Leadership dimensions are plentiful: visioning, communicating, planning, inspiring, and much more. One thing all leaders have in common is followers - those who help the leader make things happen. As such, relationships are the lifeblood of leadership achievement, and there is no better way to both understand and enrich those relationships than through the lens of emotional intelligence (EI). Coaches or consultants, as well as organizations using EI as a frame or perspective, will find that their communication is clearer, implementation is achieved, and overall engagement and satisfaction greatly improve.
Why and how does EI make a difference in leadership?
Leaders who utilize relationship, empathy, and problem-solving behaviors are likely to have both a clear understanding of what is needed in a situation and how to communicate information in such a way that it can really be heard. Furthermore, can there be any doubt that optimistic leaders are more satisfying to work with and for? As noted previously, these are the kinds of behaviors that emotionally intelligent leaders demonstrate, and fortunately, all of these behaviors are learnable.
The path for learning more about these behaviors begins with assessing how a leader currently displays and uses them. The EQ-i assessment provides an excellent way to tap into 15 emotional and social skills that give leaders the edge for strengthening their organizations at all levels.
Recently, John Ellis, the president of a company with 4,000 employees, was puzzled by an internal survey of employees that showed uneven satisfaction, distrust of managers, and a general attitude of little commitment to the work and the organization. Ellis's human resource and training director pointed out in a cover memo to the report that employee turnover numbers were high and expensive.
Wisely, an article on EI was also attached to the report. John reflected on what seemed to be a sorry state of affairs, and he wanted a way to approach these complex issues. He asked for more explanation of how EI could help, and he offered to take the EQ-i assessment in the spirit of learning "more about this stuff."
When the interpretation of the EQ-i was completed, John realized that his own behaviors around showing interest in others, engaging interpersonally, being adaptable, showing calm, and generally communicating an optimistic perspective were merely cascading down through the organization. It was transparently clear to him that these behaviors do matter; there was one thing he was absolutely sure about. The current behavior from the leaders in the organization was not going to make the culture shift that he felt was needed. He concluded that leaders in his organization needed to become more emotionally intelligent and that he needed to start with himself.
How do you initiate EI training in your organization?
Your first task is to link organizational goals to EI skills so that you can determine which of the extensively researched assessments - EQ-i, EQ 360, or MSCEIT - will help reach the awareness needed to foster development inside the organization. So to make the case for enhancing EI behaviors through training, you need to do some homework to show the explicit link between EI along with
- the leadership principles or values of the organization
- the developmental climate in the organization.
You are now ready to position EI as a value-add. Decision makers want to know "what's in this for me?" or "us?" Be prepared to show thorough examples (and data if available) of how becoming more emotionally intelligent within teams, with customer service or sales reps, or in daily associate interactions can help the organization be focused and healthy. Provide some examples that illustrate certain situations when individuals use or enhance their EI-related behaviors (Table 1).
No doubt you will find that EI is competing with other ideas within the organization. For example, there are others who might argue that EI is "too conceptual," while communication training is more pragmatic. You need to have a candid strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats analysis on what EI brings the organization over competing models of development.
Be sure to articulate how EI facilitates not just communication effectiveness (or other competing training topics) but also an increase in individual performance that affects all levels of the organization. For example, you might illustrate the value of EI using the SWOT shown in Table 2.
You can address the weaknesses and threats with a couple of important reminders. EI assessments such as the EQ-i are thoroughly researched and comprehensive, which makes it possible to get the most out of the learning event. Although the assessments and concepts are complex, the long-term value for the organization makes them worth the effort. As for threats, an effective facilitator can help audiences understand that grasping how emotions enhance performance throughout one's life elevates opportunities for achieving personal and professional goals.
Furthermore, it is vital that everyone understand who is associated with an EI learning event and that reports are confidential and belong only to the individual who took the assessment. The individual has to embrace their results and make the commitment to enhance specific behaviors.
Facilitate getting your next opportunity to make EI a part of organization life and to provide leaders with the performance edge they seek by
- knowing your "buyers" in the organization - their needs, expectations, hopes
- understanding the benefits of EI tools and the EI training you want to provide
- aligning individual and organizational goals with EI learning event outcomes.
How do we create an action plan?
There are specific actions you can take to promote the awareness and potential use of EI frameworks in your organization. As a quick summary, use the following list as a reference to create opportunities and increase the chances of your success:
- Define your EI services, products, and experiences, and identify the products or services that align with organizational goals.
- Identify your target decision makers and end users, and understand how they can use the training to enhance effectiveness.
- Establish a clear link between using EI insights to satisfy organizational and developmental needs.
- Determine how EI will be a developmental experience for all, regardless of role.
- Describe the unique characteristics and benefits of your EI products.
- Define how costs compare with other training or coaching services.
- Identify how you will use EI assessments and learning experiences, and how these will be available to end users.
- Share any research that supports development activities that are unique to EI such as the linkage of intrapersonal, interpersonal, stress management, adaptability, and general mood.
- Describe how enhancing EI competencies will facilitate talent management throughout the organization.
Give yourself and your organization the leadership edge. Make EI behaviors commonplace in everyday organizational life.