In a previous company where I worked, we had a VP who would often yell at people and call them an “idiot” if they had any thought or idea that he did not like. Today, organizations are faced with the challenge to evolve their leadership team in order to attract and retain new talent. This requires a shift from an outdated, intimidating, and dictatorial style of leadership to a more collaborative and cooperative style. However, the executive suites in most organizations are usually very direct, assertive, and highly intelligent people with big egos. Their aggressive nature allowed them to climb the corporate ladder. But, once they entered the executive suite, their ego began to hinder the success of the entire organization. What they lack is emotional intelligence.
Google defines Emotional Intelligence as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Emotional intelligence puts an ego in check and is often the difference between acting in an agreeable manner or saying something unreasonable.
Being emotionally intelligent becomes increasingly critical the higher one goes up in an organization. Yet, research suggests emotional intelligence fades as people move above middle management. Often, the CEO has the lowest emotional intelligence score in organizations! Why? Because of what author Marshall Goldsmith calls “The Paradox of Success” in his best-selling book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Executives think they are successful because of the way they acted and treated people on their climb. Goldsmith says it is despite the way they acted and treated people. He goes on to say that the higher you go up in an organization, the more your interpersonal flaws will become magnified.
So, how do you know if your executive suite has emotional intelligence? Here are five simple questions:
1. Does everyone on your executive team have good interpersonal skills?
2. Does everyone on your executive team embrace change?
3. Does everyone on your executive team accept criticism without anger, denial, or even retribution?
4. Does anyone on your executive team get offended easily?
5. Does anyone on your executive team react emotionally or do they think about how their reactions will affect others?
If you answered no to any of the first three questions or yes to either of the last two, then your executive team has an opportunity to improve their collective emotional intelligence. The next step to help build their emotional IQ’s is to get their buy in that they want to grow as a team. This is typically the most difficult step because of the ego factor. However, once they are bought in, here are three steps to help them grow their collective emotional intelligence:
1. Have the entire executive team participate in 360° evaluations and debrief the results with a professional coach or trainer. This will reveal any blind spots they may have.
2. Have each of them create an executive development plan for the areas of improvement identified in their 360° evaluations.
3. Enlist an executive coach to help hold them accountable to the commitments they made in their executive development plan.
Executives who are committed to growing their emotional intelligence have a great impact on attracting new talent, driving collaboration, and creating winning organizations. A highly emotionally intelligent executive suite will evolve the culture of the organization and drive future success.