4 Steps to Building an Emotionally Intelligent Culture

by  Lyn Boyer  |  Workplace Issues

In an article last week, I discussed Five Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence (EI) Workshops Fail. In that article, I described research on efforts to enhance Emotional Intelligence  in the workplace and why it is often unsuccessful. I appreciated the wide-ranging comments, which added new perspectives and new dimensions to this topic.

In my article this week, I will discuss recommendations Cherniss, Goleman, Emmerling, Cowan, & Adler (1998) made after their research. They focus on the elements that must be in place to develop a culture that fosters and supports an emotionally satisfying and productive workplace — one in which individuals can thrive. Their four-step process suggests the following:

Preparation – Preparing an organization for EI improvement includes analyzing the organization’s needs, assessing group and individual strengths and limitations, providing feedback based on that assessment, allowing personal choice, linking learning goals to values, encouraging the group through the leaders’ commitment to EI, and gauging group and individual readiness for change.

Training – In addition to the conceptual framework trainers create to talk about EI, it is important to promote positive relationships between trainer(s) and participants, encourage self-directed change, set clear goals for change, break EI goals into manageable steps, use active learning (experiential) methods such as role play and simulations, provide and maximize opportunities for practice, provide frequent and supportive feedback during training, allow participants to observe effective and ineffective models, and encourage reflection and opportunities for insight.

Transfer and maintenance-  After training takes place, leaders and trainers must encourage participants to use new EI skills on the job. They must also work to build a culture that supports emotionally intelligent learning and prevents relapse through reflection, coaching and mentoring.

Evaluation – All effective professional develop requires evaluation and ongoing research. In addition to the basic needs, EI evaluation should include study of emotionally intelligent behavioral changes, goal implementation and recommendations for further training and support.

The authors published this report in 1998, and I believe the information is still pertinent. However, it is useful to consider additional research.  Zeidner (2004) and Nowak (N.D.) offer additional recommendations based on their own research and meta-analysis. In my recent book, Connect: Affective Leadership (sm) for Effective Results, I offer suggestions as well. Waterhouse (2006) offers a different view as she urges caution in embracing EI concepts because she says the theory lacks sound empirical support.

Whether one calls it Emotional Intelligence, common courtesy, or behavioral  expectations,  leaders must consider the emotional climate of their organizations and provide opportunities to explore how to make them better. With the multitude of topics and decisions leaders face, a one-day seminar on emotional intelligence is an easy answer to concerns about morale, work environment and customer service.  However, group and individual success and improvement in behavior tied to emotional reactions require much more.

How do you improve the emotional climate in your organization or in organizations with which you work?

  • Cherniss, C., Goleman, D., Emmerling, R., Cowan, K., & Adler, M. (1998). Bringing Emotional Intelligence to the Workplace: A Technical Report Issued by the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Retrieved from Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations: http://www.eiconsortium.org/reports/technical_report.html
  • Nowak, K. (N.D.) Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Employee Engagement: Creating a Psychologically Healthy Workplace Retreived from envisialearning.com: http://abstracts.envisialearning.com/43-abstractFile.pdf
  • Waterhouse, L. (2006) Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review. Educational Psychologist, 41(4), 207–225 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Retrieved from http://graduatestudenthelp.com/LynnWaterhouse.pdf
  • Zeidner, M., Matthews, G., Roberts, R., (2004) Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: A Critical Review Retrieved from Wiley Online Library- Applied Psychology: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2004.00176.x/full

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What People Are Saying

Martin Haworth  |  28 Feb 2012  |  Reply

In my opinion, ‘quick fixes’ have no place (and indeed may be damaging) if the foundations of simple easy and consistent relationship building are not in place.

Even this is too formal, Lyn.

Leaders, managers supervisors, whatever, have to be naturally and authentically keen to get to know their people and get close to them for the right reasons. I call it ‘getting to know the name of their dog’.

Understanding what’s important to them in their lives and honoring that (and, BTW, it usually isn’t work!), is the way to get a team on your side. After that, morale, motivation and capable people usually come anyway.

Team building day raft-building sure – but only after the spadework has been done – and the away day will simply not do that.

It requires effort and commitment on the part of a leader and, to be honest, a natural interest in people.

Lyn Boyer  |  28 Feb 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Martin,
I agree. Quick fixes have little benefit and can possibly cause harm. I also agree with your focus on relationship. Without building a strong foundation of relationship, the rest is simply window dressing. I also like the fact that you moved the relationship building out of the realm of “work” and mentioned the personal benefits. I hope that leaders see that practice not only as an important part of what they do, but also one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job. If not, they may not be in the right position. They probably cannot lead effectively.

Nadine B Hack  |  29 Feb 2012  |  Reply

I have done extensive work on the strategic importance of engaging stakeholders, which requires both emotional intelligence and practical skills. If you have interest to see more and/or share about what you have found to be effective and/or challenging in engaging stakeholders post your comments at http://blog.beCause.net

Lyn Boyer  |  03 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Nadine, Thank you. Your site has a lot of interesting and helpful information. Thank you for including it and for your comments.

Byron Stock  |  08 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Yes, these are four stand practices that any good training should include.

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