The Leading Edge: Using Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Performance

Article by Roger Pearman

Leadership dimensions are plentiful: visioning, communicating, planning, inspiring, and much more.  One thing all leaders have in common is followers—those who help the leader make things happen.  As such, relationships are the lifeblood of leadership achievement and there is no better way to both understand and enrich those relationships than through the lens of emotional intelligence (EI).  Individuals like coaches or consultants, and organizations using EI as a frame or perspective will find that their communication is clearer, implementation is achieved, and overall engagement and satisfaction have greatly improved.

Why and how does EI make a difference in leadership?

Leaders who utilize relationship, empathy, and problem-solving behaviors are likely to have both a clear understanding of what is needed in a situation and how to communicate information in a way that it can really be heard. Further, can there be any doubt that optimistic leaders are more satisfying to work with and for?  As noted above, these are the kinds of behaviors that emotionally intelligent leaders demonstrate—and fortunately, all of these behaviors are learnable.  The path for learning more about these behaviors begins with assessing how a leader currently displays and uses them.  The EQ-i assessment provides an excellent way to tap into fifteen emotional and social skills that give leaders the edge for strengthening their organizations at all levels.

Recently, John Ellis, the President of a company with 4,000 employees, puzzled over an internal survey of employees showing uneven employee satisfaction, distrust of managers, and a general attitude of little commitment to the work and/or organization.  His human resource and training director pointed out in a cover memo to the report that employee turnover numbers were high and expensive.  Wisely, an article on EI was also attached to the report.  John reflected on what seemed to be a sorry state of affairs and he wanted a way to approach these complex issues.  He asked for more explanation of how EI could help, and he offered to take the EQ-i assessment in the spirit of learning “more about this stuff.”

When the interpretation of the EQ-i was completed, John Ellis realized that his own behaviors around showing interest in others, engaging interpersonally, being adaptable, showing calm, and generally communicating an optimistic perspective were merely cascading down through the organization.  It was transparently clear to him that these behaviors do matter; there was one thing he was absolutely sure about. The current behavior from the leaders in the organization was not going to make the culture shift that he felt was needed.  He concluded, leaders in his organization needed to become more emotionally intelligent and he needed to start with himself.

How do you initiate EI training in your organization?

Your first task is to link organizational goals to EI skills so you can determine which of the extensively researched assessments—EQ-i, EQ 360, or MSCEIT—will help reach the awareness needed to foster development inside the organization.  So to make the case for enhancing EI behaviors through training, you need to do some homework to show the explicit link between EI along with the following:

  • the leadership principles or values of the organization, and
  • the developmental climate in the organization.

You are now ready to position EI as a value-add.  Decision makers want to know “what is in this for me?”—or “us”?  Be prepared to show thorough examples (and data if you have it) of how becoming more emotionally intelligent within teams, customer service or sales reps, or daily associate interactions can help the organization be focused and healthy.  Provide some examples which illustrate the following when individuals are using or enhancing their EI-related behaviors, for example:

Situation EI Advantage Highlights
Employee is unmotivated Getting at underlying needs that are not being met by using empathetic discussions Exploring stress-coping strategies to build capabilities
Customers are unhappy Listening with an empathetic ear, taking initiative to constructively—optimistically—engage the individual, and using problem solving skills will produce better customer satisfaction
Team leader is ineffective Learning how to build interpersonal skills, develop greater flexibility, and pragmatic reality-tested strategies with confidence will boost team leader effectiveness
Change initiatives need to be implemented Leaders who are emotionally self-aware, assertive toward attending empathetically to the concerns of others, show tolerance for the stress embedded in the situation, and optimistic about the future, will be more likely to lead change effectively

No doubt you will find that EI is competing with other ideas within the organization.  For example, there are others who will argue that EI is “too conceptual” while communication training is more pragmatic.  You need to have a candid Strengths—Weaknesses—Opportunities—Threats analysis on what EI brings the organization over competing models of development.  Be sure to articulate how EI facilitates not just communication effectiveness (or other competing training topics) but also an increase in individual performance that affects all levels of the organization.  For example, you might illustrate the value of EI by this analysis:


  • EI addresses proven performance-related effectiveness
  • EI provides a focused pathway for development

  • EI assessment or training might not be a simple or one-time event
  • EI facilitation requires high-end facilitation expertise—not just anyone can do it

  • EI training addresses a whole range of development needs
  • EI enhancement can impact associate health and customer satisfaction

  • The term “emotional intelligence” scares people off from exploring the topic
  • EI may seem invasive and more personal rather than professionally focused

You can address the weaknesses and threats with a couple of important reminders.  EI assessments like the EQ-i are thoroughly researched and comprehensive which means getting the most out of the learning event.  Though the assessments and concepts are complex, the long-term value for the organization is worth the effort.  As for threats, an effective facilitator can help audiences understand that grasping how emotions enhance performance throughout one’s life elevates opportunities for achieving your personal and professional goals.  Further, it is vital that everyone understand who is associated with an EI learning event, and that reports are confidential and belong only to the individual who took the assessment.  The individual has to embrace their results and make the commitment to enhance specific behaviors.

Facilitate getting your next opportunity to make EI a part of organization life and to provide leaders with the performance edge they seek by:

  • knowing your “buyers” in the organization—their needs, expectations, hopes
  • knowing the benefits of EI tools and the EI training you want to provide
  • aligning individual and organizational goals with EI learning event outcomes

Create an action plan

There are specific actions you can take to promote the awareness and potential use of EI frameworks in your organization.  As a quick summary, use this checklist as a reference to create opportunities and increase the chances of your success:

  • Define your EI services, products, and experiences
  • Identify the products or services that align with organizational goals
  • Identify your target decision makers, end users, and how they can use the training to enhance effectiveness
  • Establish a clear link between using EI insights to satisfy organizational and developmental needs
  • Determine how EI will be a developmental experience relevant to everyone, regardless of their roles
  • Describe the unique characteristics and benefits of your EI products, or services that distinguish them from the competition such as the science supporting EI frameworks or the immediate usability of EI concepts to work (and personal) challenges
  • Define how “costs” (assessments, materials, time, fees etc.) compare with other training or coaching services
  • Identify how you will use EI assessments and learning experiences, and how these will be available to the end users
  • Describe the unique characteristic of EI products or services such as how EI covers a whole range of development needs from leadership development to being associated with health and well-being
  • Share any research that supports development activities that are unique to EI such as the linkage of intrapersonal, interpersonal, stress management, adaptability, and general mood
  • Describe how enhancing EI competencies will facilitate talent management throughout the organization

Give yourself and your organization the leadership edge—make EI behaviors commonplace in everyday organizational life!

About Roger

Roger’s professional career extends from serving on the faculty and staff of Wake Forest University, senior executive of operations in a financial service organization, and now the entrepreneurial role of company founder.  In all of these positions he has had a keen interest in developing others and enhancing their effectiveness.  Beginning in the mid 1990s, he began researching and writing about emotional intelligence and leadership.  His most popular publications include: Introduction to Type and Emotional Intelligence, YOU: Being More Effective in Your MBTI® Type, I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You, Leadership and Emotions, and Emotions and Health.

2 Responses to The Leading Edge: Using Emotional Intelligence to Enhance Performance

  1. I really like reading a post that can make men and women think.
    Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  2. There’s certainly a great deal to know about this
    topic. I really like all of the points you have made.

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