Q&A: Daniel Goleman Talks Emotional Intelligence

By SHRM Online staff Sep 22, 2010
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Daniel Goleman

SHRM Online: If not charisma, what exactly is emotional intelligence (EI), and why should companies care about it?

DG: Emotional intelligence determines how well we manage ourselves and our relationships. An employee may have a high IQ—and so be technically brilliant—but if he lacks self-awareness or self-mastery, he won’t be able to leverage those intellectual abilities at their peak. And if he lacks relationship abilities, he’ll have difficulty in working with other people.

SHRM Online: What are some situations in which EI plays the greatest role for managers and supervisors?

DG: The best managers, supervisors and leaders at all levels are high in EI. The abilities to communicate effectively, set clear goals and manage toward them, inspire and motivate, give effective performance feedback, listen and empathize, form strong working alliances and lead are all based on EI. When you are evaluating a potential candidate for management, you are actually assessing that person’s EI.

SHRM Online: How does EI relate to or tie into diversity management?

DG: Managing well with people from diverse groups and backgrounds requires empathy, and abilities such as sensitivity to nonverbal cues and to cultural differences in how people express themselves. These are EI skills.

SHRM Online: How can emotional intelligence positively and negatively influence teams/teamwork?

DG: I’m reminded of two new hires at a high-tech company: One was a gifted systems analyst, who spent 60 to 70 hours working very hard, staying alone in his cubicle. The other also was gifted, but she made a point of getting to know everyone on her team and finding out how she could help out. She became a star team leader, while he remained a talented individual contributor—but a poor team player. The relationship skills or EI are the active ingredients in teamwork.

SHRM Online: What are the best ways to measure EI, and when should this be done for what purposes? What are some of the worst uses?

DG: There are specific EI assessment tools designed for screening candidates for hiring, spotting high potentials, performance feedback and coaching. Different instruments work best for each of these HR tasks. There are dozens of EI tools. I recommend consulting the web site www.eiconsortium.org for best practices, which is the web site for the Consortium for Research on EI in Organizations, based at Rutgers University, which I co-direct.

One of the least reliable uses of EI measures is depending solely on self-report tests; people low in self-awareness, a key EI skill, are unreliable sources of their own evaluation, [but] 360-[degree] assessments take care of that problem.

Daniel Goleman is a sought-after speaker and author of several best-sellers on emotional intelligence. He is co-director of the Consortium for Research on EI in Organizations, based at Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey.

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