Intellectual ability, the "IQ," can rarely be changed, but emotional intelligence, the "EI" factor, can be improved. And if key players in an organization gain emotional intelligence, the quality of work life often improves significantly, bringing with it an increase in overall productivity and effectiveness.
"Emotional intelligence helps us know ourselves better, understand others, and make better decisions," says Doreen Miri, of the Lawrence-based training and development firm, the Jaguar Group (609-896-0607, www.calljaguargroup.com). "It helps us identify problems before they escalate and manage difficult situations and conversations." Research suggests that 90 percent of top performers and leaders have high emotional intelligence scores (U.S. 1, October 31, 2007).
Miri defines emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize and understand emotions, plus the skill to use this awareness to manage ourselves and our relationships with other people.
"Unlike IQ," she says, "which is relatively fixed, you can grow your emotional ability and emotional intelligence scores." Emotional intelligence has two aspects:
Personal competencies include self-awareness – understanding your emotions and recognizing both how your behavior impacts others and how other people influence your emotional state.
Also involved is self-management – the ability to use self-awareness to positively direct behavior and manage emotions in situations and with people.
Social competencies include social awareness – the ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what other people are thinking and feeling, even if you don’t feel the same way.
Part of this is relationship management – the ability to use awareness of your own emotions and those of others to manage your interactions more successfully.
Miri has helped key players build particular aspects of their emotional intelligence. For example, a vice president contacted her about one of his regional sales directors who had been through a 360-degree evaluation. This sales director had received negative feedback from the district sales managers who reported to him. They felt he did not listen to their ideas or acknowledge their initiative.
Miri determined that the director needed to work on both self-awareness and self-management skills. He had been promoted out of a manufacturing position because he was familiar with the company’s aviation products, but he had never before had to manage his emotions.
His first challenge was to become more aware of his own emotions. Miri asked him to spend extra time both observing other people and asking questions that were open ended and not simply clarifications.
His goal: To draw people into a conversation, showing that he craved understanding and didn’t assume he already knew what his district managers were saying. She warned him not to let his own thoughts or emotions disturb these interactions, and to listen more and not interrupt.
Although the director resisted Miri’s suggestions at first, within six months the feedback from the district managers showed he had improved 70 percent. He became a believer. "He was much more aware of his own feelings and their impact on others," she says, "and once he changed his behavior, he saw that his responses from other people were more effective and productive." He also reported changes in personal relationships.
Improving emotional intelligence requires motivation, Miri says. Sometimes just the desire to rise in a business or other organization provides the impetus to learn and change. But another way to arouse motivation is to tie work on emotional intelligence and the competencies it teaches into a person’s performance evaluation.
– Michele Alperin
Maestro as Analyst: Defying Convention
Quick. Name a half dozen creative careers. Does the list include inventor, artist, novelist, website designer, performance artist, actor? Peter Johnson, an IT specialist, throws in another possibility, saying that business analyst is at the top of his list.
When company owners need a problem defined, they call Johnson, or one of the specialists from the International Institute of Business Analysis (www.iiba.org). Johnson teaches the IIBA certification courses at community colleges (U.S. 1, May 30, 2007).
"What I really like about being a business analyst is fitting together strange pieces of a real puzzle and going up against conventional wisdom," says Johnson, who majored in linguistics at Columbia University and now works as IT director for New Jersey’s Department of Youth and Family Services.
The IIBI defines a business analyst as "a liaison among stakeholders who elicits, analyzes, communicates, and validates for changes in policy." But Johnson says that the business analyst’s role is much simpler. "He orchestrates solutions – aggressive solutions," he says.
The orchestra analogy is a good one. An audience (business owners) comes into the hall yearning for the relief of good music. They might or might not know what piece of music in what arrangement they might enjoy. Onto the stage files a line of exquisitely capable musicians. These technical experts with violin or oboe can provide whatever tones are demanded of them.
The business analyst/conductor walks in alone. He, more than anybody in the hall, knows how Handel’s Water Music should be played. He can bring delight to the audience and stay within the capacity of each musician in this unified orchestra. The leadership and ability to translate are his. So is the lion’s share of the applause.
One vital skill Johnson emphasizes is communication. "I have spent years translating business jargon into geek and back again," he laughs. "Maybe it’s all my linguistic training, but whatever it is, you’d best be able to talk to everyone in the planet on their terms."
– Bart Jackson
For Nanotech Man, an Artistic Influence
The work of Fred Allen, an advocate for nanotechnology at RADii Solutions LLC (www.rad2llc.com), might look like the opposite end of the vocational spectrum from his father, a musician and artist. Whereas his father worked at a so-called "creative" profession, Allen’s expertise is in the crystal structure of materials.
But Allen directly links his eventual choice of a major in earth and planetary sciences to time spent outdoors with his father. "He used to go paint seascapes on Long Island," says Allen, "and I used to go with him and collect rocks at the beach." Aas he got interested in the math and science underlying geological processes, he says, "I realized you could combine your passion with your ability."
It wasn’t just choice of major that Allen connects to his father, who he says died young. "I have tried to remain creative in terms of how I think of these things," he says. And as co-founder and director of the Greater Garden State Nanotechnology Alliance, he now uses that creativity to promote regional economic development by facilitating commercialization of nanotechnology (U.S. 1, June 20, 2007).
His goal has been to create stronger connections between large corporations that depend on nanotechnology research and the startups and universities that create new materials and devices. "I realized," he says, "that more important than generating good results was how to create excellent relationships with people."