Brainfood: Crash course in ... Raising Emotional Intelligence

A consultant has filed a report saying that your firm is hampered by failing to develop its people's EQ. Sounds like an old Spielberg movie, but apparently it's shorthand for Emotional Intelligence.

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

So what is it? Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is a doctrine that argues that to achieve maximum success, individuals need to be aware of their own and others' emotions, and to be able to manage them. Daniel Goleman wrote the key book in 1995.

Don't wait for a problem. Emotions run at their highest in a crisis, so ensure your staff are managing their interpersonal relationships before you get there. 'If you build the principles of EQ into your everyday practices, you can head off a difficult situation,' says Andy Smith of Coaching Leaders.

Take the pulse. Find out team members' EQ scores. Evaluation tools range from self-assessment tests to the 360-degree Emotional Competence Inventory, developed by Goleman and Hay Group. Once you've measured where you are, concentrate on getting better.

Focus first on leaders. 'The higher up you apply the principles, the more impact it will have,' says Smith. 'People resonate with each other's emotions, and research shows that leaders set the emotional climate within the organisation.' It may be worth training others too. For example, call-centre staff can be coached in dealing with angry customers.

Make it personal. 'Developing EQ needs individual work,' says Professor Malcolm Higgs, academic dean at Henley Management College. 'It cannot be developed in the training room. A combination of assessment to identify needs and coaching/mentoring tends to be the most effective route.'

Recruit and home-grow. It's one of the tenets of the theory that, unlike IQ, you can improve your EQ. Still, some of us have more of it than others, so adopt a dual strategy of recruiting people with a high EQ while developing existing employees.

Create an EQ culture. Organisations have Emotional Intelligence, too.

It's manifested in thinking styles, the way people are treated and the awareness the organisation has about itself and the companies it deals with. 'It is to do with an organisation having a culture that supports and nurtures EQ behaviours,' says Higgs.

Incentivise people. You won't get them to buy into EQ unless you persuade them there's something in it for them - that they'll be more effective and successful.

Keep it confidential. If you want people to be honest about their emotions and the way they deal with others, give them space to do so. Probably best not to hold your EQ sessions in the middle of the office floor.

Do say: 'Helping our people to understand their own emotions and those of colleagues will lead to more effective management, greater motivation and less stress.'

Don't say: 'Everyone should leave their emotions at home.'

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