28 September 2009

Book Review: "Emotional Intelligence"

Daniel Goleman has an apt and easy to understand explanation as to why emotional intelligence is perhaps more important than IQ in his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence. Overall, this a great book for understanding one's own emotions, why it is important to manage one's own feelings, and using that knowledge in one's life and relationships. This is important information for both personal and professional use; however, I will focus mainly on the business aspects which with the book deals.

In our society and at the workplace, cognition takes precedence as thee intelligence standard. Many would like to think of the human mind as a computer; however "in reality, the brain's wetware is awash in a messy, pulsating puddle of neurochemicals, nothing like the sanitized, orderly silicon that has spawned the guiding metaphor for mind," (page 40-41). Certainly human emotions are a part of us, and yet our society would like to think otherwise despite the fact that emotions are what makes us human. "...Every feeling has its value and significance. A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself," (page 56). We are not robots, even if we try to be at work.

I feel that the heart of the book lies within parts III to V where Goleman illustrates why emotional intelligence is such a key ingredient in both society and private life, and how emotional literacy is founded. Our most intimate relationships are impacted by how much emotional intelligence each of us brings to the relationship. Whether it be husband and wife or parent and child, empathy in particular is critical in these and other relationships. If one cannot understand the other person's point of view and has little to no self-control, then fights can more readily occur. "...A person's emotions are so intense, their perspective so narrow, and their thinking so confused that there is no hope of taking the other's viewpoint or settling things in a reasonable way," (page 139). Empathy is the gateway to understanding and communication in any relationship.

The 5 main branches of emotional intelligence are:
  1. Knowing one's emotions: one must understand his/her own feelings before managing them
  2. Managing emotions: taking control of one's emotions rather than having them rule one's life
  3. Motivating oneself: understanding what interests a person and how to be productive
  4. Recognizing emotions in others: recognition leads to greater understanding of people and therefore empathy
  5. Handling relationships: being able to manage one's own emotions and that of someone else is a necessary life skill

Business Implications

From a business perspective, a manager needs to understand delegate tasks based not just on the IQ variety of intelligence, but also on emotional intelligence as well. As many of us know from experience, it is not necessarily the best tactic to assign a highly intelligent person to a task where a great deal of people skills is essential if that person is lacking in the so-called soft skills. Emotionally intelligent people are generally the easiest to work with in teams. "...Teams become the work unit rather than the individual himself," (page 159). "The single most important element in group intelligence, it turns out, is not the average IQ in the academic sense, but rather in terms of emotional intelligence. The key to a high group IQ is social harmony," (page 160).

Building informal networks are also essential, especially when dealing with unexpected problems within a project. In order to achieve being a "node" in the informal network, emotional intelligence is required. Of course, most people will not turn to a co-worker that is unreliable or not trustworthy in a time of need. Nor will a co-worker respond to a crisis situation when there is no obligation either from the organization or the social web. "When unexpected problems arise, the informal organization kicks in. Its complex web of social ties form every time colleagues communicate, and solidify over time into surprisingly stable networks. Highly adaptive, informal networks move diagonally and elliptically, skipping entire functions to get things done," (page 162).

Using emotional intelligence for managers is extremely important in dealing with subordinates, peers, and superiors alike. For example, when giving a critique it helps to:
  • Be specific. Don't use vague examples, but rather provide clear, concise examples that the other party will understand.
  • Offer a solution. Feedback should be useful and pertinent.
  • Be present. Both critiques and praise should be done in private and done in person.
  • Be sensitive. Be empathic and try to understand the other person's viewpoint when giving feedback.
There are other uses for business applications within the book as well, but those I have highlighted seem to have the most obvious impact in the workplace. I feel that this is an important issue that Goleman tackles well. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to better his/her own life either professionally or personally.


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