I love TalentSmart's articles on Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Travis Bradberry's latest article will help you understand Emotional Intelligence in the workplace.
By Dr. Travis Bradberry
If you are an emotionally intelligent manager, you work hard to have good relationships with your direct reports and are rewarded by your employer for doing so. You pick up on the moods of your people, and you’ve mastered the art of using your team’s collective feelings—both the sour and the irrationally exuberant—to create positive change and encourage constructive collaboration. When your team needs to come together under the gun, you use your well-honed emotional intelligence (EQ) to get results.
But what if you aren’t the manager?
That was the question posed recently by researcher Michael Milillo. According to the Academy of Management, 79% of Fortune 1000 companies operate with self-directed teams not led by a formal manager. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the fast-paced world of Silicon Valley, where Milillo resides. Nearly all competitive high- tech enterprises have self-directed teams baked right into their DNA—they simply cannot afford to let bureaucracy and hierarchy gum up their innovation engines. On these self-directed teams, technical prowess reigns supreme. So, it seems like a good idea to choose the team member with the most technical know-how to lead the group.
In recent years, however, Milillo and others have observed that progress often stalls when the technical whiz takes over as leader. Why wouldn’t the best engineer on the team be the best person to lead a team of engineers? With innovation driving the bottom line, you’d think that Silicon Valley companies would benefit from having their best minds behind the wheel.
To find out, Milillo gathered two samples of professionals—one set of managers and one set of informal team leaders without “manager” titles—from one of the world’s leading high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. He then administered the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal® test to both groups. Milillo discovered that those without manager titles scored significantly lower in overall emotional intelligence than the formal managers. These informal team leaders also scored well below the formal managers on three of the four EQ skills—self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. They had trouble with things like “tolerating frustration,” “resisting the desire to speak or act when it won’t help the situation,” “picking up on the mood in a room,” and “handling conflict effectively.” Is it any wonder that informal team leaders, who lack these skills, struggle to lead their teams effectively?
What’s the prudent thing for the company in Milillo’s study to do? Should it restrict team leadership to those holding formal management titles and risk a slowdown in technological progress? With scores on the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal a significant indicator of job performance for employees at all levels, the company would be ill advised to sweep Milillo’s findings under the rug.
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