Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Who Needs Emotional Intelligence?

I was talking to Robyn Greenspan the other day. Robyn edits one of our newsletters called CareerSmart Advisor. Robyn is also probably the closest I'll ever get to knowing a reality TV show celebrity - her brother is one of the contestants on Martha Stewart's soon-to-debut Apprentice show, but that's another story.

Robyn was talking to me about doing a piece on EI. At first I thought she meant one of our other newsletters called Executive Insider, but that wasn't the case. She was talking about what is known in the trade as Emotional Intelligence which came from Daniel Goleman's book Working with Emotional Intelligence. Since I had not read Goleman's book, and knowing my type A personality, she gave me the cliff note definition of EI which went like this: "...the ability to make decisions based on assessing the feelings of others and self." She also shared with me the EI (aka EQ -Emotional Quotient) competency set from Goleman's book:

  • Self-Awareness – knowing your internal emotional status and behavioral tendencies. Includes: emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence.

  • Self-Regulation – managing your internal state and external impulses. Includes: self control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability and innovation.

  • Motivation – tendencies that facilitate reaching goals. Includes: achievement drive, commitment, initiative and optimism.

  • Empathy – awareness of the feelings of others needs and concerns. Includes: understanding others, developing others, service orientation, leveraging diversity and political awareness.

  • Social Skills – proficiency in promoting desirable responses in others. Includes: influence, communication, conflict management, leadership, change catalyst, building bonds, collaboration and cooperation, and team capabilities.

Source: Adapted from Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, PhD

So I am reading and talking about all this and wondering what all the excitement is about. Doesn't it just stand to reason that if a leader does a good job at "assessing the feelings of others and self" that things would go a heck of a lot better than if they didn't? I mean how hard it that to understand? Isn't it just common sense?

After congratulating myself on the fact that I didn't need a book to tell me all this, that, after all, these were all traits that I saw myself as having in spades, I then paused to ask myself, “Well look Dave, if you had all this EI DNA going on then how was it that you have had more than your fair share of managerial screw ups over the years? And by the way, if you see yourself as such an EI superstar, how come you didn't do a better job at raising your kids, or how come you were batting considerably less than 1.000 when it came to making hiring decisions or any of the other nearly limitless items you could add to such a list?”

The more I thought about it, the faster it brought me back to the reality that understanding something on an intellectual level was a hell of a lot different than understanding it on an emotional level and certainly much easier on either level than living it day-to-day.

I guess that's one of the reasons why there will always be a rich market for people to help coach me to learn and apply what I already "know".

1 comment:

Karen Armon said...

Emotional Intelligence leaves me a bit cold. Of course, I understand that we must be able to listen and respond to each other's feelings but I'm not too sure that it should be a major marker in discerning one's ability to lead.

For example, I occasionally get the hidden bait from someone who wants me to sooth their emotions and make them feel better about themselves. In reality, I would be better, in my opinion, to challenge why they are feeling the way they are. I think we need recognize it for what it is -- a desire to be validated (at whatever level) for one's emotions rather than one's own clearly thought out rationale.

That's why when I hear the emotional validation question, I usually sidestep the issue. It doesn't help either of us to think clearly about a topic or an issue if emotions are also in the mix.

And I'm not too sure that we should be thinking about reasoning vs. emotion. I, frankly, believe that emotions are a signal of our conscience reasoning. If our conscience is not lining up with our emotions, something is off kilter. Usually we "feel" worry, doubt or something unsettling. If our conscience and emotions fit, we feel peace, joy or satisfaction.

Maybe we should shift our thinking and consider rational emotions and conscience-based intellect.

I'm really not objecting to the basis of Emotional Intelligence. I understand the premise. What I am most concerned about, however, is our willingness to validate an already emotion-filled society! Just talk to school officials and understand the out-of-control parents and kids that has turned our schools into parental centers of discipline. Or customer service representatives who increasingly have to hear diatribes from people who are emotionally out of control over the most minor of things.

We have allowed each of us to be so personally hung-up on getting our needs met that we have lost all semblance of civility. I fear that we are creating a language and code whose desire is to have our personal feelings satisfied at all costs. That is not a good thing.

I think we need to have some discussions about why we feel the way we do. And take responsibility for our emotions and not ask others to have to bend over backwards to figure out why you feel the way you do.

Emotional Intelligence, as a major form of leadership thinking, is more about superficiality and satiating ourselves. I would rather the discussion be about Conscience Choices.