Brazil’s top business paper published this in-depth interview on emotional intelligence BY ARIANE ABDALLAH. Here is a translation from Portuguese:
One of the leading experts in emotional intelligence gives an overview of the new findings and perspectives on the topic.
For over 15 years, American-born expert Joshua Freedman has been dedicated to putting the concept of emotional intelligence into practice. He is one of the professionals responsible for the Six Seconds EQ Certification Training, which bridges the gap between the concept of emotional intelligence and the real life of people and businesses. The concept of emotional intelligence was first popularized by the American psychologist Daniel Goleman, in the 90s. Since 1997, Six Seconds, a nonprofit organization based in California, has been devoted to research on the subject. Freedman is the organization’s Chief Operating Officer.
The author of the books At the Heart of Leadership and Inside Change: Transforming your Organization with Emotional Intelligence, the Freedman will be one of the speakers at the NexusEQ Conference this month. The event brings together leading scientists and practitioners of Emotional Intelligence. Nexus EQ will take place on the campus of Harvard University, 24-26 June. Six Seconds has developed a partnership with Grupo Kronberg, which provides leadership development, sales and customer programs and coaching service for senior executives. Grupo Kronberg is present in Brazil since 2002.
Freedman talked with magazine Época NEGÓCIOS about the news and perspectives of Emotional Intelligence. Based on research and experience, he explains how this science can transform professionals and organizations.
What is new in the field of emotional intelligence?
The concept was discovered in the 90s. In the following decade, the 2000s, was the time to try and figure out how it works. Now, in the third decade, we are applying the concept. There are many projects and people finding different ways to take advantage of emotional intelligence. Our ambition is that by the year 2039, one billion people will be practicing the techniques of emotional intelligence.
What are these techniques?
There are several approaches to emotional intelligence. In the Six Seconds method, the primary practice consists of three steps:
1. Become more aware of what you feel and your reactions in the present moment.
2. Enjoy the opportunity to decide, consciously, how you will respond to situations rather than react impulsively.
3. Take into account your major goals and ensure that your answers are in alignment with those goals.
In summary, the three steps are: feelings, options, goals. If people practice this process they will be using their emotional intelligence to create better results. At each meeting, in negotiations, decision making, on a daily basis. We are developing applications, tools, games, research and concepts to facilitate the application of these concepts to people.
Much is said about the importance of self-knowledge for career success, but how can we actually achieve this?
A starting point is to notice your own physical sensations. This gives clues about what’s happening emotionally. The next step is to begin to see the relation between events that are happening, and what is happening inside of yourself at that moment. From there, we can adjust our reactions. Take the reins. Choose how to respond. Thus, we ensure that we are not just going through life as if we didn’t have the power to make our own decisions.
How can emotional intelligence be linked to organizational metrics?
We look at three levels: the individual, teams, and ultimately the business itself. When we start to develop a project, depending on the goals, we observe different metrics.
- At the individual level, we observe the emotional intelligence of the person.
- For a team, we measure relation factors such as trust and communication.
- At the organizational level, we link the people-metrics to business metrics, for example, productivity, sales volume, expected profit increase and employee commitment.
We want to gather as much information as possible to understand exactly what emotional intelligence means in practice.
What are the results of these observations?
Depending on what the data shows, we construct an intervention; typically a combination of coaching, training and consulting. Then we measure again. One of the cases that we will share at Nexus is a three-year project with a company called Amadori, a supplier for McDonald’s in Europe. We found out that there is a correlation between the leader’s emotional intelligence, the team’s commitment and the bottom-line performance of the organization. This is an important result for individual people, and to show the return on investment for the company.
What has changed in the corporate world since you began studying emotional intelligence?
Today, people are much more aware that competitive advantage comes from people. When I started doing this work, 15 years ago, the idea that prevailed in the world was that the advantage came almost exclusively from technologies, equipment or market position. People paid lip service by saying, “people are our number one asset,” but that was almost never real. Now, I see a more genuine understanding that only real competitive advantage comes from people. You open a company in São Paulo with an innovative idea and the next day, someone in China or Vietnam is already doing the same thing, only cheaper. We can’t maintain an advantage over time simply by product or by technology alone. We gain enduring advantage through the development of trust and relationships, internally and externally. Innovation comes from people, company culture, the relationship with customers. It all has to do with emotion, not logic alone. We need more leaders, more human-centered organizations, and stronger business cultures.
What characterizes a strong culture?
We define a strong culture as one that generates five key factors:
1) Trust: a feeling of safety
2) Teamwork: collaboration and sense of belonging
3) Change: sense of growth
4) Execution: feeling of accomplishment
5) Motivation: commitment to purpose
And how to build such a culture?
First we need to use good metrics to understand the company’s current reality. Then we develop the emotional intelligence of leaders so they can see and manage these critical emotional factors in everyday life. In one study, we found that 78% of the variation in culture could be predicated only by looking at the emotional intelligence of the manager — so developing these skills is a great step.
One of these factors is related to purpose. Do you believe that there is a crisis between what people seek at work and what they actually find?
Yes, unfortunately I guess so. We are in a crisis as a result of two forces at play. On one side, we have suffered a lot of surface pressure to make money, have a better office, have better clothes. These factors are part of marketing hype. At the same time, I see that people are now recognizing purpose is very powerful. If we miss it, we were not motivated. In our parent’s generation, if the job paid well and offered stability, that was a ‘good job.’ Today, what we see especially in a booming economy, like Brazil, people are looking for more than just a pay check. They say: “It is not enough just to pay the bills. My life needs to be more than that.” For a person to be really committed at work, we need to further than the paycheck. Money is a measure of business success, but not the reason for its existence. People are realizing that they spend most of their time at work, so it must have some purpose. We are in this fight.
How is this crisis reflected in the companies?
Organizations that can connect the work with a greater purpose motivate people. Those who will be more successful in the next decade are those that discover how to connect a deep and powerful business model with a vision.
How is this done?
It starts by connecting with a real vision. For example, ‘being the #1 electricity company in São Paulo’ is not a vision. Vision is to say, we will bring electricity to people’s home. Or,we will build a community where people can connect to each other. Vision is: “We will be part of the construction of a sustainable society in our country and in the world.” It has to have meaning at a cognitive level and an emotional level. We need to FEEL it.
You linked the company’s purpose to motivation. Whose responsibility is it to keep people motivated: the individual’s or corporation’s?
Both. We pay people for a minimum performance, and they need to deliver it to remain in their jobs. That’s the employee’s responsibility.
To thrive, however, a company needs much more from the employees. Why would anyone deliver this much greater level of commitment? One answer would be because they have a strong connection with the company, its purpose and its people. Their work matters immensely. To build this kind of relationship, the leaders need the vision and skills of emotional intelligence.
Will the tools of emotional intelligence help create happiness at work?
There are several reasons why people are not happy at work. One of them is to be in the wrong job. Another is that the person has bad relationships there. Or, because the environment is negative. It may also be because the professional doesn’t know how to properly communicate his wants and needs. Emotional intelligence will help employees and managers understand the source of his or her unhappiness — and then to create an appropriate solution.
What is the most common reason for unhappiness at work nowadays?
Stress is growing. This is a serious barrier to authentic happiness. Stress is a sign of a problem, of a threat. As we focus on dealing with the threat, we get less satisfied, more alone and less creative.
What’s an antidote?
Leaders can build a team of people who really like to work together. Create an environment in which all people collaborate and all feel connected. We’re talking about a basic business need and also a basic human need which is the sense of belonging. A good manager has the ability to bring people together so that they feel part of the company. Then they start going further, they become more energized, more efficient and productive and more enthusiastic with relation to work.
How does a leader get started on a more collaborative environment?
If I’m a leader, I need to start with myself. I need to know who I am and understand my own reactions and needs. I have to be careful with the way that I react and respond with intentional actions, not with unconscious impulses. I must have a purpose. If I do it myself, I can do it with the members of my team as well. I can help them to understand themselves, to manage their reactions and act intentionally. I can help them share the same purpose.
What is the biggest mistake a leader usually makes with the team?
Many of us have succeeded because we are good at accomplishing tasks. “I am moved by results”, “I’m very efficient,” “I can do lots of things.” When you are a leader, it is easy to forget that this is not your role. The leader’s job is not to execute the tasks, but to create a context, an environment conducive to the work done by others. So the biggest. most common, mistake is for leaders to focus on activities as opposed to people. The job of ‘leader’ is to lead people — so they can execute the tasks.