriers and bring more humanity to guests’ experiences, while providing valuable life skills.

“Overall, service and experience scores have increased significantly year-on-year in line with the roll-out of the program. For example, results in the UK and Ireland since launching the program look great, with almost a 3% uplift to an already impressive overall service score and a 5% uplift in overall ‘guest love’ scores.”

EI in practice

So, where should businesses start? According to Nevarez, investing in a program that allows for change to occur on a day-to-day basis is key. “Often when we think about development we tend to think of it in a static way of putting a development plan in place, checking the box, and then thinking the desired outcome has been achieved,” she says. “If checking off a box on a development plan actually changed behaviors, my goodness that would be so much easier. The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t. If you think about habits, they form one moment at a time, each moment after the next until they become consistent. In order to shift and change existing habits, you have to do so one moment at a time for a lot of moments.”

Like with most aspects of workplace culture, it’s natural that an organization's attitude toward emotional intelligence starts at the top. “Staff usually look to the leaders and their influence is naturally going to carry more weight as a result,” says Nevarez. “So, if the leaders are lacking emotional intelligence, that’s going to be the message they put out to the organization.”

As for how organizations can measure emotional intelligence? “I think the true output of somebody having developed EI is reflected by them being kind, calm, and clear – that is the outward manifestation,” says Nevarez. “That’s a good, quick measurement for companies and if you can say that’s your culture then you are definitely doing a lot of things right.”


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Hero image: credit to Dylan Gillis, Unsplash
  • Emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions – is a crucial skill for business employees
  • EI comprises various foundational skills – self-awareness, focus, emotional balance, empathy, positive outlook, and adaptability – which are also considered pre-requisites to unlocking all other competencies
  • All of these capabilities are teachable and learnable when approached with the right pedagogical techniques
  • Emotionally intelligent organizations report higher levels of customer loyalty and advocacy, along with stronger customer experiences