According to a not so new wave of thinking, IQ is not the intelligence barometer hospitality managers should be turning to when recruiting and developing team members, or dealing with guests. Jayne Morrison, regional director for Six Seconds MEA, shares the essentials of emotional intelligence
In 1995, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman, popularised a concept originally introduced by American psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. Their revolutionary approach to personal development urged business leaders to discard IQ as the only measure of a person’s intelligence and also consider the impact of emotional behaviours. Since then, the infiltration of emotional intelligence (EQ) to the work place, specifically in service oriented industries, has been described by Goleman himself as phenomenal.
Global research conducted by Six Seconds confirmed the impact. Questioning 75,000 respondents from over 50 countries – in the Middle East the sample covered Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Qatar, Palestine, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Syria and Turkey – respondents were recruited for equal representation across gender and age groups, from 2011 – 2013.
The regional results are staggering.
The Middle East scored 99.5, which while strong falls below the global average by half a point and signals some red flags.
Jayne Morrison, regional director for Six Seconds MEA, explains: “It means we are falling into what we call a functional zone. When everything is in balance, life is calm and we are on top of our game, we can cope with things well. But when things get out of kilter, it creates challenges. That’s when we become more and more reactive and that’s what I see in hotels, because they are such incredibly busy environments.”
Morrison, herself from a family of hoteliers and a career with top international chains, asserts that problem solving – particularly in a service industry – does not only require IQ, but EQ.
Those with strong EQ skills she explains, are also more culturally intelligent and better leaders for it. The pattern of trust this creates in the workplace in turn creates strong role models and, when the average person picks up 80% of what they see and 20% of what they are told, that’s important to consider.
She surmises: “There is a direct correlation, and the research shows us, the emotional intelligence of a manager has direct impact on the engagement of teams and, therefore, performance.”
Worryingly however, the data also shows EQ is in a state of global decline.
According to Morrison, this is due to a number of factors, but perhaps the most surprising is the role of technology in our rapidly paced lives.
“In the average day we have more sensory stimulation than our grandparents had in a year. This level of complexity in our everyday lives is incredibly challenging and is one of the reasons we hypothesise EQ is decreasing.”
Correlating the data with the social trends we observe in the Middle East today that hypothesis gains further clarity: so over stimulated are we with technology, the influence of this along with money, stress and other demands, is making us busier, but actually far less effective as our people-skills decline.
Based on the Six Seconds research, the ‘brain types’ found to be prevalent in the Middle East show a lack of collaborative skills, and so the picture widens (see graphics).
Noting the high incidences of stress she happens to observe daily, Morrison speculates: “Search engine statistics show people are looking up EQ and mindfulness more now. Why? Because people are trying to find remedies to cope with stress. But the more stressed we become the more technology focused we become and the less we interact on a human basis.”
The key message is that emotions are contagious and while it’s imperative for every team member to develop their EQ skills, the idea of emotional contagion is especially crucial to those at the top. As Morrison deducts: “The person who has the most power has the most contagious emotions.”
Again referring to the science behind ‘mirror neurons’, this means that, no matter where you sit in an organisation, your EQ has impact on the guest experience and, ultimately, their loyalty. Service quality filters from the top down (see graphics).
Apply this to the common approach of loyalty programmes and you see the preference-logging model is almost redundant.
“Why does a hotel exist? It doesn’t exit to make money it makes money to exist, but why does it exist? It exists to provide luxury, ambiance, pleasure, opportunity to enjoy yourself. People need to see that vision in order to understand how their individual role fits,” Morrison advises.
For Morrison, the front line staff – who locally, due to nationality are far more service than entitlement driven – are the saviours of what could otherwise be a disastrous situation. Moving forward, she believes the integration of EQ awareness and enhancement practices will be integral.
To an extent EQ develops with age, but Morrison relays that the penny drop effect of teaching the system is in itself remarkable. However, faced with a regional culture that is far from at one with forward or collaborative thinking, and a booming service industry – forming the backbone of local national cultures – the next step is clear.
EQ puts a name on the skills hospitality recruitment has always focused on; personality, character, the ability to recognise and control emotions. It also provides us with a learnable, measurable skillset that we can use to develop people
Morrison adds: “Today, if hoteliers are not first of all using EQ as part of their recruitment process then secondly embedding that in their L&D, they are really missing the point. These skills are like muscle; know they exist, exercise them daily and you will have a much calmer, balanced customer-focused environment. An environment that creates magical experiences for guests, builds loyalty and creates customer advocacy.”
“The whole area of neuroscience is developing rapidly right now. We need to be aware of those developments and take advantage of these advances in science in order to take our industry and the region even higher.”