In Monday morning’s breakout session at NALC, Dr. Deborah Watts brought emotions to the forefront for good reason: improving and fostering emotional intelligence translates into better business and more productive employees. “Emotional intelligence (EI) has been said to matter twice as much as IQ as a predictor of business performance,” says Watts.

Emotional intelligence has been described as the ability to perceive and express emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others, Watts explained. “One of the most powerful tools that we have is to realize emotions while we’re experiencing them,” she says. “The foundation of just about every decision we make is emotions, yet rarely—if ever—do we receive training on how to deal with our emotions.”

She presented the audience with quick skills for improving EI: the ability to quickly reduce stress by realizing when you’re stressed; the ability to recognize and manage your emotions; the ability to resolve conflict; the ability to connect with others nonverbally; and, the ability to use humor and play—such as storytelling—to deal with challenges. “Selling is telling a story,” says Watts.

Employers who want to determine levels of EI in their workforce should look for an emotional intelligence assessment that has been tested for reliability and validity, says Watts. Team training exercises should incorporate coaching, practice and repetitiveness, she adds.

Watts serves as area director for The Oliver Group, which provides leadership development for clients and as the franchisee for the Leadership Pipeline Institute. Watts teaches organizational development at Lipscomb University as well. She spent a decade working in the powersports industry, where she helped mom-and-pop dealers capitalize on best practices and economies of scale.