Emotional intelligence is critical to creating a more compassionate, trusting, and generally productive workplace. That’s the overriding message we came away with when we interviewed PowerBase Consulting founder John Bentley ahead of his talk at the recent Work 2.0 Middle East Conference.
While there are plenty of people who’ll tell you the same thing, it’s pretty clear that it’s more than just an aphorism for Bentley.
He did, after all, end a long and successful career in technology to focus on helping other businesses create environments that are open to emotional intelligence.
We got the low-down on Bentley’s background, the increasing receptiveness of EQ-driven leadership in the Middle East, and how neuroscience and technology are informing the way we look at leadership in the workplace.
A career in IT
Prior to founding PowerBase, Bentley spent many years in the technology space, working for the likes of IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, and Hewlett Packard (HP). Moving up through these organisations, Bentley eventually ran the Middle East, Mediterranean, and the African region for Hewlett Packard.
But as Bentley rose through the ranks, he also started asking himself some probing questions about what leadership really is and what makes a good team.
“It’s actually as a result of those questions that I moved into the field of emotional intelligence,” he told us. “I quickly came to the conclusion that actually, EQ was a fundamental requirement to success both in leadership and, indeed, in all careers”.
Wanting to explore this realisation full-time, and help organisations beyond the scope of HP, Bentley retired and became certified as a leadership and executive coach.
The Power of 3
With the right certifications under his belt, Bentley founded PowerBase, a consultancy which uses EQ to bring the best out of organisational teams in a variety of ways.
At the core of its offering are three equal areas of focus: leadership, communication, and lifestyle & wellness. It underlines this equality with its equilateral triangular logo.
Why choose these particular three areas of focus and why make them equal? Because, “if we get the blend of these things in harmony, then everything should be much better in terms of performance,” Bentley told us.
Growth in the Middle East
When Bentley founded PowerBase, he did find himself wondering whether the Middle East was ready for what it had to offer.
The answer, as it turns out, is increasingly in the affirmative. “Awareness is increasing rapidly, without a doubt,” he said.
Perhaps that’s because companies with the kind of diverse, cosmopolitan workforces you get in the UAE can seriously benefit from the EQ-driven offering provided by Powerbase.
“The fundamental starting point of the emotional intelligence work that we do,” Bentley pointed out, “is to understand yourself better. And then, moving forward, to understand your colleagues, your teammates”.
“We focus very much on diversity and opening people’s minds to being more receptive to each other’s culture, to each other’s ideas,” he said. “It’s very much to do with empathy, and it’s very much to do with creativity and innovation.”
In doing his work, Bentley leans heavily on neuroscience. It’s a constantly evolving field, something which he says helps him stay on top of his game.
“I have to keep pace with it, even to maintain my certification, I have to go through a continuous learning,” he told us.
According to Bentley, it’s equally vital that companies stay up to date with these trends. An interesting example of this involves trust.
“What we find is that in organisations where trust is high, performance of can be as much 22 times as high as in organisations where trust is low,” the Powerbase founder told us.
Looking forward, Bentley believes that technology will play an increasingly important role in bringing emotional intelligence to the corporate space.
“I think there’s going to be even more work that is carried out on neuro-networks, mixing neuroscience and emotional intelligence with artificial intelligence,” he said.
But, he cautions, as technology becomes ever more pervasive in the workplace, it’s going to become increasingly crucial for us to maintain our sense of humanity.
“It’s about relationships and building trust,” Bentley explained. “If it’s only numbers, then we’re seriously in danger of losing the element of trust, of losing the relationships, the skill to build relationships”.
The trouble, he said, is that “we’ve become digitally dependent now. And that won’t go away”.
In such a world, Bentley points out, we’ve got to “improve compassion, improve empathy, and improve our working relationships”.
How do we do that?
“We’ve got to just stop and just remember that we depend on each other,” Bentley said.