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Feature: Emotional Intelligence in Practice


In this case study, Maureen Bowes, specialist in Emotional Intelligence (EI), looks at the difference EI made to one management team.

In June 2004 Weymouth and Portland Housing (WPH) were looking for a management development programme that would make a difference for their top management team. Faced with changing times ahead they wanted a programme that built on existing knowledge and skills from previous management development training, and would deliver lasting results. They selected Potential Minus Interference – Developmental Coaching for Top Teams* a programme based on emotional intelligence.

In October 2005 they were upbeat with their results:
* A new, redefined and rejuvenated management group, with a specific identity, agreed core values and key objectives.
* Enjoyable, productive and efficient management group meetings with manager driven agendas.
* Problems addressed and conflicts resolved, respectfully.
* Improved interpersonal and stronger interdepartmental relationships.
* Effective cross-team communications, demonstrating clarity and assertiveness.
* The ‘right’ attitude, commitment, pro-activity, confidence and courage.
* Setbacks overcome, managers motivated through increased personal insights.

Hard to quantify, but important to recognise were the qualitative differences made within the company by the above developments and the benefits of effective use of managers’ time and energy. A benchmark questionnaire at the start and completion of the programme showed 5 –12% improvement in the group’s top three development areas.

Factors that contributed to the programme’s success:
1. Programme design: A programme designed to address current individual, team and company needs, with a realistic time scale for change to be evident – in this case one year.

2. Top down commitment: The entire top team, including the CEO, two directors and 12 managers, participated in the programme attending one day a month for six months plus a final review day.

3. The starting point - raised self-awareness. Each participant:
* Completed an online psychometric (individual effectiveness) questionnaire.
* Received 360º feedback and discussed individual results in a one-to-one session with the facilitator.
* Received a narrative report with practical suggestions for how to apply EI.
* Chose the area they wished to develop according to their current circumstances, awareness and commitment (self-directed learning).

4. Commitment to action. Each participant:
* Identified action points and was accountable to the management group for implementing them.
* Had a support person within the management group for each action point, who gave feedback and listened to the progress the participant was making.

5. Developmental coaching: Because group members vary in their knowledge, skills, strengths and vulnerabilities, regular individual coaching with the facilitator was available to each participant. During these sessions the participant could highlight, explore and find solutions to their ‘interference’ – whatever was getting in their way – and identify ways of removing or minimising this.

6. Flexibility: A facilitator with a flexible approach is imperative to a development programme of this kind. Participants are taken out of their comfort zone from the psychometric profile onwards. There is resistance and storming so the content of the programme has to accommodate the process required to progress the group.
The main themes were:
Essentials of success – Identity, trust and efficacy
Going for Gold – shared purpose, vision and goals
A courageous culture – open communication and conflict
Making it happen – self management and motivation
Habit forming - effective habits to apply and maintain personal and group learning

7. Review: The Review Day was scheduled six months later and was based on the evaluation criterion What difference has this intervention made to the well being of the organisation? Each participant gave a brief presentation of their journey and reinforced, for everyone, the distance they had covered. The level of progress made for each individual was in direct proportion to their level of commitment.

8. Reflecting: Each participant produced a project to outline what difference the programme had made to them individually and for the company. The projects were confidential between the participant, the facilitator and the CEO. They reflected the areas of greatest and least benefit for each individual from the programme, and these were as varied as the individual participants. For some, the 360° feedback had been a turning point, others had strong views against the feedback. Some valued the one to one coaching as the main factor in their development, others developed most from conscientiously applying their action points. Some gained most benefit from integrating more into the group and, through this group working, gaining greater understanding of individual strengths and forging interdepartmental links. Others valued most reflecting on the PMI resource folder as an invaluable reference tool for “correct handling of situations” and as a “route map” for personal development.

So how does EI make a difference?
With the above factors were in place, the participants took ownership of a set of principles for effective interpersonal relationships, principles which, when applied, became the ‘code of practice’ or ‘the way we do things around here’. These principles can be simplified as respecting and valuing one another. In Transactional Analysis this involves demonstrating "I’m OK You’re OK" behaviour, which is achieved by being effective in the following four areas:
* Self-awareness
* Self-management
* Awareness of others
* Relationship management

These are the foundations of EI. Effectiveness here means people change in how they feel about things, how they think about things and how they do things. So new patterns of behaviour emerge and become accepted as the norm. This changes attitudes. People recognise their self worth and become willing to step out of their comfort zone, breaking through whatever was holding them back.

*Adapted from Timothy Gallwey’s coaching formula Performance = Potential – Interference

Maureen Bowes runs and is editor of the ezine AppliedEI.


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