Holding together in a state of uncertainty – the power of Emotional Intelligence


By Skills for Health | 23 April 2020

Last week we delivered the first in a series of workshops supporting HPMA London Academy members. These were planned some time ago, so the fact that our subject matter was ‘Emotional Intelligence; implications for us as practitioners and those we seek to help’ was coincidental but now felt so incredibly timely.

We decided to go ahead and run the session virtually, as the Academy are doing with all their workshops at the moment. I wondered initially about attendance and take up; would people have time under the circumstances and was the subject matter useful or not?

I found myself feeling a fair amount of anxiety in preparing and noted it was coming both from the new delivery format and my sense that opening up to explore our emotional selves and others right now could be really challenging and potentially overwhelming. It was clear we would need to make sure we worked carefully and sensitively, whilst also using this time and space together to really inquire into our feelings, the topic of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and how we might use this in our work.

I was delighted that the webinar was really well attended, and engagement was huge. It was also so reassuring and helpful to have Lorna Reeves from HPMA supporting in a co-facilitative role; minding the tech, helping people feel assured and guided in the virtual space, watching the chat, flagging up comments and questions and attending to the participants across the visual views. This allowed me to focus on the facilitation and delivery of content and it seemed to work well.

I did notice that without visual cues, which I feed on, I had to bring my energy from within and I enjoyed that, whilst also wondering whether I was gauging it right, or being a bit over the top, or vice versa. However, the interplay of the chat function, the visuals, the hands up at times, meant a rich process unfolded with lots of clear engagement in many ways. Moving into breakout rooms for part of the session was neatly handled and, as was mentioned, happened with a speed and randomness that wouldn’t face to face…

So having gone through an exploration of a range of theories and practices that are held within the space we call EI, I invited participants, in their small groups, to do some work to relate this to their practice and current challenges and we came back for a plenary session thereafter. Again, I’d had some anxiety about this; would around thirty plus of us be able to meaningfully interact in that session? Would we fill the time? What could we usefully say, at this extraordinary time…?

And again, it was a rich and deep session that was different to my experience of face to face work and I’d say not a second best, just a different way to work. What was shared was how useful it had been to gather and be together at this time. Also, that the content had been relevant, and in engaging with our emotional states we noticed lots that was helpful and assuring.

Furthermore, we noted that we did not have answers. However, being together in emotional openness and sharing that state of ‘not knowing’ was meaningful. I was reminded of Keats’ ‘negative capability’ as we discussed how the innovations of, and for the future, would not be born out of the past and ‘what was’, but out of the confusion and uncertainty of not knowing of the present. For Keats’ and the romantic poets, holding together in a state of uncertainty was the fertile ground for creativity.

After closing the workshop, I felt a great sense of connection and gratitude for being involved. Receiving positive and kind follow up feedback was wonderful too. I had learnt loads; both that we can ‘virtually’ connect and if as Martin Buber says ‘all real life is meeting’ this space was ‘real’ rather than ‘virtual’, and that there is so much that can be done with technology and skilled facilitation that is really very exciting in allowing us to innovatively and creatively develop new ways for new times.

Skills for Health became members of HPMA’s trusted membership scheme earlier this year, and it’s with this partnership and collaborative working that we help to support the healthcare workforce overcome these challenging times. We support HR and workforce development professionals across the sector with coaching, consultancy and leadership development to help grow sustainable and effective organisational solutions, that benefit the workforce and public.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers is ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. The ability to express and control emotions, understand, interpret, and respond to emotions of others is incredibly important for leaders and managers.

Toby Lindsay is the Principal Consultant at Skills for Health, for Leadership, Management and Organisational Development. Toby has over twenty years’ experience working in executive education, as a Consultant, Executive Coach and Facilitator for a range of organisations across private, public and third sectors.

To find out more about Toby’s work, and our collaborative approach with HPMA, get in touch.


Upskilling: Empowering and Retaining Valued Healthcare Employees 

Lovegrove on Health – Podcast episode #3 

Lovegrove on Health – Podcast episode #2 

Get the latest updates by email

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to receive the latest updates straight to your inbox. We’ll keep you up to date with sector news, insights, intelligence reports, service updates and special offers on our services and solutions.

Sign up to our newsletter