You’ve probably heard about emotional intelligence (EQ)— the ability to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions. It’s essential for fostering human connection.
Mastering EQ will take you far. But there is an even higher version of self you can access that brings more connectivity and awareness at work.
Spiritual intelligence, or SQ, is the ability to access higher meanings, values, purposes and unconscious aspects of your authentic self.
Through SQ, you can activate wisdom, compassion, integrity, joy, love and peace, which results in a sense of deeper meaning and purpose to live a richer, more creative life.
You can overturn unhealthy systems that lead to significant levels of isolation and loneliness among employees, and become the kind of leader who breaks down walls to inspire creativity and authentic relationships.
Despite its name, SQ is a faith-neutral practice. SQ is open to people of any denomination or belief — as long as you believe that there’s a place within you that comes from wisdom, compassion and love.
The ultimate goal of SQ is to create a space where everyone operates from their higher self. Through these effective and practical rituals, leaders who don’t know where to begin to bring their employees together can find a starting point to transform themselves and their organizations.
I expanded on these ideas in a recent podcast episode. In conversation with Debra Coleman, we discussed how developing spiritual intelligence can help leaders and employees push each other to thrive as human beings.
Exploring spiritual intelligence — a higher dimension for all
Spiritual intelligence is the next step after you’ve started developing your emotional intelligence — you can’t access this connected and elevated part of your brain without the awareness and empathy found through EQ.
The graduation from EQ to SQ is akin to Dr. Robert Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development. The former Harvard psychologist theorized we achieve the transition to adulthood when we gain wisdom and social and emotional maturity, and become more aware and in control of our own behaviors.
Compared to the first stage of early childhood, where you’re purely reflex-driven, the fourth and fifth stages of adult development are where you begin to think about your life’s purpose and the values that will determine your sense of self.
This transition from an impulsive mind to a self-authored mind — when you’ve developed a true independent sense of self — enables continued transformation. By working on EQ within yourself and your workplace, being aware of your emotions and how they affect you, having an emotional management strategy and the ability to understand other perspectives, you show you’re ready to activate a higher dimension of intelligence required to effectively lead.
Take me, for example. Before I ventured into entrepreneurship, I faithfully wore my “Corporate Amy” mask on at work, then I’d go home and hone my spirituality, splitting myself and values down the middle.
I eventually got tired of stifling my creativity at work. That’s when I started planning my exit and got serious about my mission to bring heart and human connection to the workplace.
Shortly after making my career transition decision, I stumbled upon a quote on a magnet that said, “Leap and the net will appear.” It felt like a small sign from the universe — affirming my new path and my spiritual journey.
In the year before I left my corporate executive job, my employees helped me experiment with the (light and fun!) activities that enabled them to skill-build and connect and at the same time develop their SQ and EQ, I aimed to prove that human connection and collaboration over competition increases productivity and profitability — and I did. During my tenure, employee retention numbers far exceeded what they’d been in previous years and we maintained profitability while coming in under budget.
Balancing compassion and empathy — the undercurrents of SQ
The effects of COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how common loneliness and isolation are for employees in the workplace. Workplace loneliness exacerbates the need for compassion and empathy from leaders.
As a leader, these qualities are essential for reaching your employees. Arianna Huffington explains that further in this article, saying, “Compassion and empathy can no longer be seen as extra, nice-to-have qualities; they are essential.”
However, while a large part of being an effective leader is compassionate listening and echoing back concern, the key to balancing empathy and compassion is to ask questions rather than give advice to help people find solutions from within.
Here’s another way leaders can use compassion and empathy to bridge the divide within their teams: Adding a spiritual component to the workplace to bring a whimsical, child-like feel to work.
It might not seem like a must-have, but by prioritizing fun and play at work, you ignite human connection. Plus, opening up spaces in our brains that are less robotic breeds creativity and innovation — good for any company’s bottom line. When people feel less isolated, they’re more productive and engaged.
Because communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, leaders also need to understand how to reach their employees through this important value of SQ. After studying societies all over the world, cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien developed the four universal communication principles she believes connect people:
- Showing up and choosing to be present.
- Paying attention to what has heart and meaning.
- Telling the truth without blame or judgment.
- Being open to the outcome but not attached to it — because whatever happens was destined to happen.
Not only do these principles offer a framework for creating connection, but it’s an important way to preserve your spiritual energy as a leader. Rather than aim to solve your employees’ problems or deeply immersing yourself in them, your way to connect should be to listen and understand.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself burned out from trying to save your people when what they need from you is your sound judgment and ability to make decisions. Remember: When you can take care of yourself, you position yourself to best take care of others.
By adopting this mindset and executing your responsibilities within a balance of these SQ concepts, you’ll lead your business and teams to be more productive and profitable.
Not just for leaders: Employing SQ in all levels of a workplace
The practical tools and activities in my book, “Create Magic At Work,” aren’t just for leaders — they’re executable by people in workplaces of all levels who want to help curb loneliness and isolation.
Employees can become advocates of SQ in their workplace by being courageous and vulnerable. For instance, anyone can kick off a meeting by sharing what they’re grateful for and/or asking others to share how colleagues can better support their success.
When we take a moment to see each other as human beings — who go through a range of life experiences — it helps us feel more connected and opens up the pathways to collaboration. It also enables leaders to make wiser, more compassionate decisions.
Here are some examples of the simple activities I share to help employees and leaders get started with SQ in the workplace to create magic at work and ignite authentic connections.
💬 Inspiration from others
Gather your team and have each member bring their favorite quote or passage. Everyone takes a turn reading their quote, then you each share why you connect with it. Not only is this a quick and easy activity, but it helps everyone understand each other’s values and motivations.
🌟 Reframe and reshape
In this word reshaping exercise, we focus on reshaping our thoughts and feelings. In group coaching sessions I held with medical professionals during COVID-19, I asked everyone to share three words about how they felt during the pandemic. Each person picked one word to destroy or reshape, then they shared it with others.
If the word was “anxiety,” for instance, we destroyed it by focusing on the opposite feeling and reshaped it by discussing how to bring more peace and acceptance into our lives. Whether they decided to journal more or take more walks, the power was in the ability to write their own prescription to solve their problem.
And by sharing these raw emotions with each other and realizing they had many shared experiences, they helped ease their feelings of isolation.
✍️ Journaling with a twist
Journaling helps with stress reduction and quieting the left side of your brain. Writing down your thoughts opens space on the right side of your brain, which allows you to engage in creativity and inspiration.
Journaling doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so I created a journal prompt card deck to help you get the benefits without too much of a learning curve. It includes 33 cards that each have an affirmation plus two critical thinking questions about workplace and career participants can journal about.
This activity is great for colleagues to enjoy together, with or without a supervisor. To do it in a group, everyone picks a card, journals for five minutes, then shares their answers to the questions with each other.
An international authority on transforming toxic workplaces by coaching and training an elevated leadership skill set, Amy Lynn Durham is the founder of Create Magic At Work™ and an author of a book by the same name.