Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaching Emotional Intelligence

I received two email announcements related to Human Resources yesterday that sparked this blog post. One post announced that an HR magazine is launching a new feature to recognize outstanding HR Problem Solvers. Whatever the problem and solution are, HR needs to have been the principal driver of the program or initiative.

The second email from an HR association announced a speaker, a Dr. Bakal who claims the good news about Emotional Intelligence is that everyone can learn these skills.

HR has such a poor reputation that one could contemplate that Dr. Bakal might be recognized as a HR Problem Solvers. He has solved the problem that some people lack Emotional Intelligence. They just need training.

Emotional Intelligence (EI), skills help a person to know how to read their own internal cues as well as the social styles of others.

The notion that everyone can learn these skills is nonsense. Moreover a company that invests in training designed to solve this problem is barking up the wrong management tree. The fact is, some people cannot learn these skills. Certainly, people who are Autistic will not learn these skills. But evidence suggests that there is a continuum between neurotypicals and autistics, like there is a continuum of gradient between blue and yellow. At one end are those who naturally possess high EI skills, at the other are those who naturally lack them.

While it is true that at the top of corporate organizations you will likely find people with the ability to understand other people, to work well with others and to influence people, HR would serve the company better by understanding that not every valuable employee needs to be that kind of person. Great leaders know how to maximize other people’s potential. Great corporate leaders also know that the company’s greatest asset, and the thing most necessary to competitive advantage, is diversity of mind. Being able to lead individuals who each think differently is the key corporate leadership asset. Hire CEO’s Presidents, and Division Heads that can do that, and you’ll have a healthy bottom line. (See the book Advantage: Business Competition in the New Normal)

The right problem to recognize is that the geek in the engineering department delivers incredible value to the company as a thinker, but won’t see any relevant value to becoming more emotionally intelligent. When it comes to effective use of training dollars, train those in leadership roles to deal with the reality that a healthy company is made up of both high and low EI types, by creatives and methodicals, by artists and administrators, and each has a valuable contribution to make.
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