emotional intelligence at work has a very simple rationale. Using this foundation, we have refined and concentrated our beliefs down to three. In conjunction with three concepts, we have identified the following characteristics of our approach, which make emotional intelligence at work different.
Most coaching, mentoring and training in ‘soft skills’ in the business world is about the individual. Obvious, at one level.
Yet we are not isolated individuals, we exist through our relationships with other people, and this is particularly true in the workplace. As John Donne wrote, ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’.
The emotional intelligence at work approach to business emphasises business relationships rather than the business person because that is the way to get to the heart of what’s going on. This equally true in an group of people who get together to pursue some common cause, whether in the public sector, the third sector and, indeed, in religion, sport and politics.
And business relationships are, typically, more complex than individuals, so failing to address them is going to leave out some essential components of what makes organisations tick. A relationship does include the people at each end but it also adds a transactional dynamic between which is fluid and rich in content.
It is a fresh and more relevant approach.
Most coaching and training models are, by intention, behavioural. The premise is that to get a better outcome, you either have to do something better or do something different. Whilst this is true, it is a necessary but not sufficient premise in our view. People act on their feelings and beliefs—they take decisions based on their feelings. Deciding to do something different requires new beliefs and emotions. And commitment to keep doing that new thing certainly requires a useful set of beliefs and feelings.
Basically, our behaviour is only the top of a pyramid. Behaviours are determined by our emotions and feelings; and by the beliefs about the world and ourselves which give rise to those emotions. We talk about the complex interaction between emotions and feelings, and beliefs and thoughts as simply creating an attitude. As Viktor Frankl said, ‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…’. WE can always choose our attitude in any situation and emotional intelligence at work is about helping clients identify the most useful attitude in a particular situation and then helping them maintain it.
Many practitioners do not want to consider the emotional intelligence aspect of a business because it is too difficult and cannot easily be fitted into a business model. Many clients certainly would like it not to be there. There is therefore a ready market in collusion between practitioner and client not to go there. Whether that helps the client really resolve an issue is a moot point.
Any methodology which restricts itself to the behavioural and ignores the emotional and belief dynamics which create the behaviour is bound to be only partially successful.
It is a fundamental tenet of emotional intelligence at work that people form and maintain relationships, and form and maintain attitudes, independently of specific contexts. That is, a given person maintains relationships, for example, in exactly the same way whether at home or in business—or, indeed, on the sports field, in church or in politics.
Luckily, most people’s ways of maintaining relationships are the same—so that the ways can be codified into models. As Derren Brown observed, ‘Our tendency to think that we’re not predictable is probably one of our more predictable traits’. emotional intelligence at work uses a small number of models which we know have been of great value in many situations.
If people maintain relationships and attitudes consistently, this implies that there is no boundary between different contexts; in particular, between home and office. This explains a very deep and important aspect of our work which is to help clients see, when it’s appropriate, that an issue in work may well have an origin outside work.
Whether it’s a company that’s stressed because the MD is stressed because he has just come out of a difficult divorce, a business which is in dead zone, reflecting the state of the owner’s marriage, or a business which is stuck because the MD is stuck because he doesn’t trust himself to run the business—in all these cases the current problem in the business has its roots in the life experience of one or more influential people in the business.
No amount of wanting this not to be true will make it not true. We are trained and experienced in helping clients go there, if they are willing to, and it’s appropriate for them to do so. If they do not wish to do this, we do not press. We always remember that our client is the business, not particular individuals.