Exactech, Inc. is growing quickly, so the Gainesville, Florida, orthopedic device manufacturer introduced a program to develop future leaders. Two dozen high-potential employees were identified among the staff of 260 and then given intensive yearlong training. This program didn’t focus completely on technical skill development. Rather, participants learned how to improve their self-awareness and interaction with other staff members. “Especially as people rise to higher levels in organizations, their ability to do their job effectively depends on emotional intelligence qualities more than technical qualities,” explains Exactech cofounder Bill Petty.
Exactech is one of many organizations discovering that emotional intelligence (EI) can significantly improve individual, team, and organizational effectiveness. Emotional intelligence includes a set of abilities to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in oneself and others.
One popular model, shown below organizes EI into four dimensions representing the recognition of emotions in ourselves and in others, as well as the regulation of emotions in ourselves and in others. These four dimensions are also found in other models of EI, but experts disagree on the definitive list of abilities representing EI. For example, the authors of the model shown here include a list of “abilities” for each cell, but others warn that the list includes personality traits and personal values (e.g., achievement, optimism) as well as task outcomes (e.g., teamwork, inspirational leadership).
Self-awareness is the ability to perceive and understand the meaning of your own emotions. You are more sensitive to subtle emotional responses to events and understand their message. Self-aware people are better able to eavesdrop on their emotional responses to specific situations and to use this awareness as conscious information.
Self-management is the ability to manage your own emotions, something that we all do to some extent. We keep disruptive impulses in check. We try not to feel angry or frustrated when events go against us. We try to feel and express joy and happiness toward others when the occasion calls for these emotional displays. We try to create a second wind of motivation later in the workday. Notice that self-management goes beyond displaying behaviors that represent desired emotions in a particular situation. It includes generating or suppressing emotions. In other words, the deep acting described earlier requires high levels of the self-management component of emotional intelligence.
Social awareness is the ability to perceive and understand the emotions of other people. To a large extent, this ability is represented by empathy — having an understanding of and sensitivity to the feelings, thoughts, and situations of others. This includes understanding another person’s situation, experiencing the other person’s emotions, and knowing his or her needs even though unstated. Social awareness extends beyond empathy to include being organizationally aware, such as sensing office politics and understanding social networks.
This dimension of EI involves managing other people’s emotions. This includes consoling people who feel sad, emotionally inspiring your team members to complete a class project on time, getting strangers to feel comfortable working with you, and managing dysfunctional emotions among staff who experience conflict with customers or other employees. Some emotional intelligence experts link this component of EI to a wide variety of interpersonal activities, but we must remember that relationship management is restricted to managing other people’s emotions, whereas working effectively with other people extends to other competencies.
These four dimensions of emotional intelligence form a hierarchy. Self-awareness is the lowest level of EI because it is a prerequisite for the other three dimensions but does not require the other dimensions. Self-management and social awareness are necessarily above self-awareness in the EI hierarchy. You can’t manage your own emotions (self-management) if you aren’t good at knowing your own emotions (self-awareness). Relationship management is the highest level of EI because it requires all three other dimensions. In other words, we require a high degree of emotional intelligence to master relationship management because this set of competencies requires sufficiently high levels of self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness.
Organizational Behavior – McShane | Von Glinow