Source FlickR: Peter McDonald
How we use Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Quotient in teams and organizations matters.
While we will be dealing with metrics, alignment, and implementation, initially we need to consider the fundamental purpose of emotions and how they work when at work.
Let’s see how EI can improve sales teams for a starter. And an environmental approach to keep talent.
Rather than look at Goleman’s or Bar-On’s overwhelming contributions to EI initially, I would like to start on another more empirical track, and hopefully we’ll converge along the way and see how these threads tie together.
As stated in the introductory post, Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) has little to do with “being emotional”. Again, emotional intelligence is not how emotional a person is. It is a set of skills that enable me to be emotionally stable and mature: clever, if you will, at handling emotions.
It took several of the most brilliant medical minds of the pre-War period to understand the simple formula:
See Bear -> Feel Fear -> Run or Freeze
Through a set of extremely precise experiments psychologists, all previously medical doctors, sought the answer as to how and why we react the way we do. Especially to fear.
It led to some fundamental discoveries in the neurobiology as to how the brain and body create, react, and learn of and from emotional responses.
Bear -> Fear -> Run is otherwise known, in Walter B Cannon’s own words, as the flight or fight response. Cannon with Philip Bard proposed what has become the best known theory of emotional response. Some 50 years earlier, William James, the father of modern rigorous psychology in America and Carl Lange in Denmark both separately proposed what has come down to us as the James-Lange theory.
In the James-Lange theory the suggestions is: see bear, your body reacts before your cognitive mind does, your mind recognizes these reactions of the nervous system, and calls it fear (Or love, or whatever emotion you feel). Cannon-Bard on the other hand states that the emotions come first, i.e. your brain reacts and then your body does it’s flight or fight stuff.
Chicken or egg? A little.
And we still don’t really know the answer. What is accepted is that see bear have a physical reaction is normative. It would seem more holistic to suggest that the two are working in unison, that the amygdala (the reptile base of the human brain responsible for among other things the survival instinct) is programed to kick in both a cognitive response and a physical simultaneously as we need to survive.
What is certain is that I need my senses to recognize danger – however, just to muddy the waters, it appears, from recent experiments that the brain works faster than the physical nervous system. We seem to literally know fear before our body does – giving weight to the Cannon-Bard theory. What we can be absolutely certain of is that we do call that normative reaction an emotional reaction.
And, what has this got to do with Emotional Quotient and Emotional Intelligence? As we will see EQ and EI are our not only about our emotional reactions, it is rather about our emotional awareness. It is from the combined efforts of Drs William James, Carl Lange, Walter B Cannon and Philip Bard that we developed a working understanding of emotion and the part of the brain that deals with and generates the neurochemical responses to environmental change: the limbic pathway.
The limbic pathway is the part of your brain that deals with emotions. Not just crying, fear, love, happiness, but rather the much more subtle and important stuff: our daily interaction and reactions with people and objects and out thoughts etc; these happen all the time, when we sleep, when we’re awake, and so on. The limbic pathway keeps on working out our emotional, cognitive state.
It is linked to both the hindbrain (the reptilian brain in humans controlling your most basic physical needs) and the higher brain functions (thought, memory, imagination) and releases dopamine (which makes you calm) and serotonin (which makes you happy).
What we are looking for at first is the correct mix of both of those neurotransmitters, if they are in balance we have emotional homeostasis.
This is a fancy way of saying we are able to be at our most optimal performance wise and keep our stronger emotions in check.
We exhibit one of the key indicators of Emotional Intelligence: self-control. We are calm. Even when driven to distraction, we are calm, self-controlled, and in check. All the time. We use our limbic pathway to keep calm, to assert ourselves without raising our voices, and we are still genuinely in relation to others – we are not artificially calm or stiff, or withdrawn, but neither are we shouting, stamping, and frothing at the mouth.
Such a person is not given to outbursts, or to total withdrawal. They have a mature developed sense of self. Their interaction with others is not based on subversive or agenda-based behaviors like narcissism, self-interest, psychotic manipulation, and so on. Emotional intelligent people are composed, detailed, focused and on point, they are calm, deliberate, but emotionally engaged. They do not sound or act like an automaton, but neither are they manic. Again, it is what we would all instinctively recognize as balanced behaviour.
In a 360° survey we might want to ask:
Does the person control themselves?
When stressed what is their reaction?
To fight? Or withdraw? Or to assert?
Assertive behaviour is more than don’t mess with me you’ll come off worse than me. Assertiveness is the ability to influence and engender respect in the other party. And here, high EI and EQ pay massive dividends. This is more than appearance and body language, it is a fundamental brain set, from the limbic pathway, that will not be rattled, that holds its position, that listens, and states clearly and precisely their position in a calm, measured, and considered way while still using emotions.
This is exceptionally useful for sales personnel who need to exude more than confidence. They need to exude professionalism, knowledge, and a keen self-awareness.
This has top line and bottom line effects.
In Strategic HR we might define this as a good indicator of maturity in young talent. They need to also show real engagement, drive, and results as well.
If the companies goal is to keep talent, and it should be a central HR goal of companies to retain the talented, the best, then helping them achieve early maturity in an excellent idea. This must be aligned with other factors such as motivation, rewards, respect, and inclusion otherwise it will be ineffective.
In the next post, we will look at other components of Emotional Intelligence and how scaling them up in an organization drives business results.