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What is it?
Essentially, the term emotional intelligence sums up personal qualities like empathy and self-knowledge – the “people skills” which are vital to flatter, more collaborative organisations.
US psychologist Daniel Goleman, who popularised the concept and applied it to the workplace, believes EI covers the following aspects of personality: self-awareness, emotional management, self-motivation, empathy, relationship management, communication skills and personal style.
Searching for measures of intuition and personal qualities is not new – psychologists were researching it in the 1920s. But the term “emotional intelligence” was first coined by two US psychologists – Peter Salovey and John Mayer – in the 1980s.
This concept was marooned in the academic world until Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more than IQ, was published in 1996.This idea’s time had come. It clarified the need to combine intellectual ability with intuition in the corporate world, and asserted that developing managers with high levels of EI made business sense.
Goleman and others conclude from their research that a combination of average IQ and well-developed EI make more difference in terms of individual success than differences in IQ alone.
In the UK, Dr Malcolm Higgs and Professor Victor Dulewicz of Henley Management College, have studied its impact on management careers. They based their findings on a seven-year study of 100 managers who had attended the college. They found that, while IQ accounted for about a quarter of the variation in individual success, EI accounted for half.
Testing for EI is the next step, and there are a number of tests available in the UK. Following UK research, Henley Management College has developed the first one, published by assessment, training and consultancy service ASE.
Other tests include BarOnEQ-i, Simmons EQ Insights/Profile, Q-Metrics, developed in California and ECI 360, created by Daniel Goleman and available through Hay Management Consultants.
EI promises to develop staff more effectively at all levels, and improve communication, team working, customer service and leadership skills. Companies such as specialist training company Ei (UK) stress that understanding your own motives and empathising with others can have a dramatic effect on skills such as selling techniques, for example.
Developing individual self-knowledge is the starting point, and recent research carried out by test producer MHS of Canada suggests that staff who have mastered EI do better in other competencies.
Elizabeth Morris, a partner at human performance consultancy Buckholdt Associates, believes this is because EI can change the way staff think and feel, as well as how they behave.
“For me, this is not a soft skill – the key is self-awareness,” she says. “You have to understand your own feelings first, and accept the information which is contained there. Otherwise, you are just puffed up with pseudo-confidence.”
Pros and cons
EI is in its infancy, and has attracted a lot of media coverage. So it is hard to separate the hype from what is really on offer in business terms. Choosing the right solution could be even harder in future, as the training market may soon be flooded with quick-fix “solutions”.
On the plus side, research does seem to show that there is something in this theory, as long as companies accept that raising levels of EI is a long-term strategy, and do not buy the idea that it is something staff can pick up from a two-day training course.
Who’s on board?
A number of organisations are now addressing EI in their management development programmes.
Daniel Goleman, US psychologist.
Reuven Bar-on, author of EQ-i, the first scientifically developed measure of social and emotional intelligence, published by Multi Health Systems in Canada, and a pioneer in assessing emotional intelligence.
In the UK, Professor Victor Dulewicz and Dr Malcolm Higgs of Henley Management College specialise in this area.
HR professionals have a vital part to play when it comes to making EI work. As Peter Melrose of Hay Management Consultants puts it, “HR has two key roles – one is to be fully aware of what EI is all about and the other is to ensure the organisation understands the business relevance of EI.”
Personnel departments need to approach EI sceptically and analytically. In his second book, Daniel Goleman stresses that meaningful standards and yardsticks for EI are essential, and devotes a chapter to best practice in measuring and developing EI in the workplace.
Emotional Intelligence (1996) and Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998) Daniel Goleman, published by Bloomsbury
Measuring Emotional Intelligence, Steve Simmons and John C Simmons Jr, published by Summit Publishing, Texas
Executive EQ, Robert Cooper, published by Orion Business Paperbacks
Making Sense of Emotional Intelligence, Dr Malcolm Higgs and Prof Victor Dulewicz, NFER/Nelson
Web site of EQ Today, published by 6 Seconds, a non-profit making organisation which gives advice on EI and produces training
Contains details about academics in field of EI
Web site for specialist training company Ei (UK)
Where to find EI specialists
Visit the personneltoday.com directory of suppliers by clicking here
By sally O’Reilly