EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: New factor seen as key to Job Harmony

WASHINGTON, DC Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling book, “Emotional Intelligence,” challenged business to examine the “qualities of the heart,” or what is known in professional circles as emotional intelligence, as basis for establishing workplace competencies in a rapidly changing environment of globalization and information technology. Emotional intelligence is a set of abilities which enables a person to interact effectively with other people.

This challenge was part of his speech at the opening plenary session of the 1997 International Conference and Exposition of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC last week which was attended by more than 12,000 delegates from 87 countries.

Goleman said that there are three domains of expertise in the workplace, namely, IQ, technical expertise and emotional intelligence. In his view, the first two are threshold capacities that a person needs. But once these are reached, it is emotional intelligence which distinguishes outstanding performance in a company. He defined emotional intelligence to include self awareness, management of emotions, motivations, empathy and handling of relationships. He said that these are abilities or competencies that are needed at the workplace now.

He narrated several cases which indicated the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

• Bell Labs, a scientific think-tank near Princeton, is staffed with engineers and scientists who all have top academic IQ tests. Their highly productive performers were those who were able to build good rapport with other people enabling them to get their job done faster.

• Retail store managers of a large national chain in the US who were able to keep themselves composed and better handled stress and frustrations had the highest profitability records across stores as compared with other managers who did not do well on these dimensions.

• The best accountants in six big firms in the US were not the smart ones, since all the accountants were smart, but those with integrity or the ability to stand up to clients and tell them what can or cannot be done.

• Insurance salesmen at Metlife, a US insurance company, who were by nature optimists sold 37 percent more insurance in their first who years on the job than salesmen who were pessimists.

• A chief executive officer of an insurance company fired his chief operating officer who was going to succeed him because, although he was good with numbers and analysis, he couldn’t lead, was terrible with people, and was rude and abrasive.

Goleman also stressed that how well people are handled emotionally at the customer interface level is crucial to the success or failure of companies. If companies do not pay attention to how their employees are making their customers feel and give them the skills to do this, then they are going to fall behind.

Goleman decried the decline of emotional intelligence in the US due to swift changes in technology and competition making children unintended victims. With parents having to cope with increased work pressures, children are now left more to themselves and with less opportunities to develop emotional intelligence skills though interaction with family, neighbors and other children. He said that companies have to cope with this reality and devote more time to the development of these skills at the workplace.

Goleman believes that people are trainable at any point in life but that training on emotional intelligence competencies are a different kind of learning through practice which programs the emotional brain. Academic models for training will no longer be applicable; behavior change models will now be applicable.

Goleman explained the roots of emotional change through the perspective of neuroscience which pinpoints the source of emotions in the brain as the amygdala and how its interplay with the thinking part of the brain, the neocortex, affects behavior.

ASTD is a professional association in the field of workplace learning and performance with members or more than 64,000 people in more than 15,000 organizations in about 100 countries. It conducts yearly international conference and exposition to provide leading edge information on issues, trends and technologies affecting the workplace. This year’s conference featured more than 250 learning sessions on the following areas: workplace issues; performance improvement, technology applications, change management and career strategies.

The exposition showcased the latest in computer hardware and software, seminars, equipment, supplies and services from 535 training and development suppliers worldwide. More than 30 managers and executives from the Philippines attended the conference.

Other keynote speakers at the conference were: Elliott Masie, President of the Masie Center, who discussed technology and learning; and Margaret Wheatley, author of “A Simpler Eay,” who talked on creating organizations that know how to change continuously.

Next year’s conference and exposition will be held on May 31 to June 4 in San Francisco, USA.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer June 30, 1997.

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu

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