Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The need for emotional intelligence

Even if they’re not valued by CEOs people skills are the basis of the new world of management.

But despite increasing focus in this area, many line managers aren’t using any more skilled interventions with their people that they were a decade or more ago.

I think one insight into this comes from Emotional Intelligence.

The slide is from a workshop on EI that I delivered last week and comes from one of
Daniel Goleman's articles.

It suggests that the basis for emotional intelligence is self awareness. This deals with how people perceive, appraise and express their own emotions. And how they use emotions to facilitate and prioritise thinking, employing the emotions to aid in judgement (using the information that emotions provide). In the workshop, we looked at labelling and allocating their emotions to different parts of their bodies, for example someone said they got ‘butterflies in their stomach’ before they did a presentation.

Other common emotions which have become associated with parts of the body include a heaviness in the chest, a lump in the throat and a weight on the shoulders. Being able to distinguish between these many different emotions and feelings is a prerequisite for the other areas of EI.

The second requirement is self management which is about how people control their emotions rather than being at their whim – using feelings as a ‘resource’. And we did a short exercise using NLP’s resource anchoring to show how participants could use an emotional state they had experience in one context and apply it in another where it would be more useful than the state they normally experienced here. I think I managed to convince them that this is a ‘tool’ not a ‘trick’, and like any other tools isn’t intrinsically good or bad but can be useful.

The third is social awareness – being tuned into others’ emotions, and the organisational climate. They key here is about being able to read other people and getting some external validation of this ability to be able to fine tune it. We used a couple of great tests which are freely available in the internet: Simon Baron Cohen’s Reading the Mind in the Eyes quiz, and Paul Ekman’s Subtle Expression Training Tool and Micro Expression Training Tool.

Fourth comes social skills, things like 'visionary leadership, influence, developing others, communication, change catalysis, conflict management, building bonds, teamwork and collaboration.
But actually unless people have good self awareness, self management and social awareness, these social skills are unlikely to have much impact. Perhaps the reason CEOs discount social skills is that they don’t see them improving – and perhaps the reason for this is that organisations have put too much focus on social skills themselves, and not enough on the other underpinning abilities.