Millions of employees left their jobs last year in what has been dubbed “the Great Resignation,” and Colorado, as the state with the fourth-highest number of resignations, is hardly immune.

Laura Love

Yet Colorado also is better positioned than most to weather this talent shakeup because we lead the country in offering innovative benefits, work-life balance and a unique brand of emotionally intelligent leadership.

On Outside magazine’s top 50 companies to work for in America list, more than half of those recognized in 2021 are located in Colorado (in the spirit of full disclosure, my company was an honoree for the 9th consecutive year).

Sure, award winners were selected because of their commitment to employees and the impactful and creative perks they offer, but I’ve noticed something else about the Colorado-based honorees: Their leaders are focusing on what has been missing in workplace culture for years – listening to, and tapping into, their own emotional intelligence quotient and nurturing this attribute throughout their culture.

This is key to thriving at a time when people are reexamining what they want from work and moving toward organizations that value them as people and that reflect their personal values, or “why.”

Paul Dreyer, CEO of Avid4 Adventure, a frequent selection on Outside’s annual list, said that what makes Avid4 Adventure a uniquely positive place to work is that they ask for feedback, listen first and value all perspectives. This shows not only respect, but also empathy. As leaders, we have to remember that a large part of our success depends on being in touch with our people’s feelings and fears.

As Rob Brockmann, Director of Growth Account Management at Choozle (another Outside winner) shared, “Everyone is human, even the ‘rockstars’ on our teams. Treat your team with empathy, and harmony can still exist in the toughest of times. Take time to celebrate the wins, big and small.”

Thriving during uncertainty and chaos also depends on self-awareness and vulnerability. It takes a brave soul to say, “I’m drowning. I’m still your director, but I’m also home-schooling my kids and working from my dining room table. I am not showing up the way I want, or the way you want me to.” 

We need to create a safe space for people to tell the truth, and when they do, we need to support them. At my company, GFM | CenterTable, we have increased the availability of flexible schedules and offered executive coaching to help people build their resiliency.

Another skill that defines a leader with a high emotional intelligence quotient is self-regulation. Our leadership coach, GG Johnston with Downstream Partners, talks about how we are in a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, and that a leader’s ability to regulate their own emotions while navigating this sea of change fosters a trickle-down effect. If leaders can regulate their own emotions and remain authentic, their integrity shines through and they inspire trust.

­­Another important quality of a high emotional intelligence quotient is motivation – not just to make mone­y, but to kick the status quo to the curb and do things better.

Cindy Judge, President & CEO of SRG (another frequent Outside honoree) shared that during the past two years of societal change, the company amplified its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, introducing enterprise-wide and team-level training in these areas, sponsoring a social-justice discussion group, focusing charitable giving on diversity, equity and inclusion causes, celebrating Pride Month and Black History Month, and internally championing voting access and rights.

The ways things have always worked just don’t work any longer. And they shouldn’t. Research shows a powerful link between a company’s success and the emotional intelligence of its leaders. To lead effectively through massive change, we have to take that to heart.

Laura Love, of Denver, is founder of GroundFloor Media .

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