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What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others. You can use the information about what you're feeling to help you make effective decisions about what to say or do (or not say or do). Emotional Intelligence is not about being soft! It is a different way of being smart - having the skill to use your emotions to help you make choices in-the-moment and have more effective control over yourself and your impact on others.

Emotional Intelligence is comprised of five basic competencies. The first is knowing what you're feeling. The second is managing your feelings, especially distressing feelings. The third is self-motivation, the fourth is empathy, and the fifth is managing relationships. The concept of Emotional Intelligence is based on brain research showing that these skills are different from technical and purely cognitive abilities because they involve a different part of the brain - the emotional center, the limbic system, rather than the neocortex.

Why is EI Important?

The evidence supporting the critical importance of emotional intelligence is mounting. Daniel Goleman in his landmark Harvard Business Review article, What Makes a Leader? (HBR Nov./Dec., 1998, p. 93) shares insight into the power of emotional intelligence:
"...when i calculated the ratio of technical skills, IQ and emotional intelligence (identified in competency models from 188 companies) as ingredients of excellent performance, emotional intelligence was twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels. ...Moreover, my analysis showed that emotional intelligence played an increasingly important role at the highest levels of the company, where differences in technical skills are of negligible importance..."

"...In short, the numbers are beginning to tell us a persuasive story about the link between a company's success and the emotional intelligence of its leaders. And just as important, research is also demonstrating that people can, if they take the right approach, develop their emotional intelligence."

Positive Impact on Business

Emotional Intelligence (EI) abilities have been shown to be critical to individual and organizational success. Developing and using Emotional Intelligence skills offers a set of core abilities that impact many business issues:

Developing Leaders - Emotional Intelligence is more than 85% of what enables "star performers" to develop into great leaders (Goleman, HBR, Nov./Dec., 1998).

Personal Productivity - EI skills allow people to think more clearly under pressure, eliminating time wasted by feelings of anger, anxiety, and fear.

Career Success - Emotional Intelligence, as a determinant of high performance, is twice as important as technical and cognitive skills combined (Goleman, HBR, Nov./Dec., 1998)!

Team Performance - People with high EI skills get along better and don't let anxieties and frustrations get in the way of efficiently solving problems.

Motivation/Empowerment - People with high EI skills positively impact every person they contact. They are the role models of excellent performance.

Difficult Clients/Teams - Developing EI skills increases the understanding between people which minimizes time wasted arguing and defending turf.

Customer Satisfaction - Excellent customer service is based on sincere care. People with high EI skills take care of themselves and extend sincere care to others.

Creativity & Innovation - People with high EI skills calm and clear their minds quickly and easily opening the way for insight and intuitive, creative ideas.

Time Management - People with high EI skills do not waste time worrying, arguing, and second-guessing themselves. They choose productive behaviors.

Talent Retention - Leaders with high EI skills have been shown to be the best, most effective bosses, the kind talented people want to work for.

Work/Life Balance - Improved personal productivity and improved staff performance means people can confidently leave work at a reasonable time.

Stress Reduction - People with strong EI skills easily handle emotions of anxiety, frustration, and fear that cause stress in today's work world.

Negative Impact on Business

Unmanaged emotional reactions and lack of emotional intelligence skills in business is widespread and significant. Unmanaged emotional reactions or lack of emotional intelligence skills by executives and employees at all levels can lead to ...
  • lack of innovation and creativity
  • unsuccessful reengineering and process improvement initiatives
  • slow development of high potential talent
  • decreased productivity
  • decreased customer satisfaction and customer loyalty
  • career derailment
  • high turnover
  • stalled change initiatives
  • declines in revenue
  • increases in stress and healthcare costs
  • negative organizational climate/culture
  • workplace violence

Developing Emotional Intelligence Skills

The good news is Emotional Intelligence skills can be learned. However, there is a caveat: when we apply the typical training approach targeted for enhancing analytical or technical skills, we are doomed to fail. Conventional programs do not include the factors by which the limbic system (emotional center of the brain) learns best: motivation, extended practice, and feedback. Developing emotional intelligence skills requires that individuals eliminate old behaviors and embrace new ones. (See Emotional Intelligence Training.)

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