The Importance of Emotional Intelligence Training for Community Health Worker Supervisors

Everyone has different motivations, feelings and personal histories.

One community health worker (CHW) might connect with clients with enthusiasm and energy. Another might be quiet and listen deeply. Another might find their work triggering and shut down, letting negative feelings get worse all day.

That’s why emotional intelligence is so important for CHW supervisors.

Every emotion that a worker feels is valid and reveals something about their needs and experiences. But too often, those emotions are ignored or brushed off by their supervisor.

It can be hard for anyone to manage their own emotions, and that can become even more challenging if you need to tune into the emotions of the people who work for you. But if you don’t, you’re missing a huge part of what drives your staff, and you won’t get the best from your team.

That’s why if you’re in a leadership position, you need to have training in emotional intelligence.

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Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a person’s ability to recognize, understand and manage their own emotions while also being sensitive to the emotions of others. A supervisor who has high EI has the ability to manage and control their emotions. This makes it easier to manage others.

[Related: Virtual Outreach Skills]

Author Daniel Goleman popularized the concept with his popular book “Emotional Intelligence.” He identified 19 EI competencies that break down into these four categories:

  • Self-awareness – recognizing and understanding your own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values and goals
  • Self-management – regulating and controlling your emotions, impulses and behaviors
  • Social awareness – understanding and empathizing with the emotions, needs and perspectives of others
  • Relationship management – building and maintaining healthy and productive relationships

(Read more about EI here.)

Role of EI in Professional Settings

If you have any leadership experience, either supervising others or somehow leading them, you can probably see how these skills would come in handy.

CHW supervisors or leaders are there to provide guidance and mentorship, as well as traditional supervision to CHWs.

A CHW supervisor who has high EI skills is in a better position to excel than others. Simply put, anyone who can communicate better and nurture an open and honest dialog is a better manager. They can also spot things like burnout, which can have a poor effect on the whole team.

CHW supervisors need to be master communicators. They not only need to communicate expectations, feedback and other agency-wide information, they also need to provide a safe space for their staff to share their concerns and ideas.

For example, think about a supervisor in a team meeting who takes the time to make eye contact and listen carefully. Pretty soon, each employee will get the idea that the supervisor is open to insights and suggestions. That makes the whole project better.

Furthermore, supervisors with strong emotional intelligence can build rapport and trust, establishing a supportive and collaborative work environment. A supervisor might engage in casual conversations, show genuine interest in the CHW’s personal lives, and actively listen to their stories and experiences. This is vitally important for CHWs who are at risk of burnout.

Just as CHWs are role models for their clients in many ways, a supervisor is a role model for the CHWs who report to them. If you have strong EI skills, you can show your staff how they should work without issuing a direct command.

CHWs need to show empathy, cultural sensitivity and problem-solving skills to their clients, and these are all traits they can pick up from their supervisors.

Strategies for Incorporating Emotional Intelligence Training

Your next step is to roll out some EI training for your team. You could open it up to supervisors and also to anyone who’s a leader, including CHWs who lead in their community.

Programs could be workshops, seminars or online courses, such as those through CHWTraining’s Growth Training Path.

Otherwise, provide resources to your team that include articles, books and other online tools that promote EI among everyone.

As your supervisors become better at EI skills, you’ll find that they start to pay out in dividends. Soon, everyone will have a better capacity to work with others.

CHW Core Competencies

Find out all about what the CHW Core Competencies are, CHW roles, CHW careers, how to cross-train your staff, and how to get state certifications for the CHWs on your team