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Leadership: Don't Turn Left When You Should Turn Right

By: Susan Dunn

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc and mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for FREE ezine.

What an unfortunate scenario this is. The head of the department – we’ll call him Henry – was referred for coaching because his Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills were of concern. His department wasn’t doing well. He was getting low performance reviews. He wasn’t well-liked, and his people weren’t producing. Something was wrong.

When his employees were asked to comment on him, several of them said they wished he would say “hello” to them in the morning.

His response was to quickly do the math. “That’s absurd,” he said. “I have 40 employees. If I said ‘hello’ to each one – let’s see, if that were two minutes each – that would be 80 minutes wasted out of my day.”, Over an hour.”

Of course I was doing the math too. When I smile at someone, use their name and say “good morning” it takes about 2 seconds. Furthermore, I can accomplish it as I walk through an office, can’t you? I can accomplish it on a trip to the coffee room, or the Xerox. I wondered what he was thinking.

Or you could greet some employees one day, and others on another day. If your goal were to greet your employees, there are many creative ways you could work this out.

One employee asked for things like a pizza party. Again, he started doing the math: “Pizza for 40 people would be $$$.” Notice how he went straight to his left-brain and came up with logic, facts and numbers, when his employees were talking about relating and emotional things. He gave a part-brain response, when a whole-brain response was called for.

Accessing your “whole brain” is what emotional intelligence is all about. It means knowing and understanding your own emotions and those of others, managing yours and working with those of others, and having good interpersonal relational skills. It means understanding the feelings that motivate people, and being able to integrate this with your intellect to bring about positive outcomes.

Sure, it takes time to greet people. And, if you stay with the spreadsheet, how could you “cost” that out? Could you quantify the “benefits”? This is like saying “What’s the price of making someone else feel good?”

What IS the cost-benefit ratio? It isn’t a truism to say that people who are appreciated, acknowledged and affirmed work better. There’s a huge payoff long-term. There’s some excellent date on this here: http://www.eiconsortium.org .

Those of us in coaching see what happens when the leader doesn’t have high EQ and it ‘trickles down” to the office (as it will). Workers burn out. They leave leaders and companies that treat them like machines, or, worse, insult and abuse them. A pay check can only go so far.

Yes, people will put up with it for a time. In fact some workers think it’s the way it has to be, and there’s no sense looking for another position or another company. Then what happens is they start getting sick. The stress gets to them. There’s more absenteeism, and worse, there’s more “presenteeism” – workers who show up and are just going through the paces. They clock-in, in order to get their paycheck, but they clock-out mentally and emotionally. “I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning,” a client tells me. “It’s all I can do to drag myself in there.” Imagine how productive her day is.

I’ve never heard a client say, “I don’t like the work” or “There’s too much work.” It’s always about the atmosphere. In fact in coaching you learn to ask not what is the problem, but who is the problem.

A lawyer called me the other day. He said, “When I walk in this office, and it’s MY office, I can’t stand the atmosphere. You can cut the tension with a knife.

Productivity is down. Sick call-ins are up. I’m losing good people. And I can’t stand to come here myself.” He went on to relate an incident of politicks that had occurred that had deeply divided the office, and from which it hadn’t recovered. He was at a loss to know what to do about it, and was so dragged down himself, his health was being affected.

One is tempted to use the word “healing” for this situation, as foreign that is to the workplace. But definitely this office was infected, and need healing. Human beings don’t function well in isolation, and in some offices there’s no human connect whatsoever.

This doesn’t mean turning your office into a place where people are expressing their emotions at the expense of work, or “letting it all hang out.” It just means taking care of the human side of the equation, which is to say the feelings of the people concerned. Not fixing their lives and their problems, but common courtesy, and common sense.

If you treat someone like a piece of furniture, they aren’t going to be there when you need them. They aren’t going to go the extra mile.

At the same time, someone who’s focused on negatives emotions has clouded thinking. If the whole atmosphere is CYA, that’s where the focus will be. This is especially detrimental for team work. Team members must be able to relate to one another, and this means being in touch with the emotions of others.

If fear, anger or avoidance dominate the scene, who would have the creative energy it takes for visioniong, strategizing, coming up with alternate solutions, working out personal differences, and Plans B?

Work is relationships, and relationships are built on emotions. You can choose your employees for their IQs, but if there’s no EQ in the office, you’re not going to get the results you’re after.

Number-crunching dominates the skills of many executives, managers and leaders, but, according to leading MBA schools, the ones who really soar in their careers are the ones with EQ skills … the ones who also know they’re human.

© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2004

Other Articles by Susan Dunn

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