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Leading with EI
Other readings on EI by The
10 Dimensions for EI Teams
EI – Why it Matters
EI at School
EI, Values & Behaviour
Culture, Connectivity & EI
More insights on EI in
Issues #4, #7, #10
The Change Forum conducts both
2-day & 1-day clinics
for leaders on Leading with Emotional Intelligence
You might also be interested to
...it's every manager's business
Bill Cropper, Director – The Change Forum © 2004-14
Case for EI
Emotions ARE management’s business. The cost
of lack of emotional intelligence at work is huge in terms of staff turnover,
low work output, stress, mistakes and poor customer service – but they
often go unnoticed.
As you talk to one of your staff about how
the new invoice system’s going, you notice a tone in their voice or a
look that gives away the fact they’re having trouble with it. There are feelings here. And it’s the
manager’s job to find out how they’re getting in the way of the job –
and help them to deal with it. This is human kindness. But it’s also
practical business sense too.
People can’t focus and do good work if
they’re distracted by strong emotions. It’s at the ‘feelings’ level
where many performance and productivity problems lie. To do something
about it, you need to connect with feelings. And this takes ‘emotional
The basic business case for EI is simple.
Good moods equal good work. Bad moods are bad for business. As a
manager, you exert a powerful emotional pull on the feelings of your
Your moods can deeply influence the way
other people feel about work, the workplace climate and ultimately
performance and productivity.
When leaders manage emotions positively,
they inspire extra effort and focus. They resonate and bring out the
best in others.
The reverse applies too. Managers who use
emotions negatively cause dissatisfaction, demoralise and sap the
spirit of their staff.
We also know now that every decision we make
is directly influenced by emotions. In fact, without feelings, our
decision-making ability is impaired. So much for rational
Feelings percolate through every aspect of
working life. They affect how well we do in terms of reaching our goals,
task-concentration and forging good work and business relationships.
Yet many managers still see the idea of tuning into emotions at work as a
hindrance to rational business practice. Feelings are put in the ‘too
hard’ (or is it the ‘too soft’?) basket.
Many managers maintain feelings have nothing
to do with the objective bottom line or getting good business results.
Faced with strong feelings, one response is to
work at ‘staying rational’ and keeping ‘messy emotions’ that ‘cloud good
judgement’ under control.
Even if you’re in tune with your feelings, you
may still feel uncomfortable to express them at work. Many managers think
it might typecast them as weak, undisciplined or vulnerable.
Funnily enough, ‘motivation’ and ‘emotion’
both come from the same Latin root word – motere –meaning ‘to
move’. Emotions are what move or motivate us towards an action or goal.
If emotions fuel motivation and drive action, managers need to start
seeing EI as an indispensable tool for great leadership!
We’ve all seen it in action. There’s the
sales-person who gets along so naturally with everyone, doesn’t push and
always manages to close. There’s the waiter who handles difficult diners
effortlessly. There’s the manager who builds such strong bonds with staff
that they can fire them up to do almost anything.
What all these people have in common is
Knowing your own emotions and moods and
Using feelings to get more positive outcomes
in relationships with others
Coping better with frustration, controlling
outbursts and getting along with others
Having a good idea of how our feelings and
emotions are impacting on others
Choosing how we think, feel and act (rather
than being flooded by our feelings)
Being able to control or redirect
disruptive, damaging or impulsive urges
Pursuing goals with energy and persistence
and applying ourselves to a task with focus
Managing relationships, building networks and establishing rapport
And, the most critical
element…connecting with others or ‘empathy’ – the ability to understand
the emotional makeup of other people and deal with their emotional
Dimensions of EI
(1996), who first popularised the
idea, says EI is a set of emotional capabilities related to the way we
manage and act on our emotions. Here’s an overview of the Four Dimensions
– is being fully mindful of what I feel in the moment and using that to
guide how I choose to behave or respond. If I’m not in touch with my own
feelings, I won’t be good at controlling them – or reading other people’s.
– is how well I can control or regulate my emotions to keep them in
balance – especially negatives ones. If I’m out of touch with what I feel,
I’m at the whim of my feelings – and my feelings control me – especially
powerful ones like anger, frustration or panic.
3. Social Awareness – includes the most powerful of emotionally
intelligent management practices: empathy – the ability to read how others
are feeling, step into their perspective and relate to others – without
allowing yourself to be hijacked by someone else’s feelings.
4. Relationship Management – means building enduring, positive relationships
and using the other EI dimensions to persuade, lead, negotiate,
collaborate and network.
These dimensions are closely tied together. For example: emotionally
intelligent managers monitor their moods with self-awareness, control them
with self-management, understand the impact they have through empathy and
act in ways that resonate well with others' moods through relationship
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A landmark leadership survey Daniel Goleman
cites in Working with Emotional Intelligence
(1998, pp. 40-41)
seven main reasons why leaders fail. All seven connect directly with the
key EI dimensions:
Rigidity: Leaders couldn’t or wouldn’t
adapt their leadership style to different situations
Relationships: Being too harsh,
insensitive, critical or demanding – alienating others
Self-control: Leaders who couldn’t
control angry outbursts, prone to moodiness, tantrums or who handled
Self-responsibility: Leaders who
reacted to failure/criticism by denying, covering-up, or passing the blame
Integrity: Leaders not being seen as
authentic or trustworthy (ie. saying what they mean and doing what they
Social skills: Leaders lacking in
empathy and sensitivity, being abrasive, arrogant, intimidating or
coercive towards staff
Building bonds: Leaders neglecting to
build strong teams or networks of cooperative, mutually supportive
As Goleman explains, while all the failed
leaders were intellectually and technically very high achievers, it was
almost as if "the IQ muscle strengthened itself at the expense of the
muscles for personal and social competence".
People commonly mistake EI for ‘being nice’.
But it’s much more than that. Let’s clear up a few other common
misconceptions about EI...
EI is about self-awareness of our emotions – NOT being obsessed
EI is about controlling our feelings – NOT suppressing or letting
them all hang out
EI is about empathy – NOT sympathy or being swamped by other’s
EI is engaging constructively with other’s feelings – NOT being
an emotional sponge
EI is based on sound neurological principles – NOT just
Brain-Base of EI
EI is literally a brainy idea. It draws on a
lot of recent neuro-anatomical research that shows EI is a real, physical
function of the brain:
We’ve now identified the brain-part that
triggers emotions. It’s the amygdala – an older, more primitive
part of the brain that developed before our new thinking part – known as
The amygdala handles all basic emotional
reactions (eg. fear and anger). It can by-pass our thinking brain and
generate feelings so we can react rapidly – which serves us well as a
A key idea for EI is the ‘emotional hijack’.
Our brains are hard-wired to feel first, think second. When triggered, our
‘feeling’ brain overrides our ‘thinking’ brain. Under the influence of
strong feelings, we react automatically – summed up when we say: "I didn’t
think about it – I just acted instinctively."
The trick is to get the thinking part of our
brain engaged – to let our ‘better judgement’ in – not by ignoring our
feelings but by paying attention to them: naming the thoughts and feelings
that escalate emotional take-overs. This is what Goleman calls
The practice of EI at work provides managers
with a whole new set of tools and techniques for motivating staff, keeping
themselves positive under pressure and building a better and more
productive work climate for your business!
Emotions at Work
More and more managers are now connecting
successful business outcomes with their own level of emotional
intelligence – their ability to ‘tune into themselves’ and be more mindful
of the impact their thinking, feelings, moods and behaviour have on the
people around them. Here are some typical work situations where
you can exercise your EI faculties to get better outcomes:
Coping with difficult customers/colleagues
Handling pressure situations or responding
positively to crises
Dealing with change resistance and anxiety
Managing poor performance or discipline
Confronting dysfunctional work behaviour
Influencing or negotiating with others
Building cohesive, high-spirited teams
Networking and selling your business
Resonant vs Dissonant Leaders
A growing body of research on the human brain
proves managers act as emotional amplifiers for the people around them. As
Daniel Goleman (2002) says: "all eyes turn to the leader for emotional
guidance" – especially in times of pressure or stress.
The way you see or feel about things has
special weight because you are the manager and everyone watches
what you say and do (even if you sometimes think they ignore you).
You guide feelings and have emotional impacts on the workplace in many
ways. For example:
Providing positive appreciation or negative
Modelling positive principles and a can-do
attitude or reinforcing negative attitudes
Inspiring people to follow a shared vision
or leaving them directionless
Giving people a sense of meaning and
confidence in their work or detracting from it
Encouraging innovation and unleashing
creativity or stemming it
Being moody, withdrawn, insensitive or
emotionally open and connective
If a manager’s mood sways the feelings of
others and has a big impact on workplace performance, then being able to
manage your moods – remaining positive, balanced and supportive – is a
Resonant leadership is when:
You tune in to the feelings of staff – read
their emotions, empathise with them and sometimes voice them on their
Our emotional state is picked up by others
and creates the same feelings in them – they resonate with us. This too,
is a biological process called ‘entrainment’.
People feel acknowledged, understood, cared
for – which can help them regain energy and focus, get themselves out of
the doldrums and make work more meaningful.
Dissonant leadership is when
managers are ‘out of touch’ with the feelings of their people. Lacking
empathy, they act in ways that set off negative emotional chain-reactions
In dissonant workplaces there is excessive
anger, fear, high anxiety or sullen silence. Things just feel
continually ‘off-key’ – and there’s little laughing or fun.
Dissonant managers create toxic climates.
Their conversations are laced with cynical contempt, sarcasm, put-downs,
personal attacks and other kinds of aggressive behaviour that create
Dissonant managers come in many guises –
from dictators, bullies, coercers and polite manipulators to those who
are oblivious or just don’t care about how people feel – but they all
have some things in common: they lack empathy; they lack a sense of how
they come across and impact on others; and they have touchy, defensive
Managing your Moods
Emotions may seem trivial from a tough
business viewpoint but they have a real impact on getting work done.
Goleman (2002) cites Yale University findings that:
"Emotions may spread like viruses"
amongst working groups. Buoyant moods boost performance.
But when people feel down, concentration
lapses, mistakes increase and work is likely to be less productive than
when they feel good and work at their best.
Managers who come to work constantly cranky or get exasperated at the
drop of a hat can create a toxic climate if this continues over time.
EI doesn’t mean giving feelings free reign –
letting them run amok or using them to manipulate, stand-over or
emotionally blackmail others. It’s managing your moods – expressing what
you feel constructively.
Mood management means
controlling how you express emotions. Here are some critical
mood management practices to think about:
Name your feelings:
Emotionally intelligent managers in touch
with their feelings can name them. They know the triggers that activate
them, they know the thoughts that fuel them -- and through this process
of naming feelings, they can control them.
Minimise emotional hijacks: Managers unaware of their own emotions can’t
control their feelings -- their feelings control them. This is an
‘emotional hijack’ -- getting swept away by anger or paralysed with
panic. You can’t stop these brain-driven feelings but you can minimise
Thought-changing: Thoughts fuel feelings -- so one effective
technique is to change the thoughts that give rise to negative feelings.
Expressing feelings: One of the hardest tasks for many managers is
being open and honest with yourself and others about what you feel.
People look to their leaders to set the emotional tone by talking about
feelings. As a leader, your feelings are important. People want to know
what they are.
Learned optimism: If your moods set the emotional work tone,
productivity will be better if you’re ‘up’ rather than ‘down’. This
means replacing ‘learned pessimism’ with learned optimism.
Notice the word ‘learned’ -- the way you feel is conditioned behaviour, and
you can learn to change or moderate the way you manage your feelings --
around deadlines, performance pressure, setbacks, failures, scarcity,
Exercise empathy: Empathy is not about being nice to others. It’s
about being able to see where someone else is coming from (even if you
don’t agree with it). Empathy makes practical business sense. People
can’t focus and do good work if they’re distracted by strong emotions.
Leaders lacking in empathy often act in ways that further antagonise or
upset people and create more dissonance.
Emotional Intelligence is what enables
us to pursue and achieve our goals, helps us to focus and see tangibly how
a leader’s feelings and moods affect their own success and the
productivity and performance of others around them.
What’s the emotional climate like around
This FactFile is derived from our program participant Guide: Personal
Mastery: Leading with Emotional Intelligence
Bill Cropper – The Change
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Sources referred to:
Boyatzis, Richard E. and McKee,
Annie 2005, Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting
with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion Harvard Business
School Press, Boston Mas.
Bradberry, Travis & Greaves,
Jean 2009 Emotional Intelligence 2.0 TalentSmart, SanDiego CA
Goleman, Daniel (1996)
Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, Bloomsbury, London
Goleman, Daniel (1998)
Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bloomsbury, London
Goleman, Daniel (2002) The
New Leaders Time-Warner Books
McKee, Annie, Boyatzis, Richard,
Johnston, Frances 2008, Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your
Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your
Effectiveness, Harvard Business School Press, Boston Mas.
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