Developing the behaviours to improve culture

Can’t teach an old dog — or young pup — new tricks? That old saying no longer holds true when it comes to the field of Emotional Intelligence.

Research indicates up to 30 per cent of business results come from the climate — defined as employees’ perceptions of their work environment that impact their ability to do their jobs well — a leader creates. And up to 70 per cent of organizational climate is driven by the competencies of the leader. These competencies can be wrapped up in a skills “package” called Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Most organizations are not the stable, predictable structures of the past. Companies need to be far more agile and flexible in how they operate both internally, and externally. This changing nature presents a whole new challenge for those in positions of leadership.

Today’s leaders must be able to leverage a much broader range of styles and behaviours. They must be highly flexible so that they can adapt — and at times improvise — within changing business strategies, shifting cultures, evolving roles and structures, the explosion of new technology and the constant pressure of global competition.

To meet these challenges leaders must be able to create organizational climates that foster not only performance but also a sense of pride and purpose.

So how do you define EI?
To quote Daniel Goleman, best selling author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, “it is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”

Specific competencies that make up EI have been identified. They include competencies like emotional self-awareness, empathy, self-confidence, self-control and listening skills.

For many leaders, EI is not an easy concept to accept. Yet studies have shown that EI has real impact on bottom line results, sometimes doubling and even tripling productivity. For example, in one organization studied, sales agents with high EI competencies sold twice the amount as average performers.

This same study has also shown that EI, unlike IQ, can be increased over time. The key to such improvement is the developmental approach that is used.

Training to increase EI
Emotional Intelligence is a complex set of skills and requires time to develop. There are seven critical factors in developing EI:
•gauge readiness;


•make the change self-directed;

•focus on manageable goals;

•encourage practice;

•arrange support; and

•provide models.

Gauge readiness: Many organizations pay little attention to whether someone they send for training is ready to learn and change. Frequently, only 20 per cent of a group are committed to personal change at any given time. In truth, people will learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it. Learning requires interest, motivation, and commitment. This requires an emotional investment in the process to make it happen.

In gauging readiness we’re determining interest in learning more about individual strengths and weaknesses around EI. The easiest and most obvious way to determine readiness is to ask — but this assumes that the person knows what they don’t know.

Feedback tools, such as 360 feedback that highlight EI competencies, are particularly helpful in affirming what the individual does and does not know and the level of interest in closing the gap between current state versus future state.

Motivate: People invariably want to know, “What’s in it for me?” are motivated when learning is aligned with their values, aspirations and goals. Personal and professional goals are major factors.

Meaningful and lasting change happens when participants have first identified their personal and professional values, goals and needs. People develop EI when goals are personally meaningful. Although all seven guidelines are important, this one is particularly important and requires time and attention. This is done through exercises where people write down their ideal or dream job or identify times in their lives when they felt engaged and truly alive. Their pictures of success will also include needs around family, community and leisure activities, as well as work.

Many individuals regularly set goals for the long term, but do so without thought to their own personal vision. Personal aspirations and values are great motivators and provide a natural transition to the next guideline of change — being self-directed.

Make change self-directed: Learning EI is very personal, yet most training in organizations is designed as “one-size-fits-all.” The commitment to learning — emotional investment — will increase with a greater opportunity for the individual to control the method and pace at which they learn. This honours the competencies of EI in respecting the individual’s levels of achievement, self-confidence and need to “direct themselves.” To support this, determining the person’s “learning style” and then designing or adapting the program to match is critical.

There’s a saying: “Writing about a painting I have seen is like asking someone else to dance about a book they have read.” Training faces the same challenge. If someone learns best by visual stimuli, then an all-verbal process will not engage them. Similarly, a person who learns best by words and dialogue will not be best served by an endless PowerPoint presentation with everything in charts, graphs and bullet points.

Nor should EI training be limited to the classroom. Learning EI skills requires social interaction with others.

Taking participants outside the classroom to environments that put them in real-life situations that require active listening, empathy and self-control skills is a highly effective technique for achieving both a commitment to action and the retention of new knowledge, because the control sits with the student and not the trainer.

Establish manageable goals: Too often, people set goals that are too large and unwieldy. While the desired goal is not out of line, the sheer scope can be overwhelming and the individual can’t see how they can get there. Imagine a goal of achieving higher levels of self-esteem. At first glance, many would see the task as overwhelming.

Breaking the larger goal into bite-sized pieces ensures a series of small and ongoing successes, gives a sense of progress, and motivates the individual to continue.

For example, in issues of self-esteem the first task may be reciting an affirmation of self-worth or seeking feedback from several individuals, asking the questions: “What do you value about me as a team member? A person? A friend? A spouse?”

These small successes also build self-esteem and confidence. Recording success points (as well as times when self-confidence is lacking) is a great help.

Do not, however, break a goal into bites that are too small. Sometimes there will be a step that requires a larger leap.

Encourage practice and arrange support: Some believe that behavioural changes in EI will occur after a one-, two- or three-day program. It seems just a little ambitious to expect adults — usually with 20 or more years of life experience determining their current behaviours — to change to any great degree in a matter of days.

Good musician — practice. Good golfer — practice. Good public speaker — practice. The same applies to any desired result around behavioural change, although this is too frequently ignored in training programs. It requires support and direction from others, which can be delivered by establishing peer coaches, study groups and support networks or, in some cases, a trained personal coach.

Working together, goals are set, support and coaching provided through immediate feedback, and best practices shared and problems solved. In peer relationships, there is power in establishing a learn-teach-learn system, where you take turns in alternating between coach and learner. This is where transformation in EI will actually occur, with the emphasis on helping others, positioning others (and oneself) for success and becoming a catalyst for change. The focus moves from “me” to “we.”

To change complex competencies such as those found within EI takes three to six months for maximum effect.

Provide models: It’s important to remember that those who teach should embody the behaviours they wish to see in others. Nothing is more demotivating than being asked to behave in a certain way by those who do not embrace the same behavioural practices.

People tend to pattern their behaviour after those who are more senior within the organization, negative as well as positive habits. Leaders need a high level of self-awareness and skills in persuasion, and must demonstrate consistency and reliability.

A personal journey
Emotional Intelligence is grown by reflecting on experiences, learning about oneself and practicing new behaviours. This raises a key point – developing EI is a journey that unfolds in stages. It is all about personal transformation. Like all great stories of personal transformation, there is the call to adventure, crossing the threshold into the unknown, embarking on a road of trials and tests, coming face to face with one’s greatest fears, and ultimately transforming oneself.

The benefits that come from developing Emotional Intelligence are profound. Individuals gain new knowledge and skills, a deeper understanding of themselves and others, greater wisdom and perhaps most importantly, broader perspectives.

People who have developed their EI tend to be less self-focused and more community focused; less concerned with their own needs and more concerned about positioning others for success and becoming catalysts for change in their organizations and communities. They are less fearful and more courageous; less blaming and more willing to take accountability.

Surjeet Rai-Lewis is a consultant and Rick Lash is the national expertise leader, organization effectiveness and management development at Hay Group, a worldwide consulting firm specializing in organizational effectiveness and HR. They can be reached at (416) 868-1371.

Reading List: Emotional Intelligence
•Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Daniel Goleman

•Emotional Intelligence at Work

Hendrie Weisinger

•Emotional Smarts: Redefining Personal and Professional Competence

June Donaldson

•Executive Eq: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organization

Robert K. Cooper

•Constructive Thinking: The Key to Emotional Intelligence

Seymour Epstein

•Emotional Intelligence Works: Developing ‘People Smart’ Strategies

S. Michael

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