Eskom chief learning officer Dr Andrew Johnson on harnessing emotional intelligence

He provided insights on why developing key soft skills can make us more resilient in the age of technology.

Dr Andrew Johnson, Chief Learning Officer at Eskom believes that individuals need to develop the skills to cope with the onslaught of changes in the workplace and that the ability to manage your inner self, attitudes and beliefs is the difference between success and failure, progress and getting left behind.

Addressing the 2019 HR Indaba, Johnson said that emotional intelligence (EQ) can help us navigate the new world unfolding before us. He explained that EQ is the ability to monitor yours and other’s feelings, to be empathetic to the emotional drives of other people and be good at handling the emotions of those you engage with. As workplaces become more diverse, technology forces us to engage across digital platforms and contend with new norms, we may have to re-learn how to operate optimally with others in our engagements.

People with EQ recognise that how they show up through their words, tone and body language has an effect on others and they know how to adapt their behaviours according to their audience.

"To do this successfully, we need to be able to step outside of our own perceptions, but Johnson explains that the range of what we think and do is limited by how wide our lens of the world is," he said. 

"We only see what we fail to notice and as a result we walk around a little blindly. Additionally, because we are bombarded with information, our minds are constantly filtering the stimulus coming at us. You need to examine your basis for what you ingest, what you reject and how long-held those views are.”

EQ requires that we accept that we don’t see everything in its totality and are open to considering alternatives to our most dominant perspectives.

“Blindness is a problem and it’s compounded by the fact that we tend to assume we act rationally and fall into patterns of repetition and habit. If we are committed to changing we have to ask, is our thinking on auto-pilot?”

The danger of living in a bubble is that we operate in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). We, therefore, can’t afford to be out of step with the multitude of events happening around us. Andrew said this paradigm shift requires a mindset shift where the quality of our thinking is raised and this means abandoning outdated views. Old thinking often manifests in behaviours which include protecting the status quo, rejecting expressions of doubt and declining divergent views.

Andrew advocated for a growth mindset, which is characterised by praising and rewarding effort, and seeing opportunity where others see failure.

“This perspective says criticism is welcome because that’s how we learn,” he said. In this paradigm, the individual recognises that there is value in seeking input from others to achieve a goal, and therefore Interpersonal skills are an asset. Relating to others in a productive, positive manner enhances your ability to influence others, which in turn allows you to galvanise others to work with you.

Andrew said growth mindset requires that you have the ability to recognise another person's point of view and be adaptable which means being both flexible and versatile. professionals who aspire to have long, successful careers need to develop a multi-disciplinary view of their journey and adopt a mindset of embracing challenges where you don’t give up easily and believe the effort is the path to mastery.