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Are you missing out on the potential of emotional intelligence?


Now more than ever, organisations need to invest in their leadership. Liz Wilson argues that emotional intelligence training could be key to success.
Daniel Goleman, the daddy of emotional intelligence tells a story in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ about an airline pilot who noticed a problem with the landing gear in his plane as he came into land. As he obsessively focused on the landing gear he was oblivious to the fuel levels dropping as he circled around above the runway. He had such a reputation for being domineering and intimidating that even when it was apparent that the plane was about to crash due to lack of fuel, his co-pilots didn’t say anything – they were so fearful of his temper. The plane crashed and ten people died.
As Goleman points out, the cockpit is pretty much a microcosm of any organisation – the destructive impact that such behaviour can have on the workforce – low morale, bullied workers and manipulative bosses – can sometimes be overlooked, until productivity dips, deadlines are missed, mistakes happen and employees move on. Inevitably low emotional intelligence and its effect hit the bottom line.


Emotional intelligence – soft skills or tactics?

The power of emotional intelligence is more and more being acknowledged as a power to reckon with, and those organisations who see the potential of developing leaders who can build effective relationships with each other and their customers are the organisations who will see success and longevity beyond the recession.
Being emotionally intelligent is not a soft option; it’s about using tactics that move through the organisation from leader to workforce, tactics that demonstrate respect, trust, inclusion, diversity, integrity and equality. Most organisations are experiencing a time of change. Change of external circumstances, change introduced to consolidate, streamline and mitigate losses, change to guarantee survival. Only those who can adapt their behaviour to the new rules and who can be flexible and resilient will see this is an opportunity rather than a threat. Those leaders who recognise the importance of an engaged workforce will have grasped the golden ticket.
“Of all the no-brainers in all the executive suites in all the world, winning the engagement of your employees must come near the top of the list. And yet, survey data seems to indicate that managers are failing spectacularly to achieve that aim.” So comments Stefan Stern, writing in the Financial Times earlier this year.
The ‘soft skills’ of communication – listening, feedback, empathy – can make the difference between an engaged and motivated workforce and one that feels ignored, disrespected and unvalued. The ‘soft skills’ of intuition and noticing others’ emotions and valuing them will build stronger working relationships where openness and trust abound.
There is nothing ‘soft’ about being able to deliver a difficult message around redundancy or pay freezes in a way that helps the workforce see this time as an opportunity and that they are valued and respected for their contribution and commitment. Those are tactical skills – tactics that will keep a workforce ‘on your side’ even when the going gets tough. And when the going gets easier again, you are more likely to have an engaged, skilled workforce still in place.

EI leadership training and KASH – a model for success

So the need to invest in EI leadership training in a time of recession is clear. However the reason that so much training is a waste of time and money is that the key elements of attitudes and habits are ignored, concentrating pretty much entirely on knowledge and skills. If an individual is unaware of the interferences that cloud their performance, it doesn’t matter how many skills training courses they attend, the challenges will come back to get in the way of success.
Tim Gallwey talks about ‘interferences’ in his series of outstanding leadership books The Inner Game. He talks about a performance formula as follows: P (performance) = p (potential) – i (interference)
EI leadership training using the KASH model (knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits) identifies the attitudes and habits of individuals, leaders and teams as well as imparting knowledge and skills. It delivers a process that develops positive attitudes and habits that create outstanding leadership. It supports leaders as they raise their awareness around their interferences and find an approach that helps them know they can change their attitude and behaviour to remove them.

Does EI impact on profitability?

The way a leader manages his or her emotions, attitudes and behaviour impacts the climate and culture of the organisation as a whole: leaders impact on employees, employees impact on customers and the loyalty and purchasing power of the customer has the direct impact on the bottom line. So the question ‘can profitability be attributed to emotional intelligence?’ has a simple answer. It absolutely can be!

The following chart shows the relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) competencies with a high enough emotional quotient (EQ) to positively affect performance (based on 360 data), and the amount of profit generated at a multinational services firm per year per partner. In this chart (below) self-regulation – i.e. how we manage ourselves and our relationships with others – has the highest impact on profits.

In this chart, self-regulation – ie how we manage ourselves and our relationships with others – has the highest impact on profits.

To summarise: emotional intelligence is not ‘soft’, that it is a tactical approach to developing the performance of an individual by raising awareness around interferences that block potential. For organisations to come out at the other end of the recession fit for purpose and ready to fly, leaders need to develop their own emotional intelligence and impact on that of their workforce.

Training programmes that concentrate on skills and knowledge have their place, however including work around attitudes and habits of highly effective people can raise the performance within organisations quicker and more effectively, and will have a longer lasting impact on the efficacy of those organisations

Liz Wilson is director and one of the lead behavioural change specialists at TWP. She blogs at and is the co-author of Emotional Intelligence Coaching – improving performance for leaders, coaches and the individual, nominated for the FT Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year 2009

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