EQ in 2015

There’s a growing world of information and knowledge around how to improve leadership. It’s almost overwhelming. And at the same time, it’s hard to know what’s got legs, what’s just a fad and what’s snake oil.

I’ve been interested in the topic of emotional intelligence for a long time now. In the early days it felt like a fresh new perspective on what drives people. Dan Pink, around the same time, was talking about autonomy, mastery and purpose. Independent psychology consultancies were developing their own tools. Salovey Mayer and Baron were some of the names leading the way. A consortium arose wanting to provide rigour and force behind studying the topic.

Daniel Goleman has a lot to answer for. It’s widely acknowledged now that he didn’t start this type of thinking, but he certainly did give it a big push. Well done that man.

I remember back in 2007 (not that long ago now) first hearing of the work of Paul Ekman and microexpressions. I was captivated and hungry to know more. Malcolm Gladwell wrote Blink around then and was writing about Facial Action Coding Systems.

And today there seems to be a big focus for reflection. Some call it mindfulness, some call it reflective practise, some call it tree-hugging nonsense. There is a place for this. Reflection is supportive of raising self-awareness. It is supportive of understanding your own emotions and thoughts better. It is supportive of examining and analysing personal approaches to life and to work.

The final piece, which seems to be more supportive than it is revelatory, is how we understand neuroscience and its part in developing understanding of the human condition. Technology is allowing us to really start to explore the brain well and understand how behaviours function and how chemical reactions change the way we behave. There is fascinating information coming forward but we’re at proper early doors with this understanding.

There’s a lot out there just on the topic of EI to get lost in. A lot of people claiming to have the right answer and advocating a certain way of being. In an age of information being available readily, it’s harder to be seen as a leader in the field.

On Friday 20th March, I’m going to be attending the EQ Summit in London. It’s being hosted by Roche Martin with Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Business School. They’ve got the likes of Harvard Business Review curating the event for them and Dan Pink delivering a keynote and panel session. I’ve been invited to blog at the event and I’m totally there.

I’m not expecting big answers from the day. That’s too much of an ask, and it’s unlikely to happen. I am expecting to hear some clear thoughts on how the field of EI has developed into a thing to be taken seriously. I don’t really care about how it’s helped the executives of a big corporate beast to deliver more financial performance. I really want to hear some further things on how EI is helping us understand the human condition.

*For clarity, emotional intelligence is often given the abbreviation EQ as well as EI. This was an effort to liken it to IQ – intelligence quotient.


Thoughts from the #eqsummit

I’ve had an interest in the area of emotional intelligence for a while. From when it first came to the fore, many people were sceptical about the latest fad and dismissed it. There are a few reasons for this. It was new and only a handful of people actually understood what it was. It hadn’t been fully developed or thought through, so the full breadth of what it could offer hadn’t been realised. It felt too new age and not thorough enough to be taken seriously by major organisations or practitioners.

Fast forward to 2012, and we’re a long way from the 1990s. Many individuals sought to stick with this new thinking and really helped to advance its development. At the same time, studies were being done in other areas of psychology and science that would lend some very useful information to the area of emotional intelligence.

Last week, I attended the #eqsummit which sought to highlight just how far we’ve come in human understanding, and what this means for individuals, organisations, and society. The focus was on what emotional intelligence has been able to uncover and help with. At any conference/summit event you expect a product to be pushed at you. In this respect, you could not fault the PR from Roche Martin. They are a well-established group who have developed EQ tools such as the ECR (Emotional Capital Report)*, which is used by them in organisations to provide a basis for assessment, development, and coaching. It is also used by researchers and independent consultants for similar purposes. Of the 300-400 delegates present over the day, you can be sure Roche Martin will have gained considerable leads and demand for their product.

PR aside, the presenters over the day were well chosen and gave good insight into what using EQ as a methodology has helped them to achieve. Dr Martyn Newman, who owns Roche Martin, gave the opening keynote. He’s a very well polished and practised presenter, and is clearly on the speaker circuit often. His background in psychology and psychotherapy came through strongly, and gave solid credibility to his presentation. He provided links to developments in neuroscience, behavioural psychology, cognitive psychology, and talked about leaders and the top ten qualities they possess. I’m always cynical of these types of lists, and Dr Newman gave a useful way to think of these in the context of EQ:

Self-awareness – is about self-knowing and straightforwardness
Self-management – is about self-control, self-confidence and self-reliance
Social skills – is about relationship skills
Social awareness – is about empathy
Adaptability – is about being adaptable, having optimism and self-actualisation (not in the Maslow sense, but in having a passion for what you do)

He provided an interesting way to think about how early EQ has been present in those who just do it well. He said for years, scientists claimed that running a mile in less than 4 minutes could not be achieved, and if attempted would be severely detrimental to a person’s health. Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute barrier. And not only did he do this, but in the following year, 45 other runners did the same. Dr Newman offered that if there wasn’t a sense of some of the qualities described above present in all of these individuals, then it must have been drugs that made this feat possible.

The ten qualities he described provide a very interesting way to think about EQ. I’ve used the broad categories before, and understand there are nuances to each that need to be understood. A point re-iterated was that unlike IQ, which hits a peak at the age of about 20, EQ is a set of dimensions which can fluctuate and we can be better at them in some instances, and very bad at them in others.

My real reason for attending the summit was to hear from the very eminent psychologist, Dr Paul Ekman. I’ve studied his work on micro-expressions and enjoy the rigour which he brought to the understanding of human emotions. I could talk a lot about his talk, but for a very informative post about this, go take a read on Jon Ingham’s Strategic HCM blog. It’s an excellent summary of the talk. The things that struck me were how he continues to work in this field, and is able to present to a large group when he is over 80 years old. His relationship with the Dalai Lama is not only impressive, but clearly an important part of his life. That they have regular conversations face to face is just awesome.

It’s always useful to get a perspective on how organisations have used EQ to help them improve the way they operate. This was usefully provided by Optus, an Australian based telecommunications company, and Quiksilver, the apparel surfing company. Both companies gave examples of where using EQ helped their senior management and Exec teams understand what they do well when relating to others, where they need work, and how to adapt their communication style for different people. It’s interesting that we forget we have to do this at work. We just assume everyone will understand what we have to say.

I really enjoyed a talk by Andrew Humphries, who has started a social enterprise (called Attitude Academy) in using elearning tools to provide coaching for school children to help them understand how to develop social skills. This is in partnership with schools and is provided on a group basis as opposed to individual children. He provides coaching for clients and through this makes his income which gives him the basis to be able to do the coaching for children.

There was a panel discussion at the end which was a chance to Q&A with the presenters over the day. This was fine, but I don’t think added anything extra to what had been presented. A fair bit to think about from the day, and Roche Martin can hold their head up high knowing they’ve sold their product extremely well.

*I’m not being sponsored to make mention of their product, but it is worth making mention of and taking a look at what it does.