From the book: The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace

by: Daniel Goleman



An EI-Based Theory of Performance

As I define it, an emotional competence is "a learned capability based on emotional intelligence that results in outstanding performance at work." To be adept at an emotional competence like Customer Service or Conflict Management requires an underlying ability in EI fundamentals, specifically, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. However, emotional competencies are learned abilities: having Social Awareness or skill at managing relationship does not guarantee we have mastered the additional learning required to handle a customer adeptly or to resolve a conflict-just that we have the potential to become skilled at these competencies.

Emotional competencies are job skills that can, and indeed must, be learned. Figure 3.1 presents the current version of my EI framework. Twenty competencies nest in four clusters of general EI abilities.



Personal Competence

Social competence



- Emotional self-awareness
- Accurate self-assessment
- Self-confidence

Social Awareness

- Empathy
- Service orientation
- Organizational



Achievement drive

Relationship Management

Developing others
Conflict management
Change catalyst
Building bonds
Teamwork & collaboration


Neurological Substrates of EI

The distinction between EI-based competencies and purely cognitive abilities like IQ can now be drawn more clearly than before owing to recent findings in neuroscience. The components of IQ-are based primarily in specific areas of the neocortex. When these neocortical areas are damaged, the corresponding intellectual ability suffers. In contrast, emotional intelligence encompasses the behavioral manifestations of underlying neurological circuitry that primarily links the limbic areas for emotion, centering on the amygdala and its extended networks throughout the brain, to areas in the prefrontal cortex, the brain's executive center.

Social Awareness, which encompasses the competency of Empathy, involves the amygdala. Studies of patients with discrete lesions to the amygdala show impairment of their ability to read nonverbal cues for negative emotions, particularly anger and fear, and to judge the trustworthiness of other people. This evidence that Empathy and Self-Management are foundations for social effectiveness finds support at the neurological level. Patients with lesions in the prefrontal-amygdala circuits that undergird both Self-Management and Empathy show marked deficits in relationship skills, even though their cognitive abilities remain intact.

The Self-Awareness Cluster: Understanding Feelings and Accurate Self-Assessment

The first of the three Self-Awareness competencies, Emotional Self-Awareness, reflects the importance of recognizing one's own feelings and how they affect one's performance. At a financial services company emotional self-awareness proved crucial in financial planners' job performance. The interaction between a financial planner and a client is delicate, dealing not only with hard questions about money but also, when life insurance comes up, the even more discomforting issue of mortality; the planners' Self-Awareness apparently helped them handle their own emotional reactions better.

At another level, Self-Awareness is key to realizing one's own strengths and weaknesses. Among several hundred managers from twelve different organizations, Accurate Self-Assessment was the hallmark of superior performance. Individuals with the Accurate Self-Assessment competence are aware of their abilities and limitations, seek out feedback and learn from their mistakes, and know where they need to improve and when to work with others who have complementary strengths. Accurate Self-Assessment was the competence found in virtually every "star performer" in a study of several hundred knowledge workers-computer scientists, auditors and the like-at companies such as AT&T and 3M. On 360-degree competence assessments, average performers typically overestimate their strengths, whereas star performers rarely do; if anything, the stars tended to underestimate their abilities, an indicator of high internal standards.

The Self-Management Cluster: Managing Internal States, Impulses, and Resources

The Self-Management cluster of EI abilities encompasses six competencies. Heading the list is the Emotional Self-Control competence, which manifests largely as the absence of distress and disruptive feelings. Signs of this competence include being unfazed in stressful situations or dealing with a hostile person without lashing out in return. Among small business owners and employees, those with a stronger sense of control over not only themselves but the events in their lives are less likely to become angry or depressed when faced with job stress or to quit.

The Trustworthiness competence translates into letting others know one's values and principles, intentions and feelings, and acting in ways that are consistent with them. Trustworthy individuals are forthright about their own mistakes and confront others about their lapses.

The signs of the Conscientiousness competence include being careful, self-disciplined, and scrupulous in attending to responsibilities. Conscientiousness distinguishes the model organizational citizens, the people who keep things running as they should. In studies of job performance, outstanding effectiveness in virtually all jobs-from the bottom to the top of the corporate ladder-depends on Conscientiousness. Among sales representatives for a large U.S. appliance manufacturer, those who were most conscientious had the largest volume of sales.

If there is any single competence our present times call for, it is Adaptability. Superior performers in management ranks exhibit this competence. They are open to new information and can let go of old assumptions and so adapt how they operate. Emotional resilience allows an individual to remain comfortable with the anxiety that often accompanies uncertainty and to think "out of the box," displaying on-the-job creativity and applying new ideas to achieve results. Conversely, people who are uncomfortable with risk and change become naysayers who can undermine innovative ideas or be slow to respond to a shift in the marketplace.

David McClelland's landmark work The Achieving Society (1961) established Achievement Orientation as the competence that drives the success of entrepreneurs. In its most general sense, this competence, which I call Achievement Drive, refers to an optimistic striving to continually improve performance. Studies that compare star performers in executive ranks to average ones find that stars display classic achievement-oriented behaviors-they take more calculated risks, they support enterprising innovations and set challenging goals for their employees, and so forth. Optimism is a key ingredient of achievement because it can determine one's reaction to unfavorable events or circumstances; those with high achievement are proactive and persistent, have an optimistic attitude toward setbacks, and operate from hope of success. Studies have shown that optimism can contribute significantly to sales gains, among other accomplishments.

Those with the Initiative competence act before being forced to do so by external events. This often means taking anticipatory action to avoid problems before they happen or taking advantage of opportunities before they are visible to anyone else. Individuals who lack Initiative are reactive rather than proactive, lacking the farsightedness that can make the critical difference between a wise decision and a poor one. Initiative is key to outstanding performance in industries that rely on sales, such as real estate, and to the development of personal relationships with clients, as is critical in such businesses as financial services or consulting.

The Social Awareness Cluster: Reading People and Groups Accurately

The Social Awareness cluster manifests in three competencies. The Empathy competence gives people an astute awareness of others' emotions, concerns, and needs. The empathic individual can read emotional currents, picking up on nonverbal cues such as tone of voice or facial expression. Empathy requires Self-Awareness; our understanding of others' feelings and concerns flows from awareness of our own feelings. This sensitivity to others is critical for superior job performance whenever the focus is on interactions with people. For instance, physicians who are better at recognizing emotions in patients are more successful than their less sensitive colleagues at treating them

Social Awareness also plays a key role in the Service competence, the ability to identify a client's or customer's often unstated needs and concerns and then match them to products or services; this empathic strategy distinguishes star sales performers from average ones. It also means taking a long-term perspective, sometimes trading off immediate gains in order to preserve customer relationships.

Organizational Awareness, the ability to read the currents of emotions and political realities in groups, is a competence vital to the behind-the-scenes networking and coalition building that allows individuals to wield influence, no matter what their professional role. Insight into group social hierarchies requires Social Awareness on an organizational level, not just an interpersonal one. Outstanding performers in most organizations share this ability; among managers and executive generally, this emotional competence distinguishes star performers. Their ability to read situations objectively, without the distorting lens of their own biases and assumptions, allows them to respond effectively.

The Relationship Management Cluster: Inducing Desirable Responses in Others

The Relationship Management set of competencies includes essential Social Skills. Developing Others involves sensing people's developmental needs and bolstering their abilities-a talent not just of excellent coaches and mentors, but also outstanding leaders. Competence in developing others is a hallmark of superior managers; among sales managers, for example, it typifies those at the top of the field.

A talent of those skilled in the Conflict Management competence is spotting trouble as it is brewing and taking steps to calm those involved. Here the arts of listening and empathizing are crucial to the skills of handling difficult people and situations with diplomacy, encouraging debate and open discussion, and orchestrating win-win situations. Effective Conflict Management and negotiation are important to long-term, symbiotic business relationships, such as those between manufacturers and retailers. In a survey of retail buyers in department store chains, effectiveness at win-win negotiating was an accurate barometer of the health of the manufacturer-retailer relationship.

Competence Comes in Multiples

Although there is theoretical significance in showing that each competence in itself has a significant impact on performance, it is also in a sense an artificial exercise. In life-and particularly on the job-people exhibit these competencies in groupings, often across clusters, that allow competencies to support one another. Emotional competencies seem to operate most powerfully in synergistic groupings, with the evidence suggesting that mastery of a "critical mass" of competencies is necessary for superior performance/

Along with competency clusters comes the notion of a tipping point-the point at which strength in a competence makes a significant impact on performance. Each competence can be viewed along a continuum of mastery; at a certain point along each continuum there is a major leap in performance impact.


EI Leadership, Climate, and Organizational Performance

I have indicated how EI can affect an individual's success in an organization. But how does it affect organizational success overall? The evidence suggests that emotionally intelligent leadership is key to creating a working climate that nurtures employees and encourages them to give their best. That enthusiasm, in turn, pays off in improved business performance

The relationship between EI strengths in a leader and performance of the unit led appears to be mediated by the climate the leader creates. In the study of insurance CEOs, for example, there was a significant relationship between the EI abilities of the leader and the organizational climate. Climate reflects people's sense of their ability to do their jobs well.

A study of the heads of forty-two schools in the United Kingdom suggests that leadership style drove up students' academic achievement by directly affecting school climate. When the school head was flexible in leadership style and demonstrated a variety of EI abilities, teachers attitudes were more positive and students' grades higher; when the leader relied on fewer EI competencies, teachers tended to be demoralized and students underperformed academically. Effective school leaders not only created a working climate conducive to achievement but were more attuned to teachers' perceptions of such aspects of climate and organizational health as clarity of vision and level of teamwork.

The benefits of an understanding and empathic school leader were reflected in the teacher-student relationship as well. In a related follow-up analysis, Lees and Barnard (1999) studied the climates of individual classrooms, concluding that teachers who are more aware of how students feel in the classroom are better able to design a learning environment that suits students and better able to guide them toward success.


Implications for the Future: EI and Higher Education

Given the value of the personal and organizational effectiveness of EI-based capabilities, there is a clear need to integrate that valuation into our organizations' functions. Organizations need to hire for emotional intelligence along with whatever other technical skills or business expertise they are seeking. When it comes to promotions and succession planning, EI should be a major criterion, particularly to the extent that a position requires leadership. When those with high potential are being selected and groomed, EI should be central. And in training and development, EI should again be a major focus.

Given our new understanding of the crucial role emotional competence plays in individual, group, and organizational success, the implication for education is clear: We should be helping young people master these competencies as essential life skills. There are already numerous school-based programs in the basics of EI, programs that deliver social and emotional learning (SEL).

But as of this writing, when it comes to preparing young people in the essential emotional intelligence skills that matter most for their success in the workplace, for piloting their careers, and for leadership, we face a serious gap. The SEL programs cover the early school years but not higher education. Only a scattered handful of pioneering SEL courses exist at the college or professional level. And yet the data showing the crucial role EI skills play in career success make a compelling case for reenvisioning higher education in order to give these capabilities their place in a well-rounded curriculum.

Given that employers themselves are looking for EI capacities in those they hire, colleges and professional schools that offered appropriate SEL training would benefit both their graduates and the organizations they work for. The most forward-thinking educators will, I hope, recognize the importance of emotional intelligence in higher education, not just for the students, not just for the students' employers, but for the vitality of an economy as a whole. As Erasmus, the great humanist writer, tells us, "The best hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth."

Go to: Career Success differences of Men and Women

Go to: Research on how EI differs for men/ women and for age

Go to: Goleman on teaching EI in schools

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