Managing with Emotional Intelligence: The Power
The business community has embraced the concept of emotional intelligence
and its importance ever since Daniel Goleman's best-selling book,
Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998). But the challenge that
lies ahead is to demonstrate that such competencies can be acquired
and when they are, that they significantly impact employee performance.
New studies in corporations that have
adopted emotional intelligence training have shown that "EI" can
be trained and it is effective. When programs are implemented
there are overall improvements in productivity and profits.
Furthermore, up to 90% of the difference
between outstanding and average leaders is linked to emotional
intelligence. "EI" is
two times as important as IQ and technical expertise combined,
and is four times as important in terms of overall success.
The research continues to mount as
evidence of the effectiveness of EI training programs, yet many
leaders in the business world continue to await further quantitative
analysis. Before being able to
address the emotional competencies that they know are significantly
impacting their organizational efficiency, they want further
proof. There continues to be reluctance to address anything "emotional" when
it comes to business, even when the word "intelligence" is
tacked on behind it.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your own feelings
and those of others, and the ability to motivate yourself and others,
as well as to manage your own emotions and those of others. Essentially,
there are four competencies:
• Understanding yourself, or self-awareness
• Managing yourself, or self-management
• Understanding others, or social awareness
• Managing others, or social skills
Perhaps it would be better to simplify the concept. Emotional
intelligence increases when people commit themselves to building
practical competencies in the context of every day situations.
Nothing can be more powerful than developing empathy skills during
everyday conversations on the job.
One of the foundation skills that contributes to a manager's or
leader's success is the skill of empathy. It starts with self-awareness,
in that understanding your own emotions is essential to understanding
the feelings of others. It is crucial to effective communication
and to leading others.
Lack of empathy is a primary cause of interpersonal difficulties
that lead to poor performance, executive derailment, and problems
with customer relationships.
Empathy as a competency skill is poorly
understood by those who need it most, and it is even more difficult
to train and acquire. Most people
believe you either have it or you don't. Many hard-driving managers
lack a propensity for developing empathy because they assume
it's for the more "touchy-feely" types.
Some very intelligent leaders are walking around blindly using
only their powers of reasoning and wondering why everyone doesn't
see things their way.
Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that
the primary causes of derailment in executives involve deficits
in emotional competency, and in particular, these three primary
1. Difficulty in handling change
2. Not being able to work well as a team
3. Poor interpersonal relations
Without an adequate capacity to understand the other's point of
view, some managers lack sufficient flexibility for change, cannot
work well with team collaboration, and cannot relate well with
the very people that affect the results they are trying to achieve.
What Is Empathy?
Empathy can be defined as the ability
to see things from the other person's point of view — to be able to "walk in someone
else's moccasins." Goleman defines it as the ability to read
other people. Other definitions include the concept of identifying
with the other person or their situation. This implies more than
a cognitive understanding, more than just remembering a similar
situation that you may have gone through yourself. Empathy means
that you can recall some of those same feelings based on your own
memories. There is a sharing and identifying with emotional states.
What does this have to do with running a business, managing a
company and dealing with bottom-line performance issues? Obviously,
if managers were to take the time to listen with empathy at everything
that was said, nothing would get done. Furthermore, one cannot
fall prey to being swept up into every person's story. Managers
and leaders must keep the focus and guide people to goal completion.
According to Goleman, empathy represents the foundation skill
for all the social competencies important for work:
• Understanding others: Sensing others'
feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their
• Service orientation: Anticipating, recognizing and meeting customers'
• Developing others: Sensing others' development needs and bolstering
• Leveraging diversity: Cultivating opportunities through diverse
• Political awareness: Reading the political and social currents
in an organization
Managers and leaders are usually high in those traits and characteristics
that lead to successful goal completion, such as high achievement
orientation and high focusing abilities. That's why they get promoted
to management positions. Success depends a great deal on having
focus, being able to persevere, and being able to concentrate.
But focus alone can result in undesirable consequences if not counter-balanced
by empathy. Focus alone will not result in the fulfillment of goals.
Focus and empathy will.
Empathy skills are those that involve paying attention to other
people- for example, listening, attending to the needs and wants
of others, and building relationships. When empathy skills are
high, one is more likely to inspire the troops. When a manager
understands his/her people and communicates that to them, he/she
is more liked and respected. That is how practicing empathy results
in better performance. When a manager is respected, the people
they lead are more likely to go the extra mile. Empathy and focus
need to be balanced, and when they are, managing skills are optimally
Both managers and employees need empathy in order to interact
well with customers, suppliers, the general public, and with each
other. Managers need it even more when they are assigning a task
to someone who won't like it; when offering criticism to someone
who predictably will get defensive; when having to deal with someone
we don't like; when dealing with employee disputes; and when giving
bad news such as telling someone that they won't be promoted or
that they're being laid off. The first step in dealing with any
negativity is to empathize. The next step is to focus back to the
goals and the tasks at hand.
When someone comes to you with negative feedback, what is the
first thing you think to yourself?
• Here we go again. Another annoying
complainer. This is a waste of my time.
• I'm going to sit here and pretend to listen to this and then give
them the facts on their latest performance measures.
• Why can't he/she pay attention to the really important issues,
like getting this project completed on time?
• Why is it an issue? I need to get more information.
• What is this person really saying here? Or, rather, what is not
being said and maybe needs to be addressed?
The first response is one in which you are focusing on yourself
and your needs. Responses #2 and #3 focus on the goals and needs
of the organization. All of the first three responses are lacking
in empathy. Response #4 focuses on the other person. And response
#5 focuses on the other person and the organization. The last response
shows the most empathy because it goes beyond what is being said.
At the outset, empathy involves real curiosity and a desire to
know or understand. There is a genuine interest in what the person
is saying and feeling. You cannot have empathy without asking questions.
Some typical ones are:
• "Can you say more about
• "Really? That's interesting. Can you be more specific?"
• "I wasn't aware of that. Tell me more."
• "I'm curious about that…let's discuss this in
• "Let me see if I understand you correctly…here
is what I hear you say…"
Managers and leaders who are high in empathy skills are able to
pick up emotional cues. They can appreciate not only what a person
is saying, but also why they are saying it.They also understand
where a person's feelings might come from.
Those that do not have empathy have a tendency to misread the
other person. They do not ask questions to clarify. They do not
pay attention to non-verbal cues. Those people who are analytical
by nature will listen to the words, facts and figures and completely
miss the real message of what is being said.
If we remember that only 7% of the message is carried in the words
and the rest is in the non-verbal cues, then listening to the content
of what is being said may actually be misleading.
Learning the Skills of Empathy
How is effective empathy learned if you are one of those task-oriented
managers who is primarily focused on achievement? The good news
is that your achievement orientation and focusing abilities will
help you in acquiring empathy skills. The bad news is that it may
not be natural at first. Fortunately, empathy is a learned capability
and like other competencies, it can be acquired.
Here are some steps to take to begin improving empathy as an effective
management tool. Like all the emotional competencies, it is better
to practice with an experienced coach who can monitor and give
effective feedback. Reading a book and taking a class can both
help to gain a greater cognitive understanding of what is involved.
However, empathy skills must be learned experientially, that is,
practiced in the field in real-time.
Ten Ways to Develop Empathy
a log of situations in which you felt you were able to demonstrate
empathyand a log in which you felt you did not. Make a note
of missed opportunities to respond with empathy.
aware of incidents where there may be some underlying concerns
that are not explicitly expressed by others.
a note of possible emotions or feelings that the other person
may be experiencing. Keep an open mind and never assume, merely
explore the possibilities.
a list of questions to ask at your next encounter with that
person. Try to make the questions open-ended, that is, questions
that can't be answered by yes or no.
listening without interrupting. Wait until the other person
is complete with their point of view before offering yours.
being defensive in order to create an open dialogue where possibilities
can be explored freely.
creative time for people to express opinions and ideas without
active listening: always check out the meaning of what was
said with the person speaking. Paraphrasing what was said helps
to clear up misconceptions and to deepen understanding.
bring focus back into the conversation. Remember that optimal
effectiveness is achieved by a combination of focus and empathy.
on achieving an effective balance of focus, goal orientation
and empathic listening.
The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence
The following examples of return-on-investment studies offer a
bottom-line rationale for emotional competency training in hiring,
selecting, and retaining personnel, developing performance measurements,
and in managing customer relationships.
After supervisors in a manufacturing
plant received training in emotional competencies such as how
to listen better and help employees resolve problems on their
own, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent, formal grievances
were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and
the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham,
In another manufacturing plant where
supervisors received similar training, production increased 17
percent. There was no such increase
in production for a group of matched supervisors who were not
trained (Porras & Anderson,
The US Air Force used the EQ-I (Emotional Quotient Inventory,
Multi-Health Systems, Toronto) to select recruiters and found that
the most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in the
emotional competencies of assertiveness, empathy, happiness and
emotional self-awareness. They found that by using EI to select
recruiters, they increased their ability to predict successful
recruiters by nearly three-fold. The immediate gain was a saving
of $3 million annually.
An analysis of more than 300 top level executives from fifteen
global companies showed that six emotional competencies distinguished
star performers from average: influence, team leadership, organizational
awareness, self-confidence, achievement drive, and leadership (Spencer,
Financial advisors at American Express whose managers completed
the Emotional Competence training program were compared to managers
who had not. During the year following training, the trained managers
grew their businesses by 18.1% compared to 16.2% of those whose
managers were untrained.
In a large beverage firm, using standard methods to hire division
presidents, 50% left within two years, mostly because of poor performance.
When they started selecting based on emotional competencies such
as initiative, self-confidence, and leadership, only 6% left in
two years. The executives selected based on EI were far more likely
to perform in the top third: 87% were in the top third. Division
leaders with these competencies outperformed their targets by 15
to 20 percent. Those who lacked emotional competencies under-performed
those that did by almost 20% (McClelland, 1999).
Resources is a Leadership Consulting, Training and Executive Coaching
Firm Helping Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally
Intelligent People; Emotional Intelligence-Based Interviewing and
Selection; Multi-Rater 360-Degree Feedback; Career Coaching; Change
Management; Corporate Culture Surveys and Executive Coaching.
Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach
Trusted Advisor to Senior Leadership Teams
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