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Transformational Leadership

Emotional Intelligence: Impact on the Bottom Line

Byron Stock asked:

howed that the benefits of developing Emotional Intelligence skills are quantifiable.(1) This true story illustrates the impact on the bottom line.

Joe’s Story

Joe (not his real name) is the Director of Engineering for a company that invents methods to improve oil extraction and refining processes, then leases the patents on those methods to oil companies. Recently, Joe was able to put his EI skills into practice and help his company’s bottom line.

Joe was on his way to South America to talk to a customer who wanted to renew their $15 million contract, but had said they wanted to reduce the fees to $12 million. On the flight down, Joe was feeling, understandably, anxious and worried about the meeting. After all, $3 million in revenue and an important customer relationship were on the line.

Joe recognized his anxiety, and used some specific EI skills he’d been taught to transform those feelings into more positive, productive thoughts and emotions. He was able to develop several positive alternative ideas, which he could put on the table at the meeting.

The meeting went fairly well, but there was one person from the oil company who was picking over the contract details, seemingly trying to thwart the whole negotiation process.

Again drawing on his EI training, instead of becoming defensive and expressing his frustration, Joe handled his own emotional reactions to the man’s objections well, and ended up convincing the oil company to agree to additional services and process improvements and to sign a contract several million dollars over the original contract.

Emotional Intelligence is not about being soft. It’s about a different way of being smart. It’s about managing yourself and using your emotions to positively lead others; to engage not just their head and hands, but also their hearts.

Putting EI Into Action

You feel the effects of emotional turmoil daily. What can you do? You can take action to develop your own emotional intelligence.

First, enhance your emotional self-awareness by asking yourself several times each day: “What am I feeling right now?” Notice that the question is not “how” but “what” because we tend to answer the question “How am I feeling?” with the word “Fine” which tells us nothing.

When you figure out what you’re feeling (such as anxiety, happiness, anger, excitement) you can use that information to help you decide what you should do or not do next. In other words, you can make more effective decisions.

Second, begin to disclose and discuss your feelings. If you have an issue on the table, and you find that you are feeling a bit anxious or concerned about it, simply recognize those feelings and share them in a matter-of-fact fashion. So often, if people are feeling anxious, they’ll criticize, or find some detail to disagree with: “Those numbers can’t be right.”

Instead, the more emotionally intelligent thing to say is, “I have to tell you, I’m feeling a bit anxious about this decision.” This not only helps your team by giving them more information about you and your point-of-view, it provides a more complete view of where you’re coming from. Discussing feelings improves communication and sets the tone for cooperation.

Third, get some EI skill training. Yes, training! Someone once told me, “You train monkeys, you develop people.” Well, I’ve got news for you, we train astronauts, doctors, soldiers and others so they can perform at their peak under pressure. We should do the same for people. EI skill development can be in the form of classroom sessions combined with one-on-one coaching. Be sure the training is skill-based, that is, provides not only information about EI but also the chance to practice practical skills on real situations. And, be sure that the provider has documented quantified results. Business decisions are made based on measured results and decisions on selecting training should be based on the same criteria.

1. Daniel Goleman, “What Makes A Leader?” HBR, 1998.

Copyright 2008, Byron Stock

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