I’ve extensively quoted and cited the expanding body of emotional intelligence research for many years in my writing and workshops. This rigorous and ever deepening research provides hard evidence for the catalytic power of “soft skills” in personal, team, and organizational performance. EI brings empirical science and greater clarity to the fuzzy topic of leadership.
Many of my audiences and workshop participants are technical specialists in medicine, engineering, academics, aviation, logistics, law, mining, government and the like who have been promoted to management positions because of their technical expertise. The EI research and frameworks are a very effective way to discuss leadership by starting with the head or intellect to get at issues of the heart. EI is about recognizing and controlling my own emotions as well as tuning into and influencing the emotions of others.
“The Relation Between Emotional Intelligence and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis” was recently published online in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. If you’re academically inclined you can read the study with all its technical detail, methodology, and research citations. Richard Boyatzis, a professor at Case Western Reserve University and co-author of the bestselling book Primal Leadership (click on title for my Amazon book review and scroll down the page to it) said “Emotional intelligence is a field of study characterized by contradicting claims, models and methods. But the meta-analysis by O’Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack, Hawver and Story lends light where there has been darkness. They took an impressively comprehensive view of EI and amassed a much larger collection of studies linking EI to intelligence, personality and job performance. This will be a source of inspiration to scholars and a guide for those lost in the confusing morass of claims, critiques and posturing.”
Daniel Goleman, the EI pioneer and leading guru in the field, recently posted an excellent blog entitled Performance Reviews: It’s Not Only What You Say, But How You Say It citing research that a manager’s tone and approach is critical in delivering positive or negative feedback. Goleman notes, “In one study, when people got positive performance feedback that was delivered in a negative, cold tone of voice, they came out of the session feeling down – despite the good news. Amazingly, when negative feedback came in a warm, positive tone of voice, they felt upbeat and energized.”
I always poll audiences to find out who is familiar with the Emotional Intelligence research. The numbers are growing, but still way too small among most supervisors, managers, and executives. This work gets at the heart of what they’re being paid to do – lead from the inside out. Far too many people in supervisory positions (at all levels) are providing technical expertise or management, and very little leadership.
In our workshops we’ll often do a balance check exercise based on our High-Performance Balance. This is a simple triangle model that looks at what percent of time we’re investing in technical/technology, management (systems/processes), and leadership (people.) Participants then look at what amount of time they’d like to spend in these three areas. I’ve yet to find a group that doesn’t say they want to spend more time in Leadership and less time in Technology and Management. This leads us in lively discussions on why we’re not spending as much time leading as we’d like to.
There are many reasons both inside and outside of our control. But if participants are going to make progress in re-balancing their focus – and improving their EI/leadership – they need to do less looking out the window and more looking in the mirror – and finding the courage to stretch their comfort zone (CLICK HERE for a previous post on that topic.)