Emotional intelligence is the driver of success

Since the mid-1990s numerous books and articles have been written on emotional intelligence (EQ) as a driver of individual and organizational success. Authors Daniel Goleman, Travis Bradberry, and Richard Boyatzis have all written on the key components of EQ and the positive impact it can have in our personal and professional lives. Goleman defines EQ as, “The capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” He emphasizes that IQ and technical competencies get us into the game; however, a high level of EQ elevates our ability to lead and manage organizations.

In The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book: Everything You Need to Know to Put Your EQ to Work, Bradberry suggests that “EQ is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.” Bradberry goes on to make the case that leaders with a high EQ are 80 percent more productive than their low EQ counterparts, and this productivity translates to higher income and success in leadership roles. There is a sound business case for understanding EQ and focusing on its development. EQ can be developed and improved over time when we are willing to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, are humble enough to ask for and receive feedback, and take the time to slow down, reflect, and think through what we say and do.

Bradberry breaks EQ down into personal and social competence – the ability to be aware of emotions and recognize certain tendencies and behaviors that help or hinder effectiveness. He also emphasizes the importance of social competence – the ability to manage relationships, understand and empathize with others, and recognize how the environment can influence both our own and others’ behaviors.Jefferson’s quote is particularly relevant to the improvement and development of EQ. Behaviors can be changed when we are willing to practice, adapt to our surroundings, and seek out trustworthy mentors willing to take the time to help move us forward.

For those who watch the detective show Foyle’s War, actor Michael Kitchen provides some wonderful examples of EQ through his ability to use the power of observation, empathy, and self-management to solve crimes. Foyle, has the ability to manage his emotions and nonverbal communication in a manner that allows him to keep criminals guessing. The power of EQ is in the ability to maintain focus and cultivate powerful habits that help leaders bring out the best in themselves and others.

Assessments, training programs, and workbooks have been created to encourage the development and use of EQ. You can develop your EQ through structured training, coaching, and a desire to improve and grow. Multirater 360 degree EQ assessments can provide us with a realistic snap shot of how others see us in a variety of settings and compare that feedback to our self-perceptions. This can be positive and validating at times, and it can also be uncomfortable. I have experienced the feedback of 360s, and regularly work with others to help them understand how the feedback can be used to drive them in a positive and beneficial manner.

Reprinted from CPA Now with permission from the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

John Park, Ph.D., Baker Tilly

John, a firm director, maintains a targeted consulting practice where he works with his clients on issues related to strategic planning, change management, enterprise risk management and leadership development. He has multiple publications including co-authorship of the book “Creating in House Sales Development Programs “and regularly speaks at regional and national conferences.


Your 3-step crisis management plan

crisisAs Henry Kissinger famously said, “There cannot be a crisis today; my schedule is already full!”

Unfortunately, crises have no respect for our busy calendars. That is why it is of utmost importance that every organization, big or small, have a crisis management plan.

In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily to a traumatic situation or event, but to a person’s reaction. One person might be deeply affected by an incident, while another person suffers little or no ill effects. Furthermore, the Chinese word for crisis presents a good depiction of its components. The word crisis in Chinese is formed by two other characters — danger and opportunity. A crisis presents an obstacle, trauma, or threat, but it also presents a chance for either organizational growth or decline.

We often think of a crisis as a sudden unexpected disaster, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or other cataclysmic event. However, crises can range substantially in type and severity. Sometimes a crisis is a predictable part of the life cycle.  Situational crises are sudden and unexpected, such as accidents and natural disasters. Existential crises are inner conflicts related to things such as life purpose, direction, and spirituality.  But there is a common three-step approach to leading in crisis that is useful to organize a leader’s thinking and efforts.


STEP 1: Before the crisis — inoculate your organization!  Leaders must “generate leadership” in their organization.

  • Give people at all levels the opportunity to lead experiments or projects that will provide them confidence while assisting your organization to adapt to change.
  • The leader must demonstrate their commitment to ethics and organizational values. This is important to building trust, which will be tested during moments of stress.
  • “Run the plays but encourage initiative”.  Leaders must frequently emphasize organizational policies and priorities, but they also need to provide space for their team to show initiative and take risks.
  • Have a crisis action plan and test it.  Make sure key members of your team are aware of it as well as the organization’s succession plan.  Things may go wrong when the leader is not present.
  • Spend time “managing by walking around”.  The leader must stay “in touch” with his or her organization.  The leader must avoid getting “into a bubble” where only good news makes it way to him or her.

STEP 2: During the crisis — those nearest must act!  Leaders must quickly consider whether or not they have empowered their team.  They should consider the following:

  • A leader’s emotional intelligence that focuses on self-awareness, self-motivation, empathy, and an ability to control his or her fears and emotions publicly is critical.
  • Lead and be seen leading.  Set the tone for the organization.  Remember the team is unlikely to exceed your level of optimism.  One of the most important assets a leader has during a crisis is his or her presence.  Where should they be and who needs to see them?
  • The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  In our 24-hour transparent world any crisis may quickly gain the spotlight.  Who is the “face of my organization with the press”?  When I speak to the press have I carefully considered what information I want to convey?
  • Decide, delegate, and disappear.  Leaders must praise constantly, punish privately, and unleash achievement vs. demanding obedience.  You must reduce the “bystander phenomenon” whereby the probability that anyone will act is often inversely proportional to the number of people available.

STEP 3: After the crisis!  The leader must demonstrate caring, lead the organization’s efforts to learn from this experience, and set a new course.

  • Leaders must consider their own as well as their team’s psychological health.  Sadly, we have learned a great deal about PTSD in the last decade.  Consequently, leaders are accountable to engage in self-assessment, seek assistance, and scrutinize the fitness of their team.
  • Establish a process to identify lessons from the crisis and incorporate them into the organization’s plans for the future.  Insure that the entire team is involved in this process.
  • Create a new vision for the organization that provides meaning to what may be negative events while framing a future ideal.  This should consider two questions.  Who can we become? Who relies on us?

All leaders must accept that crises will occur.  Remember Murphy’s Law — Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and will likely do so at the worst moment!  Also remember Schultz’s Corollary — Murphy was an optimist!  Every organization must not only prepare for crises but also consider that a crisis may be an opportunity to become an even better, stronger, more effective team.  Successful leaders seek to inoculate their organizations in advance, empower the organization during the crisis, and learn from the crisis after the fact.   In this regard Abigail Adams, the wife of our second president may be insightful:

“These are times in which a genius would wish to live.  It is not in the still calm of life or in the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed…great necessities call out great virtue.”

   — Letter to her son, John Quincy Adams

Book Review: Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson

coverAt first glance, Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity seems to be your average, broadly applicable self-help book. Chapter titles include “What Is Positivity?”, “Decrease Negativity” and “Increase Positivity”.  In her introduction, Fredrickson claims her inspiration to write this book came because she felt positivity was “largely uncharted territory” that can drastically improve one’s life. However, one only has to tune into daytime TV talk shows or cruise the self-help section of the local bookstore to learn that the idea of positivity is within the grounds of well-worn territory. The cynics among us may well roll our eyes at the idea of the transformative power of positivity, while the optimists likely already have half-a-dozen books they might recommend on the topic.

However, the crux of Fredrickson’s book lies in the subtitle of her book: “Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life.” The research contained within Fredrickson’s book is of true value. None but the crankiest of contrarians will deny that positive emotions and situations will indeed enhance one’s life.  But Fredrickson takes such vague, new-age ideas a step further and presents a body of research that grounds such notions in concrete realities that show definitive ways in which positivity affects the brain neurologically, in turn broadening our minds to accept more positive thoughts and experiences (or translate negativity into positivity.) Time and again throughout Positivity (particularly in early chapters), Fredrickson demonstrates her competency as a psychologist and the depth contained in her research.

Unfortunately, the book proceeds to a conclusion that is less than revelatory. Norman Vincent Peale’s 1996 book The Power of Positive Thinking that posited similar life-altering results inherent in positivity and optimism (a word Fredrickson is keen to avoid), albeit with unsubstantiated and anecdotal evidence. With Positivity, Fredrickson furthers such previous claims with well-researched and specifically-cited scientific fact. Unfortunately, the most interesting section of her book (the first half) merely affirms a conclusion that most everyone already believes to be true, while the latter half proposes a prescriptive lifestyle equation of the 3-to-1 ratio between positivity and negativity. Fredrickson occasionally gets bogged down in her new take on positivity and her wealth of research and information can be overwhelming, if not totally numbing. However, she does occasionally lessen the blow with touching anecdotes about her own life and how her methodology of positive thinking has allowed her to navigate some personal trials. Positivity tips heavily in favor of the hard data though, and a few more of these personal touches would have been a relief, as Fredrickson appears to be an interesting person beyond the wealth of psychological research.

Very rarely do books of this type really offer brand new startling insights into their chosen topic.  The best of them repackage old points of view in a new and interesting way. With Positivity Fredrickson re-views the power of seeing the glass half full with a strong academic background and through the lens of scientific research. While at times quite fascinating, the book never really transcends the forgone conclusion of “positivity is positive, negativity is negative.” Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity will be of interest for those seeking tangible insights into how the brain processes and is influenced by positivity/negativity or those looking to learn a new way to integrate positive thinking into their lives. It won’t blow any deeply optimistic minds, nor will it uncross any cynical arms.