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It's not what you do, but the way that you do it...

31st August 2023 – by Hugh Pocock
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volatility ahead

For many senior leaders, strategy tends to be the primary focus – determining where their organisation is headed, how it finds competitive advantage and how it creates value. Indeed, a quick google search will turn up multiple articles on strategy, business school prospectuses are bursting with executive education courses on the subject, and most organisations set key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure how successfully strategy is implemented.

There’s no doubt – strategy is important. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, you are unlikely to get there.

But despite this, the world is littered with organisations that had a great strategy but still weren’t successful. That’s because a plan is only as good as the people delivering it, and how effectively they work together. Culture is key and effective cultures only sustain when leaders demonstrate emotional intelligence (EQ).

So, what does this mean? Emotional intelligence defines a person’s ability to identify, understand, use and manage their emotions (and the emotions of others) in a positive and effective way. It is critical to how a team operates. If a leader lacks this ability, the results can be disastrous – impacting the mood and enthusiasm of colleagues and, potentially, even driving good people to look for alternative employment.

Effective leadership is about harnessing emotions and using them to effectively interact with people, solving problems, managing culture and motivation. This is never easy at the best of times and now that more workforces are operating remotely post-Covid it is even harder, as reading emotions is so difficult without regular face-to-face contact.

But emotional intelligence isn’t only about how you interact with others – it is also about how resilient you are as an individual. And this has never been more critical for managers in agri-businesses.

That’s because agriculture faces many challenges, from dealing with the weather (just ask anyone living through this year’s wet harvest!) to coping with volatile prices. Add in the complexities of interest rates, potential recession, war in Europe, climate change and growing supply chain sustainability requirements, and the business landscape looks pretty uncertain and hugely complex for most agri-business leaders.

In such challenging circumstances, emotional intelligence is probably more important than strategy. As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” No matter how great an organisation’s strategy, in a rapidly changing world, business success will only come to leaders who can effectively navigate complex situations rapidly, calmly making good business decisions under pressure. That requires empathy, personal resilience and foresight. It requires emotional intelligence.

What’s more, change makes life stressful. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are more likely to be able to manage their own stress levels, as well as stress in those around them, which can mitigate employee burnout and reduce employee turnover, whilst maintaining business performance.

The need for high emotional intelligence is clear and, according to the Harvard Business Review, accounts for nearly 90 per cent of what sets high performers apart from their peers with similar technical knowledge and skills.

But how do you assess emotional intelligence as part of a recruitment process?

Look for qualities like empathy, self-awareness, adaptability, resilience and interpersonal skills. Start by being clear about what you require in your job description, so that you attract the right kind of candidates. Then consider behavioural interview questions/techniques to reveal how candidates have approached issues in the past. Think about using psychometric or personality tests, which can provide an insight into how an individual is likely to interact with others.

Agriculture is a technically demanding industry and, as a result, technical skills and experience are often at the forefront of business recruitment decisions. You need a candidate that can ‘walk the walk’. But remember that is only part of the story.

Success doesn’t only come from what you do, but the way that you do it, and considering emotional intelligence is vital in recruitment for any role where someone will have line management responsibility. The more senior the role, the more important it becomes.

It might just be the difference between your business achieving its strategy or failing.

Ask us for more insight into how we can help you build organisational success.

Cultura Connect – Connecting People in Agribusiness

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