As a diversity instructor, I was surprised to learn that the first effort in introducing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into your organization is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence can be defined in a nutshell by how people naturally react in certain situations. When a problem arises, what do your employees do? Shout, fight, cuss (spelling mine), or a million other responses? We all learn emotional intelligence from our home environments: schooling, friends, and associates. How we respond depends on how those around us responded in our lives. Growing up in poverty or a segregated neighborhood, our reaction (for example) to someone breaking into our home (which happened quite often) was vastly different from someone who grew up in a suburban area. In my neighborhood, we firmly believed in "street justice." Street justice can be described as the attitude of "don't let me catch you in the streets." No police were called, and we were instructed to keep an eye out for the known perpetrators. In a suburban neighborhood, the police would more than likely be called in that situation, and all the procedures that go along with filing a police report would be followed- not so in my neighborhood.
Once we leave our segregated neighborhoods, go off to college, and begin our professional lives, our emotional intelligence hasn't necessarily changed. When we accept our first job in a corporate setting and are met with a problem- our natural inclination would be to respond in the way we learned to react when we were younger.
To be exceptional leaders in any line of work requires the greatest of sacrifice. Whether a small or large company, the ability to lead through your emotions is tantamount to success. In the wake of school and workplace shootings, the shooter has often been characterized as going through some trauma at home or work. We never know what that anguish is, but a workplace that promotes employee wellness may very well intercept any danger the employee may exhibit. Emotional intelligence is the responsibility of everyone in the company, but as always, positive change begins at the top.
As leaders in a diverse organization, remember that your employees don't leave their emotions at home. Sure, they are paid to do a job and are expected to perform, but one never knows how a person will react when placed in a stressful situation. Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25).