Magazine article Workforce

Emotional Intelligence at Work

Magazine article Workforce

Emotional Intelligence at Work

Article excerpt

When emotional intelligence training is done right, it involves people's hearts and minds. The results can be dramatic.

Training employees on the topic of emotional intelligence isn't the same as plopping people down in front of computer screens and teaching them how to use, say, Microsoft Office 2000M. Teaching someone to be emotionally competent can be a long process, taking weeks of time, hours of practice and lots of patience and coaching. It's an endeavor that invades personal territory while improving professional performance. In short, it's an adventure into both the heart and the mind. Many organizations that take the plunge experience many positive benefits, for employees and for their organizations. El training is an emerging trend.

Emotional intelligence training is just now blipping on the training radar screen. "It's so small that we're not really picking it up," says Laurie Bassi, vice president of research and enterprise solutions at the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), based in Alexandria, Virginia. So far, training that's specifically pegged as "emotional intelligence" hasn't emerged as a category, although aspects of soft-skills training, such as interpersonal communications, have been on the training agenda for years.

Yet Bassi sees it as a growing category Daniel Goleman, the EI guru and author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Bantam Books, 1995) and Working with Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books, 1998), spoke at ASTD's recent conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Although there's growing interest in the topic, corporate trainers, in general, aren't pouncing on emotional-intelligence training over other skill areas. "What people are saying and what they're actually doing are two different things," notes Bassi. "If you ask HR people, they'll say, `These skills are more necessary than ever. We give them high priority."' Yet, from ASTD's measurements on what training activities companies are spending the most money on, it's primarily technical and computer-related skills. "That may be because the demands for computer literacy and skills are even more overwhelming right now," adds Bassi.

According to The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations-which was founded in 1996 in conjunction with Goleman and the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey-there are thousands of consultants and HR professionals who are engaged in efforts to promote social and emotional competencies in employees.

The mission of the Consortium, whose members are from such organizations as American Express Financial Advisors, Johnson & Johnson and Egon Zehnder International, is to aid the advancement of research and practice related to emotional intelligence in organizations. Its mandate is to study all that is known about EI in the workplace, including identifying ways in which EI may traditionally have been taught as soft skills, but can now be identified under other rubrics, such as management and executive development, stress management and diversity courses.

The Consortium has identified 14 empirically supported models of best practice for developing emotional intelligence in the workplace. The Consortium also has developed a set of practice guidelines for organizations that want to excel in this area. (Find these models and guidelines at the Consortium's Web site at www.eiconsortium.org.) The guidelines are based on an exhaustive review of the research on training and development in organizations, behavior change, and social and emotional learning.

Different than other types of training.

Although emotional intelligence training comprises the best of any other good training program, there are important differences. This material isn't touchy-feely, EST-like fluff. Social and emotional learning is different from cognitive and technical learning, and it requires a different approach to training and development. …

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