If you’re in a leadership position and you aren’t getting the results you want, you probably need to do some serious work on upping your EI — your emotional intelligence.
EI is not an ephemeral feel-good concept. It’s grounded in neuroscience, and it has well-researched bottom line implications for business leaders.
Daniel Goleman has been exploring and writing about EI for more than two decades. A psychologist, New York Times science journalist, and the author of international best-selling books on the topic, Goleman has most recently turned his focus on investigating what distinguishes leaders who get great results from those who don’t. He’s identified specific components of EI and the several leadership styles that include them.
“Those leadership styles predict emotional climate,” Goleman told Travel Weekly PLUS. “That is, you make the people who you are leading feel positive, engaged, enthusiastic, and wanting to do their best. And that predicts about 30% of business performance.”
Goleman cites research supporting the positive impact on performance of an emotionally intelligent leader in his book of selected writings, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence (page 40, Leadership That Gets Results).
That’s the upside. There’s also a downside — the negative impact of leaders who lack EI.
“Another way to look at it is the cost of replacing leaders who fail in this domain,” Goleman said. “I was talking to a friend of mine who’s an executive in a global executive search firm. They did a study of leaders that they had recruited, both those who succeeded, and most did, and those were fired because they failed.
“And they found that while the leaders who were fired were invariably hired because of their business expertise, they were universally fired for failure in emotional intelligence. By the way, they found this was true in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The cost of that leadership failure to a business is quite large.”
This is the second of two excerpts from a discussion between Goleman and Travel Weekly PLUS Editor in Chief Diane Merlino.
Q: A lot of our readers are involved with selling travel. What are the characteristics of an emotionally intelligent salesperson?
A: They’re the salespeople who know it’s the feeling they have with the client or customer — it’s the relationship they have — that comes first. The sale comes later. They’re the people who can naturally form a rapport, a chemistry, with people. They’re the people others feel good about being with, they enjoy being with. That takes emotional intelligence.
Q: So there is no deception or manipulation involved in that kind of relationship with customers.
A: Well, it would be manipulative if you were to somehow force what you have to sell on the other person whether it met their needs or not. I wouldn’t say that’s emotional intelligence. I’d say that’s Machiavellian, because you really don’t care about the other person in that scenario. And, by the way, it’s a very bad sales ploy because you lose the repeat business; you ruin the relationship if you leave the person with a bad feeling like that.
I’ve seen data on star sales people that showed that the very, very best really nurture their relationships with customers. And, at a certain point, if a customer were looking for something that they didn’t have, they would direct them to someone who did. They were willing to lose a bad sale and keep a good relationship.
Q: Earlier we talked about emotional empathy (sensing what the other person is feeling) and cognitive empathy (understanding how the other person sees things) as key components of emotional intelligence. Which are most important for a salesperson?
A: They both matter, differently. Emotional empathy allows you to have that rapport, to connect in a way that people feel comfortable with you, want to listen to you, and so on. Cognitive empathy allows you to understand how your client or customer thinks about what they need, so you can then match what you have with what it is they’re looking for.
Q: Group IQ. What is that, and what does it have to do with leadership?
A: The group IQ is the sum total of the best talents of every person in the group, contributed in full force. The functional group IQ, however, has to do with how much harmony a group has and its collective emotional intelligence. That actually is the best predictor of team performance.
This is a work of Vanessa Druskat at the University of New Hampshire. It’s been very well researched; she uses hard metrics. For example, in terms of square yards of fiber produced in a fiber factory where they set up in teams, she found a very direct correlation between the emotional intelligence of the group and the productivity of the group. And it’s been replicated in many, many other situations.
Q: In your writings you make the statement that “the emotional task of the leader is primal.” What does that mean?
A: What I mean is it’s basic. People are extremely fine-tuned emotionally to the leader. It’s human nature to pay more attention to and put more importance on what the most powerful person in the group says or does, which means that person is the sender of emotions and other people pick up those emotions. So the leader’s first task is to help other people get and stay in the state where they can be at their best.
Q: A lot of what we’ve talked about here involves neuroscience and physical circuitry. But you do say that emotional intelligence can be learned, or that a person can increase their EI capacity. But you also say that it’s difficult to do so. Why is that?
A: It’s because of what’s called neuroplasticity — a new concept in brain science — which is the understanding that the brain continues to modify and shape itself throughout life according to the repeated experiences we have.
The brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. It matures in the mid-twenties. And that means that the circuitry for all of the things I’m talking about continues to grow and be shaped until the mid-twenties. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t reshape it after that, but it does mean we have a double job. This is why it takes more effort when you’re older, because you have the circuits in place.
If they’re the wrong ones — if, for example, you just don’t listen to people and that’s your reflexive response, the brain’s default if you will — then in order to become a good listener you have to make a special effort. You have to remind yourself, ‘Well, here’s a time I’ve got to do it a different way.’ You have to make sure that you do it in a better way. And, you have to remember to practice at every naturally occurring opportunity.
If you do that for three to six months, you’ll pass a neural landmark: that is, you’ll engage the better behavior without having to think about it, without having to make any effort. You’ll listen well, and that just becomes your new default, your automatic response.
Q: What have you personally gotten out of developing this body of work over the last couple of decades? What has doing this work meant for you?
A: It’s been very gratifying to bring this message to organizations, people, and companies where it really can help them value human qualities. I think those are often, sadly, underrated, but they really are important. I’m very gratified by the extent to which people in business are hearing the message.
ALSO SEE:Smarts Aren’t Enough. The Case for Emotional Intelligence in the Business World
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Goleman has developed an eight-part educational video series entitledLeadership: A Master Class. The series examines the best practices of top-performing executives, and offers practical guidance for developing emotional intelligence competencies. For more information,click here.