Monday 2 November 2009

Emotional Intelligence (E.I.)....'Cracking' The Glass Ceiling

Having recently done an Emotional Intelligence (E.I. ) profile, it got me to appreciate more why E.I. has finally come of age. Interestingly, the book Obama took to the White House to guide his Presidency also has this as a central theme. This book's called "Team of Rivals" (It's based on the life and political genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's now recognised as having had extraordinary E.I.) This I found telling and it actually offers us an interesting insight into the psyche of Obama.

It also got me thinking. ALL the really great Leaders, past and present are/were blessed with extraordinary E.I.-Look at our best examples from recent history; Kennedy, Gandhi, Covey and now Obama. This is not a panacea in itself but it takes your Leadership to a different level. It's also no accident!

My own view is this is what Jim Collins means by the difference between "good and great". Greatness is a factor of who you are as a Leader multiplied by what you can deliver.
Such Leaders happens to be nice guys who stand for something. They get things done and you just know they're going places. They don't make much noise, neither will they be pushed around. They get results and respect by who they are and how they handle themselves instead of any formal reliance on power or position.

We all know interpersonal skills are vital to get on in the world today. Why then do so few people excel in this area? I believe the problem is 2 fold (1) Lack of understanding of the significance of this survival skill and (2) Limiting beliefs-(The Glass Ceiling- i.e. it is what it is and can't be improved.) The real attraction of E.I. (unlike I.Q.) is it can be improved and honed with practice. Get yourself a great Coach to work with you on this. It's unlikely you can do this on your own.

So what is this much vaunted E.I. anyway? In a nutshell it's about 2 things;
- Self-Awareness (Tuning into you;- your moods, your reaction to things, your feelings etc)
- Empathy- (Awareness of others, the ability to see things from other people's perspective)

It's been said that in terms of overall success in life, the breakdown is as follows;
  • I.Q.- 30%
  • EXPERIENCE- 50%
  • E.I.- 20%

I had a lengthy and pretty senior Corporate career and I vividly recall 2 thing;

  1. Capable people were removed from Succession planning lists because they lacked E.I.

  2. The Perception of someone's 'promotability' was always linked to their people skills. (i.e. can they bring their people with them?)
Where Corporate fails is it does not intervene in a constructive way to address the challenges. The sub-text is invariably Darwinian- "If they're smart enough, they'll figure it out". This is not how this works....Why...? People can't figure this one out on their own...You need help to see yourself and others in a fresh light. This is the gateway to progress and real change.

If this skill can be acquired, then it's a training, commitment and resource issue. The barrier then is mainly time and a little finance. I know if I had a top class Coach when I hit my own Corporate wall I could have extended my own career and contributed more. The problems at that level are invariably interpersonal. What's this costing Business in terms of productivity, creativity and overall employee engagement?

The reality is Business does not know how to deal with this problem. This is mainly because it does not see it. You can't develop talent if you don't have a high E.I and the requisite skills. Yet so many people are not prepared to pay the price to increase their understanding of themselves and the people they interact with. Really enlightened people make time for this and are smart enough to know it's important.

2 Questions you should consider;
- If your own career has hit the "corporate wall", what are you doing about it yourself?
- If you have people around you who suffer with poor interpersonal skills and low self-awareness, what are YOU doing to help them?

Both are Leadership responsibilities and both are often "Important, but not Urgent"...The problem is if you leave them long enough they become critical issues and then remedial action is often too late.
As Yogi Berra once famously said; "You can learn a lot just by looking". Try using your 2 ears and 1 mouth in that ratio and listen more than you speak. This is a great discipline. Try this for 1 week and keep a log of what you learn...I bet you'll not only be surprised but amazed and shocked in equal measure!

Good luck, let me know what you learn!

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