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AWAF Hosts Seminar on Emotional Intelligence

Published in Autobody News

On June 8, the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF) hosted a Professional Development Workshop on Emotional Intelligence (EI) called “The Heart of Great Leadership” at the VisTaTech Center at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI. 

Corinne M. Smereka, who is in charge of Workforce Training Solutions for the Schoolcraft Business Development Center and is also co-chair of AWAF’s Professional Development Committee, taught the session, which was attended by more than a dozen industry professionals. 

Smereka explained, “Emotional intelligence is critical for enhancing leadership abilities. In fact, studies have found that 67 percent of all competencies deemed essential for high performance were related to EI.

“Most people achieve technical and academic competencies through education and training somewhat by virtue of their Intelligence Quotient (IQ), but learning Emotional Intelligence and using one’s Emotional Quotient (EQ) are rarely taught. EI focuses on developing relationships with people by understanding ourselves and our emotions and recognizing and managing them in ourselves and others. It requires practice, empathy and intuition, but if we neglect this aspect of self and people management, we may be unable to optimally relate to clients and develop the relationships needed for our careers to progress. The good news is that while someone’s IQ is somewhat static, EQ can be significantly improved.”

Smereka’s presentation focused on what EI is, how to develop it and how it can serve to enhance one’s career. This aligns with AWAF’s mission to empower women in the automotive industry and boost their leadership skills. Sherry Irwin, co-chair of the Professional Development Committee, attended the informative session, calling Smereka “an absolutely wonderful professional in education and development.”

“She taught us that EI is the ability to be aware of, name and manage one’s emotions as well as others’ emotions,” Irwin said. “It’s the ability to relate to others in effective ways, personally and professionally, in a wide range of roles, plus it’s important for managing stress, collaborating with co-workers, suppliers and customers, and understanding those capacities are the foundation for all competencies and skills.”

Irwin was interested in the topic after a previous AWAF presentation on the subject by a Ford executive piqued her interest. 

“No matter what level you’re at in an organization, you need to realize the impact that you have on other people,” she said. “People should feel better after interacting with you, not worse; this stuck with me. I wanted to understand more about EI and what I need to work on. Through an EI assessment tool calculating my EQ, I learned that I’m not as emotionally intelligent as I thought! Corinne’s workshop fulfilled everything I was looking for and more.”

The components of EI include self-awareness, emotional management, social awareness and social skills. Smereka had attendees practice skills in these areas during her highly interactive workshop. 

“Corinne’s workshops aren’t just theory—we don’t just learn the theoretical aspects, but we also get a chance to practice it with real-world applications. It’s relevant beyond the workplace too, and can be applied to our personal lives. EI is so important to great leadership, and we can create even better leaders if we continue to [help women develop] in this regard,” Irwin shared. 

Smereka added, “It’s become increasingly important over the years for winning candidates of key positions to have a high EQ in addition to other technical skills. A true leader must inspire and motivate, which requires being in touch with people. This ability to relate well to others is increasingly viewed as a key skill for successful leaders.”

Evaluations from the workshop were positive with attendees reporting they learned a great deal. Smereka has also received additional requests and plans to repeat the workshop in the future. 

She noted, “Because AWAF’s mission and vision is to advance and empower women in the automotive industry, it’s imperative that we offer opportunities for members to enhance and learn new skills while increasing their EI. AWAF offers chances to build relationships at every event we offer from our quarterly meetings to fireside chats with key industry experts, further enhancing the value of membership.” 

Some of AWAF’s previous training opportunities have focused on developing a personal and professional brand, presentation skills, negotiation strategies and more. The Professional Development Committee plans to host a training session on finances for the non-financial manager this fall. 

According to Smereka, “We developed a series of workshops for 2018 and will continue next year with a variety of member-requested topics.”

AWAF will also host its annual golf outing, Swinging “Fore” Scholarships, on August 14 from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. The four-person 18-hole scramble will be held at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, MI. The association welcomes golfers and sponsors to its biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds from the golf tournament, like proceeds from the group’s workshops, benefit AWAF’s scholarship program. 

Irwin stated, “Our scholarship program is a very robust and exciting program we’ve had in place since 2001, and we’ve awarded $2,500 scholarships to 155 women pursuing an education to prepare for a career in the automotive industry or enhancing their knowledge and skills to advance their current automotive careers for a grand total of nearly $388,000. We focus on women in the early stages of the career, but scholarships are also awarded to long-time industry professionals. We are always eager for new faces to join and support us.”

For more information about AWAF, visit

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