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  • EQ - FUTURE FORCE OR FOOLISH FAD?

    The latest rage in management training and development appears to be EQ (Emotional Quotient). Derived from US psychologist Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, the training system based on his theories includes (according to an article in the August 22 – 28 edition of BRW) “development of self awareness, impulse control, persistence, zeal, motivation, empathy and social deftness which can be found in people who excel, and whose relationships flourish.”

    BRW reports that the ANZ Bank has committed $16 million! to the system, and Woodside Petroleum has also committed a substantial sum. HR practitioners from both contend that the program has had beneficial effects and that the culture of their organizations is becoming more open and cooperative. (For that money it would be difficult to say anything else!)

    Having read Coleman’s book in 1999, I was impressed by his research on why leaders and managers fail. I was impressed because the results of his research reinforced the conclusions from my own studies and experience. Further, they reinforced the results of studies made in 1960 by Douglas McGregor and made me wonder why the same mistakes were still being made despite the passing of 35 years. I was not overly impressed, however, by the conclusions he reached on how the reasons for continuing failure of leaders and mangers could be addressed and the failures prevented or rectified. He said (at least to me and apparently other more learned observers – see the BRW article) little that was new but seemed to suggest that he had discovered the solution to most of the problems faced by people in their interpersonal relationships.

    My question is this: Why then, if little is new in EQ, is it becoming so popular within organizations?

    It is interesting to note that in the BRW article all the comments came from HR sources. While the commitment of HR is to be commended there was no comment at all from CEOs or other senior or line managers and supervisors, who of course are the leaders in their organizations. This was probably because the writer of the article did not consult them, however, one of the main causes of poor relationships between people within organizations has been, and continues to be, the reluctance of managers to develop their leadership skills and take accountability for the standard of those relationships. It has been much easier for them to focus on management systems, techniques and processes than on people issues and this has resulted in the tendency for HR to take the leading rather than the supporting role in this area. It has also resulted in the search for quick and easy solutions – the ‘magic potion’ or ‘silver bullet’ and the quick acceptance of the many management fads that appear with great regularity.

    But we at The Leadership Academy believe that the people who must drive the development and long term maintenance of good working relationships are the managers and supervisors at all levels, assisted by their HR people. In fact, we include virtually all the EQ subjects listed above in our leadership development programs and consultancies because we believe that leaders must possess and display these qualities if they are to set the example within their areas of influence and accountability. But leaders must have other capabilities such as: the ability to create vision and a sense of purpose; plan and organize; deal with difficult situations and make difficult decisions; and have a clear understanding of what leaders must do and how they must act as leaders if they are to create the environment in which their people, their teams, can be successful.

    All this leads to additional questions: Is the adoption of EQ just another search for the magic potion? Is it another attempt at a quick fix albeit expensive solution, and yet another instance of managers avoiding their responsibilities towards the development of their teams and the individuals who comprise them?

    Some knowledgeable observers are already asking these questions. We have our doubts as is obvious from the tenor of this article. Only time will tell, but given the levels of research available today, we should not have to wait another 35 years for some answers.

    Peter McDougall September 2002