Emotional Intelligence

Ever since the publication of Daniel Goleman’s first book on the topic in 1995, emotional intelligence has become one of the hottest buzzwords in business.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to accurately identify and understand one’s own emotional reactions and those of others, and to regulate one’s emotions and to use them to make good decisions and act effectively. The competencies that make the biggest difference in individual performance at work are based on EI.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the subject but research shows EI can be improved at any age however, improving EI takes considerable time and effort. To be effective, training and development efforts need to incorporate a number of practical elements and sustainable follow-up.

To be effective, change efforts need to begin with the realisation that emotional learning differs from cognitive and technical learning in some important ways. Emotional capacities like self-confidence and empathy differ from cognitive abilities because they draw on different brain areas. Purely cognitive abilities are based in the neocortex. But with social and emotional competencies, additional brain areas are involved, mainly the circuitry that runs from the emotional centres to the pre-frontal lobes. Effective learning for emotional competence has to retune these circuits.

Our EI development process focuses on 6 critical factors:

1. Practice: Not only during the training itself, but also the need to practice new ways of thinking and acting in other settings—on the job, at home, with friends, etc.

2. Ongoing encouragement and reinforcement from others: Even with ample practice during the training phase, the old neural pathways can re-establish themselves all too easily unless learners are repeatedly encouraged and reinforced to use the new skills on the job.

3. Support from the boss: Reinforcement by a supervisor can be especially powerful in helping new emotional competencies to take root.

4. Experiential learning: In addition to sustained practice, feedback, reinforcement, and support our process is based primarily on experiential activity rather than other more intellectual approaches.

5. Use emotionally intelligent trainers: Special care and sensitivity is required in the way that training is presented, the personal nature of what is involved in this kind of learning also makes it critical that there be a trusting and supportive relationship between the participants and trainers.

6. Anticipation and preparation for setbacks: Even given these elements participants will inevitably encounter setbacks. The old emotional memories and social habits will tend to reassert themselves from time to time, especially when people are under stress. We work to both predict these in advance and address them ‘live’ as they surface.