Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emotional Intelligence & Empathy: Part 1

This is reprinted from Greystone Consulting Group's latest newsletter, written by my friend Jim Harding, from Annapolis, MD.

Managing with Emotional Intelligence:
The Power of Empathy

The business community has embraced the concept of emotional intelligence and its importance ever since Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book, Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998). But the challenge that lies ahead is to demonstrate that such competencies can be acquired and when they are, that they significantly impact employee performance.

New studies in corporations that have adopted emotional intelligence training have shown that “EI” can be trained and it is effective. When programs are implemented there are overall improvements in productivity and profits. Furthermore, up to 90% of the difference between outstanding and average leaders is linked to emotional intelligence. “EI” is two times as important as IQ and technical expertise combined, and is four times as important in terms of overall success.

The research continues to mount as evidence of the effectiveness of EI training programs, yet many leaders in the business world continue to await further quantitative analysis. Before being able to address the emotional competencies that they know are significantly impacting their organizational efficiency, they want further proof. There continues to be reluctance to address anything “emotional” when it comes to business, even when the word “intelligence” is tacked on behind it.

What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your own feelings and those of others, and the ability to motivate yourself and others, as well as to manage your own emotions and those of others. Essentially, there are four competencies:

1. Understanding yourself, or self-awareness
2. Managing yourself, or self-management
3. Understanding others, or social awareness
4. Managing others, or social skills

Perhaps it would be better to simplify the concept. Emotional intelligence increases when people commit themselves to building practical competencies in the context of every day situations. Nothing can be more powerful than developing empathy skills during everyday conversations on the job.

One of the foundation skills that contributes to a manager’s or leader’s success is the skill of empathy. It starts with self-awareness, in that understanding your own emotions is essential to understanding the feelings of others. It is crucial to effective communication and to leading others. Lack of empathy is a primary cause of interpersonal difficulties that lead to poor performance, executive derailment, and problems with customer relationships.

Empathy, as a competency skill, is poorly understood by those who need it most; and, it is even more difficult to train and acquire. Most people believe you either have it or you don’t. Many hard-driving managers lack a propensity for developing empathy because they assume it’s for those they see as “touchy-feely” types. Some very intelligent leaders are walking around blindly using only their powers of reasoning and wondering why everyone doesn’t see things their way.

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of derailment in executives involve deficits in emotional competence, and in particular, these three primary ones:

1. Difficulty in handling change.
2. Not being able to work well as a team.
3. Poor interpersonal relations.

Without an adequate capacity to understand the other’s point of view, some managers lack sufficient flexibility for change, cannot work well with team collaboration, and cannot relate well with the very people that affect the results they are trying to achieve.

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