How Do You Feel? Essay

This essay has a total of 5167 words and 22 pages.

Dr.

How Do You Feel?
"Emotional intelligence" is starting to find its way into companies, offering employees a
way to come to terms with their feelings -- and to perform better. But as the field starts
to grow, some worry that it could become just another fad.

From: Issue 35| June 2000 | Page 296 By: Tony Schwartz Illustrations by: Cynthia Von Buhler

Appreciation, apprehension, defensiveness, inadequacy, intimidation, resentment. Twenty
midlevel executives at American Express Financial Advisors are gathered in a room at a
conference center outside Minneapolis. Each has been asked to try to convey a specific
emotion -- by reading a particular statement aloud. The challenge for listeners is to
figure out which emotion each speaker is trying to evoke. It seems like a relatively
straightforward exercise but only a fraction of the group comes anywhere close to
correctly identifying speakers' emotions.

"I sometimes wish I had a corporate decoder for each relationship," one woman laments.
"It's very hard to know what people are feeling in my office and how I should respond."
Her comment prompts a discussion about the difficulty in the workplace of finding a
balance between reasonable openness and respectful discretion.

"When one of my direct reports starts talking to me about her medical problems, I don't
want to be unsympathetic, but it makes me very uncomfortable," says a male department
head. "I find myself joking by saying to her, 'Too much information.' But I'm not really
sure how to get the message across."

Conversations like that one, focusing on the importance of emotions in the workplace, are
occurring with greater frequency in all kinds of American companies. Inside American
Express, training sessions on emotional competence take place at the Minneapolis facility
several dozen times a year. An unlikely pioneer in the field of emotional competence, AmEx
launched its first experimental program in 1992. An eight-hour version of the course is
now required of all of its new financial advisers, who help clients with money management.
During a four-day workshop, 20 participants are introduced to a range of topics that
comprise an emotional-competence curriculum, including such fundamental skills as
self-awareness, self-control, reframing, and self-talk.

Much of that material represents new territory for these businesspeople. "The majority of
those we work with are very cognitive and not very experienced with emotions," explains
Darryl Grigg, a psychologist who practices in Vancouver, British Columbia and conducts
about 20 workshops each year for AmEx and other organizations. "We're introducing people
to a whole new language."

Most attendees of these emotional-competence workshops are compelled to learn a new
language for one simple reason: They're visiting a foreign land. Over the past 50 years,
large companies have embraced a business dictum that told workers to check their emotions
at the door. A legacy from the days of "The Organization Man" and "The Man in the Gray
Flannel Suit," this never-spoken but widely shared policy reflected the sensibility that
frowned on employees who brought messy emotions and troubling personal issues to work.

Employees, for their part, complied with that prevailing mind-set. Until recently, the
workplace was dominated by male employees -- and most of them were just as eager as their
employers were to avoid the ambiguous complications and unexplored terrain of personal
feelings.

One notable exception to that tacit pact occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, when the
influence of the human-potential movement prompted a brief corporate romance with such
experiential techniques as sensitivity training and encounter groups. But those approaches
lacked the rigor to endure. Before long, business got back to business. A backlash set in,
and the focus returned to no-nonsense training methods that were highly quantifiable,
happily free of emotions, and demonstrably able to produce results that would show up on
the bottom line.

Today, more than 20 years later, companies in a variety of industries are once again
exploring the role of emotions in business. This renewed interest in self-awareness is, in
part, the result of the rising corporate power of baby boomers. The increasing presence of
women in the workplace and the higher comfort level they bring to the territory of
emotions have also nudged companies in this direction. And the arrival of the new economy
has made companies realize that what they need from their workers goes beyond hands,
bodies, and eight-hour days.

While the field of emotional competence appears to have emerged overnight, it has, in
fact, been 15 years in the making. In 1985, Reuven Bar-On, 56, a psychologist who
practices in Israel, first coined the term "emotional quotient," or EQ. Bar-On had moved
to Israel at age 20 and became interested in the field while studying for his PhD in South
Africa. "My simple -- almost simplistic -- question in the beginning was, 'Are there
factors that determine one's ability to be effective in life?' " he explains. "Very
quickly, I saw that people can have very high IQs, but not succeed. I became interested in
the basic differences between people who are more or less emotionally and socially
effective in various parts of their lives -- in their families, with their partners, in
the workplace -- and those who aren't." For his thesis, Bar-On identified a series of
factors that seemed to influence such success. He then developed a tool that assessed
strengths or deficits, based on those factors.

A diminutive, bearded man with a genial style, Bar-On, now a research fellow at Haifa
University, is a meticulous researcher who has gathered more scientifically validated data
worldwide about emotional intelligence than anyone in his field has. His work has recently
focused on developing EQ "profiles," which reveal the specific competencies that
characterize high performers in a range of professions. In 1996, he launched the EQI, a
self-administered test designed to assess specific emotional competencies. Companies and
organizations, ranging from the Bank of Montreal to Fannie Mae to the Toronto Maple Leafs,
have used the EQi for employee development. "To measure emotional intelligence is to
measure one's ability to cope with daily situations and to get along in the world," argues
Bar-On, whose test is marketed through Toronto-based Multi-Health Systems. "I've
conceptualized emotional intelligence as another way of getting at human effectiveness."

But if Bar-On pioneered the field, Daniel Goleman, 54, formerly a behavioral- and
brain-sciences writer for the "New York Times," brought it to popular attention. Drawing
on the work of two academic psychologists, John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey, Goleman
published "Emotional Intelligence" (Bantam, 1995). The book became an instant best-seller
-- with more than 5 million copies in print worldwide -- and sparked inevitable criticism
from Mayer and Salovey, who believed that Goleman distorted their work and made sweeping
claims about the benefits of emotional intelligence.

Goleman has gone on to advance the case for emotional competence in the workplace. He
published a second book, "Working with Emotional Intelligence" (Bantam, 1998), aimed
specifically at businesspeople. He then authored two articles for the "Harvard Business
Review." He also coedited a forthcoming book of essays written by leaders in the field;
cofounded the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence, a group of academics and
businesspeople with interest in the field. Later, he began working with the Hay Group, a
Philadelphia-based consulting firm that specializes in human-resource issues, to deliver
emotional-intelligence training.

All of this should come as welcome news to residents of the new economy. Companies can
continue to give top priority to financial performance -- but many now also realize that
technical and intellectual skills are only part of the equation for success. A growing
number of organizations are now convinced that people's ability to understand and to
manage their emotions improves their performance, their collaboration with colleagues, and
their interaction with customers. After decades of businesses seeing "hard stuff" and
"soft stuff" as separate domains, emotional competence may now be a way to close that
breach and to produce a unified view of workplace performance.

But like other good ideas that started in psychology and later found new applications in
business, emotional competence is confronting the challenge of its own sudden popularity.
Increasingly, emotional competence is being sold as a solution to each of the categories
for which companies have training budgets, from leadership to motivation to leveraging
diversity -- competencies that are emotional only by the most ambitious of stretches. The
emerging field has sparked the almost inevitable scramble to cash in on the spreading
claims of its potential applications.

As emotional competence grows in application, so do the questions: Are these new
dimensions of emotional competence genuine and verifiable categories? Can they be
effectively taught and measurably improved? And what is the risk that emotional competence
will veer badly off course and end as the next short-lived fad?

AmEx's Emotional-Insurance Policy
It's difficult to imagine a less likely setting for a training program on emotions than
American Express -- that buttoned-up, by-the-numbers, financial-services giant, which last
year had more than $21 billion in sales. In fact, the company launched its program in 1991
as a possible solution to a simple business problem that defied a logical solution. More
than two-thirds of American Express clients were declining to buy life insurance, even
though their financial profiles suggested a need for it. Jim Mitchell, then president of
IDS, American Express's Minneapolis-based insurance division, commissioned a skunk-works
team to analyze the problem and to develop a way to make life insurance more compelling to
clients.

The team's findings took the company in an unexpected direction. The problem, the team
discovered, wasn't with AmEx's product -- or even with its cost. Put simply, the problem
was emotional.

Using a technique called "emotional resonance," the team identified the underlying
feelings that were driving client decisions. "Negative emotions were barriers," explains
Kate Cannon, 51, formerly an AmEx executive who eventually headed the team and whose
interest in the role of emotions in the workplace was in part sparked by her background in
mental-health administration. "People reported all kinds of emotional issues -- fear,
suspicion, powerlessness, and distrust -- involved in buying life insurance."

But the team's second finding proved the clincher: The company's financial advisers were
experiencing their own emotional issues. "All kinds of stuff going was holding them back
-- feelings of incompetence, dread, untruthfulness, shame, and even humiliation," explains
Cannon. The result was a vicious cycle. When clients expressed negative feelings, advisers
had been trained to press harder. But this hard-sell approach only exacerbated clients'
emotional conflicts, increasing their discomfort and distrust. In turn, advisers
experienced more distress, stemming from their mandate to apply high-pressure tactics,
which made them feel unethical. Ultimately, they became reluctant to try to sell life
insurance at all.

At the same time, interviews with AmEx's most-successful advisers revealed that they took
a very different approach to their jobs. They tended to take the perspective of their
clients, which enabled them to forge trusting relationships. They were also more connected
to their own core values and motivations for selling insurance in the first place. Perhaps
most important, they were more aware of their own feelings, better able to manage those
feelings, and more resilient in the face of disappointment.

"We were sitting around a conference table one day," Cannon recalls, "when it dawned on us
that someone with all of these positive qualities is emotionally competent." Eager to test
the hypothesis that specific nontechnical skills can influence performance, Cannon's team
devised a study: One group of financial advisers received 12 hours of training to help
them understand their emotions better, while the other group received no training and
served as the control.

The training, called Focus on Coping Under Stress, was relatively brief -- only 12 hours
-- and relatively narrow in design. It used techniques to increase AmEx salespeople's
awareness of their emotions, gave them tools to change negative emotions into positive
ones, offered ways to rehearse mentally before stressful events, and provided a way to
identify deeper personal values that motivated them at work.

At the end of the study, Cannon's team compared the sales results of the two groups:
Nearly 90% of those who took the training reported significant improvements in their sales
performance. In addition, the trained group, in contrast to the control group, showed
significant improvement in coping capacity, as measured on standardized psychological
tests. Advisers, in short, had become more emotionally competent.

After Cannon's team made adjustments to the program, including recasting it as
emotional-competence training, a second, more-detailed project was launched to assess
sales results. The group that participated in the more-detailed study improved its sales
by 18.1%, compared to 16.1% for the control group. That 2% difference may seem
insignificant -- but it apparently added tens of millions of dollars in revenues. While
Cannon's group quickly acknowledged that the sample was too small to be statistically
significant, the results did suggest that even a modest, short-term program aimed at
teaching "soft skills" could have a noticeable impact on the bottom line.

AmEx disbanded its skunk-works team in 1994, but Cannon, convinced that the group was on
to something important, found a new source of support in Doug Lennick, 47, now an
executive vice president of American Express Financial Advisors. With the clean-cut,
boyish looks of a high-school class president, Lennick had built his reputation at AmEx as
a superstar salesman. Long before he learned about Cannon's program, Lennick had become
something of a Stephen Covey-type figure in his own organization, spreading the word about
self-improvement techniques and eventually writing up his ideas in two, short, folksy
books published locally in Minneapolis: "The Simple Genius (You)" and "How to Get What You
Want and Remain True to Yourself."

For all of his salesman's pithy aphorisms and upbeat exhortations, Lennick was also
interested in people's interior lives -- and specifically in the role that emotions play.
"Emotional competence is the single most important personal quality that each of us must
develop and access to experience a breakthrough," he says emphatically. "Only through
managing our emotions can we access our intellect and our technical competence. An
emotionally competent person performs better under pressure."

With Lennick's support, Cannon gathered several colleagues and six outside psychologists
to develop longer versions of the initial training. The focus broadened from improving
people's coping capacity to training people in the skills of emotional self-awareness,
emotional self-management, and emotional connection with others. Lennick, in turn,
mandated that all newly hired financial advisers receive an eight-hour version of the
program as part of their job training. Since 1993, more than 5,500 new advisers have had
the training, and an additional 850 "high potential" managers from other parts of AmEx
have voluntarily enrolled in the full five-day course.

Cannon, who left American Express a year ago and now licenses emotional-intelligence
training to corporations like Motorola, as well as to individuals, is modest but firm in
her claims about the program that she helped to create. "It's a basic introduction, but
what it gives people is permission, a language, and a structure for bringing their
emotional lives into the workplace," she says. "It also prompts a shift in perspective.
They come out seeing the world differently. For men, who are often talking about emotions
for the first time, it opens a window. They finally understand what their mothers and
sisters and wives have been talking about all these years when they say, 'You don't
communicate with me,' and 'You never tell me what you're feeling.' For women, it's often
their first confirmation that qualities like self-awareness and empathy can really make a
positive difference in the workplace."

The Air Force Flies on Emotions
If emotions and life insurance seem an unlikely match, consider instilling emotional
competence within the ranks of the U.S. Air Force! That experience, according to Rich
Continues for 11 more pages >>




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