Defined as the ability to manage oneself, emotional intelligence means those possessing it have a strong awareness of their emotions and know how to manage them well. This means not letting negative emotions get in the way of personal effectiveness while simultaneously using positive feelings for motivation. Between continuously strenuous efforts to maintain a strategic place at the C-suite table, prove learning’s effectiveness throughout the enterprise and all of the scuffling for performance and technology leveraging that entails, there are obvious benefits to possessing emotional intelligence for the CLO and for the leaders the CLO is typically charged with developing.
Daniel Goleman, co-director of Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in organizations at Rutgers University and author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, said there are 18 best practices to help teach emotional intelligence and five broad requirements to help people do it effectively. “The first is you need to care. You have to be motivated or you won’t learn this because it takes time and effort. The second step is that you need to get some objective feedback from people who work with you and know you well, whose opinions you trust about what you could do better. Third, you need to reflect on that and pick a learning target, one specific thing and do one skill at a time. Maybe you could be a better listener. People come into your office and you cut them off before they even get the question out. It’s like a common cold in management, listening poorly.”
Goleman said if you decide that you want to get better at listening, you need to think about how you could do it better. It helps to have a model or someone in mind who does that skill very well and see them as the embodiment of your target behavior. “Make a contract with yourself. Say, ‘OK, I’m going to do it like Tom. When someone comes into the office, I’m going to relax. I’m going to give them full attention. I’m going to drop what I’m doing and hear them out and make sure that I understand what they’re saying, what they want and what their issue is. Then I’m going to tell them what I think. Instead of just telling what I think before I really know what’s on their mind.’
“The fourth step is practicing at every naturally occurring opportunity,” Goleman said. “Make a contract with yourself so that whenever you are in a situation where you could be applying this, do it the better way. Intentionally keep yourself from doing it the old way. Finally, it helps to get some support. For top-level executives, it’s often a coach. But you can do it with a learning partner, a spouse, someone who will help you sustain the effort and particularly reflect on times when you blow it or go back to the old way of doing it, and prepare yourself to do it better the next time that it comes around.”
Emotional intelligence also includes something called social intelligence, which includes empathy and social skills, Goleman said, and workplace competencies based on emotional intelligence play a greater role in star-performance intellect or technical skill. “I’m not saying that IQ and technical skills don’t matter. They do, but they’re what are called threshold abilities. They determine what job you can hold. If you have enough expertise to be an engineer or a project manager or a chief executive or can you only be a file clerk? IQ matters a lot that way, but once you are in that position, once you’re in management, what makes you a star? How you manage yourself and your relationships, emotional and social intelligence are what distinguish the top 10 percent from the rest.”
If managers and leaders are not emotionally intelligent, that lack tends to impact not only their performance but also reasons they are terminated or become stagnant, unable to advance through the ranks of their chosen organization. “I have a friend who is with a company called Egon Zehnder International, one of the foremost recruiters of really top management. They did a study of the people they’d hired to compare the most successful to the ones who failed. People, particularly at the chief level, tend to get hired for business expertise and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence. Another thing is you won’t get promoted or people won’t like to work with you. You’ll be the kind of team member that people wish wasn’t on the team. In other words, it makes you less effective. People can perceive you as difficult, tuned out, not a team player. To put it in a positive respect, if you look at people who do have these abilities who are in top leadership positions, and there’ve been many, many studies of different kinds of companies, it’s been found to correlate with better business results.”