Australian managers are being encouraged to get in touch with their feelings as emotional intelligence (EI) becomes an increasingly important management tool. Lauren Thomsen-Moore reports.
VicRoads, a statutory authority within the Victorian Government that is responsible for maintaining and improving the condition and performance of Victoria’s 22,240km of arterial roads, is one of many organisations in Australia that see EI as one of the distinguishing factors between good and great managers.
VicRoads held a workshop, called The DNA of Emotional Intelligence which explained how EI worked, the business case for EI and introduced the concept of courageous conversations.
According to Victoria Wilson, VicRoads Leadership Program Manager; Participants were encouraged to think of a conversation they had been putting off having. They then worked through why they had been avoiding the conversation and what their real intentions were for having the conversation. Once they understood their need for the conversation, they worked with others to practise the conversation and develop a discussion outline to guide them during their courageous conversation’.
The Leadership Program aims to ensure that VicRoads has a pool of talented individuals who understand the business and are ready to step into critical roles when vacancies appear.
The development [that individuals] receive helps them to implicitly understand the organisation, including its strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, upon moving into a new senior position they assimilate efficiently and effectively.
The feedback from the Leadership Program participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Courageous Conversation is now becoming part of the organisational language.
According to Wilson, while it’s too soon to see hard return on investment on the EI workshops at this stage, changes in behaviour have been noted by staff external to the Leadership Program.
Wilson says she recommends that organisations take the time to investigate introducing EI into their organisation.
Being able to create, analyse and understand data are critical skills within business and should not be underestimated. However, businesses also need innovation, creativity and strong relationships. A mix of cerebral and emotional intelligence creates an organisation that is robust whilst flexible, Wilson says.
Personally, participants are gaining a suite of tools and a mastery of capabilities that will assist them in meeting their future personal and professional goals, Wilson says.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ), is promoted as one of the distinguishing factors between good and great managers and its enthusiasts are growing in number. Though the EI concept originated about 20 years ago, and was given a strong push in the mid-’90s with the launch of the book, Emotional Intelligence by US psychologist Daniel Goleman, an increasing number of Australian organisations and government departments are now training their staff to be emotionally intelligent.
When applied to the workplace, emotional intelligence is about thinking intelligently with emotions; perceiving, expressing, understanding and managing emotions in a professional and effective manner.
Stephen Cartwright, Managing Director of the recruitment and human capital management company, Chandler Macleod, says they have more than 600 clients who regularly assess their candidates on EI, and over the years we have conducted assessments on more than 400,000 individuals to measure these underlying characteristics.
Cartwright says EI has been used to assist companies with large call centres to substantially reduce turnover.
In one high profile transport organisation, turnover, which was previously 30 per cent, was reduced to almost zero after applying EI concepts to new recruitment, Cartwright says, The drop out rates from training reduced to 20 per cent of their previous levels.
In another exercise for a major telecommunications company, he says, a call centre of 132 staff had reduced turnover to fewer than 3 per cent following the use of EI tools at time of recruitment. And according to Cartwright, an international airline’s attention and performance rates improved by more than 25 per cent.
As a rough guide, psychologists estimate that ability/IQ account for about 25 per cent of performance variance. But EQ factors account for the vast majority of performance variance of around 75 per cent. Accordingly, it is reasonable to say that EI is a critical factor when evaluating high performance individuals, Cartwright says, adding that people with low levels of EI in the community typically fare badly in the financial, marital and social areas; as they often lack the independence of thought and personal maturity to use their resources well. The same applies in the workplace.
A Useful Construct
EI was found to be a useful construct that can potentially contribute to contemporary workplace selection and training and development practices in a study conducted by Swinburne University of Technology, Measuring emotional intelligence in the workplace, with the Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test.
Professor Con Stough, Director, Organisational Psychology Research Unit, Swinburne University and co-developer of Genos EI (a company founded by Swinburne University) says all managers need both intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EI).
IQ is important to get promoted to a leadership position. Often, IQ is related to our ability to complete technical tasks. However, many highly intelligent people eventually are promoted to positions of leadership and management [possessing] poor interpersonal skills. This is why EI is important. Without high EI, these technically competent people are unable to get the best out of the people who they lead; and the transition from completing specialised work to managing others who are now doing the specialised work fails, Professor Stough says.
According to Professor Stough, Swinburne and Genos is working with various large Australian organisations in the area of developing EI. Organisations that have a culture of low EI will be left behind, he says, because the real commodity in Australian organisations is not equipment or computers but people.
Organisations that cannot help develop or transform their employees will have great trouble attracting and keeping effective employees. Another reason that EI is paramount in today’s workplace is that occupational stress is on the rise, and we know that occupational stress is becoming expensive in terms of claims but also in terms of loss of productivity. Employees high in EI are better able to buttress the effect of high workplace stress, Professor Stough says.
Barbara Miller, AIM member, an Organisational Psychologist and Principal of training and development consultancy Potential Unlimited, agrees that it takes more than just traditional cognitive intelligence to be a successful manager.
With a background in management, marketing, life and corporate coaching, and employee assistance programs, Miller presents courses introducing participants to the principles and practices of EI at work with a focus on assessment methods and practical application of associated competencies.
Having seen the detrimental outcomes of poor people skills’ for instance high levels of occupational stress, low productivity, poor morale and lack of motivation on the job I would say managers need 80 per cent EQ and 20 per cent IQ to get results with people, Miller says.
According to Miller, Sadly, there is still a false perception in some organisations that EQ is all about soft skills though the more progressive organisations are encouraging staff to undertake training. She says that cognitive skills (as reflected by academic achievements) may get you the job in the first instance, however, emotional skills (as reflected by your ability to bring out the best in people) help you survive and thrive as a manager.
Meanwhile, a report conducted by recruitment company Drake International, Emotional Intelligence a critical success factor, found that star performers at the management level require a combination of IQ and EI.
Judith Nimmo, Head of Drake International’s Career Management Division says that brilliant minds do not always make brilliant leaders.
Good leaders are people who know themselves, and who have amazing self-discipline and drive. They are people who have a vision, and can build lasting relationships, Nimmo says.
She says that effective communication skills, team building and conflict management are all critical attributes of the modern day manager.
Nimmo says that unlike IQ, EI can be learned through coaching and training, and can be developed over time.
The Drake report found that there are few good managers or leaders with very low EQ.
They may have survived in the traditional autocratic management days but today’s companies and the marketplace have changed, with increased competition, globalisation, and flatter organisational structures, the report says.
Nimmo says that EI is fast emerging as a critical success factor to increasing the performance of a company, providing them with a competitive edge.
She added that there is a lot more to determining someone’s EI, rather than just filling out a questionnaire.
There has to be interviews, self-rating and finding strengths and weaknesses. The assessments are very detailed, but are only as good as a person’s own insights.
Sarah Kearney, Managing Director of SHL Australia, a provider of psychometric assessment and development solutions, agrees, adding that psychometric and ability testing are the best predictors of how well a person will do in their job.
Kearney says it’s beneficial when organisations are recruiting, that they appropriately define the criteria for the job, as well as the organisational culture, so that the candidate can be measured against both of these important aspects.
The Recruiting Perspective
Judith Pettitt, General Manager, Human Resources, VicRoads which employs 2245 staff who work with other government agencies, local government and the private sector says a combination of EI and IQ is important.
If we recruit solely for IQ we would run the risk of highly intelligent people who may not be able to fully leverage their skills as they lack the EQ aspect. As a technical organisation we would never neglect IQ though we just look for it in combination with other skills.
Pettitt says EI can indicate how people deliver their work, how they work with others (and this often includes stakeholders) and how they motivate and inspire others to perform at their best.
She says these management/leadership styles are crucial for us in our roles across Victoria. We work with all Victorians and our leaders need to be able to relate to a wide variety of people.
You want to recruit and develop people who will be admired and respected as leaders in their fields not those who you might have to spend time and money on translating between them and their staff! There is a strong business case for emotionally intelligent leaders but they do have to be strong in their area of technical expertise as well, Pettitt says.
From personal experience, it is always great to work for someone who is emotionally intelligent but I have learnt enormously from those who wouldn’t score highly on an emotional intelligence scale as well, adds Pettit.
Like most workplace issues, if the CEO is behind it, it goes better, according to Julie Perigo, Partner at executive search company, Highland Partners.
Perigo also adds that EI puts the spotlight on an individual to know him or herself first and foremost.
Men, particularly in Australia, have not been brought up to see anything resembling EI as a strength, only a weakness. Changing demographics and attitudes would suggest this is changing in the under 40 age group. But if the culture of a company lauds rational thinking above all things, that modifies even younger player’s behaviour, Perigo says.
Meanwhile, Varina Nissen, Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand, Manpower Services, says managers of today must have adequate style flexibility to ensure that teams understand each other, and derive the best results through staying focused on outcomes, and communicating when they have misunderstandings or perceived conflict.
Nissen says effective EI training needs internal workshops led by the leader of the organisation, and linked to the organisation’s culture and values.
An EI Expert: Daniel Goleman
US psychologist Daniel Goleman popularised emotional intelligence in the mid-1990s; selling more than five million copies of his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) which was a worldwide bestseller and was translated into nearly 30 languages.
Emotional Intelligence argues that human competencies like self-awareness, self-discipline, persistence and empathy are of greater consequence than IQ in much of life, that we ignore the decline in these competencies at our peril, and that children can and should be taught these abilities.
Golemans most recent book, Primal Leadership – Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, explores the crucial role of emotional intelligence in leadership.
According to The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations where Dr Goleman is co-chairman not only do most of us spend the largest portion of our waking time at work, but our identity, self-esteem, and well-being are strongly affected by our work experiences.
What is EI?
While IQ is about how smart you are, emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is about how emotionally mature you are. According to the Drake International report, Emotional Intelligence a critical success factor , there are four main areas of EI development, each of them interlinked:
- Social awareness, and
- Relationship management.
However, according to Professor Con Stough, Director, Organisational Psychology Research Unit, Swinburne University of Technology and co-developer of Genos EI (a company founded by the University); This definition has important implications for the measurement of EI because EI is about our emotional competencies rather than our social intelligence.
EI is defined as one’s ability to understand, express, manage and utilise emotions in thoughts and behaviours.
Defined this way, emotional intelligence is about the intelligent use of emotions not about becoming more emotional. Tests that measure social competence may not be good measures of emotional intelligence, Professor Stough said.
EI in use
Westpac Bank and the Department of Employment Workplace Relations are among other organisations in Australia that have expressed interest in EI, according to industry experts.
Ross McLelland, Managing Director of Pacific Consulting says a major global IT company has, over the past five years, been using EI competencies as a key element in all of its human resources from recruitment and promotion to pre-development and performance reviews. As they realise that technical skills not backed up by EI are not enough to move the business forward, relate to customers and to staff, McLelland says.
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) also offers emotional intelligence workshops for staff in leadership positions to improve personal effectiveness in managerial and leadership situations, and to identify and practice a range of skills for improving EI in the workplace.
An APSC spokeswoman told Management Today that the Senior Executive Leadership Capability Framework and the Commission’s Leadership Pathway recognises the importance of strong relational skills as critical success criteria for senior executives.