Emotional intelligence: Why insurance leaders can’t ignore this skill

“It is important for the younger generations – the Millennials who are now coming into leadership roles, and Gen Z, who are now starting to work. They want to work for a wise leader,” said Payal Beri (pictured), CEO and founder of RK Empathy.

Beri is speaking to Women in Insurance Conference New York. His talk, ‘Creating empathy and emotional intelligence,’ will outline ways to foster empathy in the workplace. Having worked in social work for more than 15 years, Beri advocates compassionate leadership to combat burnout, isolation, and organizational burnout — rates that have risen since COVID-19.

Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check 2022 report, which surveyed 1,400 US workers, found that more than half (51%) have experienced burnout, and while they have quit their job in the past year, more than three-quarters (34%) are considering quitting. . Almost a third (32%) of people who quit their jobs did so because their workplace was dangerous. All of these factors create a critical need for responsive leadership styles.

“Emotional intelligence is more than a nice thing to have. It’s not just about talking to someone because you’re dealing with business problems,” Beri said. However, developing EI requires self-awareness that leaders need to work on developing.

“One of the biggest obstacles is that when leaders act aggressively or when they get angry, they say things that are unrelated to the issue or they communicate in a biased or hurtful manner; it usually comes from somewhere they don’t realize,” Beri told Insurance Business.

The benefit of compassion

A leader with emotional intelligence will be better prepared to put themselves in their employees’ shoes. For Beri, empathy is a great strength that is often mistakenly seen as a weakness, compared to traditional leadership. Female leaders can often tap into their compassionate side more easily because they have been raised to empathize, she said. But compassion is only one factor in achieving good leadership.

“Empathy doesn’t just mean: ‘I understand what it’s like to be in your shoes.’ It’s definitely a story. I’m looking for why someone made the decisions they made. What happened that caused someone to do what they did? This does not justify their actions,” said Beri.

Accountability forms another pillar of strategic leadership. This means encouraging open, honest discussions with employees about why something goes wrong or delays in work, addressing the root causes of problems while leaving room for growth and learning on both sides.

Efforts to develop a responsive leadership style can be beneficial. A report by Talkspace found that employees who say their managers are taking steps to protect their mental health are more likely to find their work fulfilling (86%).

“Grief is more: ‘Okay, I understand why this happened. So now let’s try to fix it.’ Emotional intelligence is creating an environment of trust that you feel safe to come to me and discuss accountability,” added Beri.

“You have to look at compassion as a tool along with all your tools. It’s like when you’re cooking a dish, and you can’t rely on just one cook,” he continued.

Both male and female leaders can also be good at using emotional intelligence. But in large, male-dominated arenas, women may still struggle to find the right balance between the pressure to perform better and assert their importance in their roles.

“Women are put in a worse light than men. They have to put themselves in real ways, especially in the insurance industry, which is dominated by men and very conservative. In order to develop compassion, self-compassion is necessary. You have to understand your challenges and strengths and be comfortable with the things that aren’t right, which requires inner work,” said Beri.

In order to overcome this lack of vision and self-awareness, Beri recommends that female leaders work with a great leadership coach.

“To have special skills and work on things like emotional intelligence, having a great teacher, or having someone who can help you ask the right questions is important. This creates a safe environment for you to do things that are messy and try to resist being vulnerable,” he added.

Women in Insurance New York is back for a one-day event that aims to bring women and partners together to strengthen old relationships, create new relationships, and empower the next generation of leaders in the insurance industry.

The conference will be held on September 7 at the Westin New York Times Square.

For more information, please visit newyork.ibwomenininsurance.com.