Last week, I conducted a pre-consultation with a new client for our company, Newleaf Training and Development. It would be inappropriate to name the client — to provide context though, this organization is a privately owned and esteemed university.
We have been contracted to facilitate some leadership development for the executive management and senior leadership teams. Additionally, they have contracted with us to facilitate some work on personal and interpersonal effectiveness and teamwork with all other staff members.
I was aghast during the pre-consultation, to hear members of the executive management team describe the root of the problem they were hoping we could help with. Bearing in mind many of these leaders hold doctorates in their field of expertise, what they described was not an issue of a lack of IQ in themselves and others but a lack of EQ. We all know what IQ is, but what’s EQ?
Daniel Goleman is often held up to be the bastion of all knowledge when it comes to EQ — emotional quotient but I believe EQ is a lot older than the 72 years of Daniel Goleman. EQ is no more complicated than being able to work effectively with others. Academics will often break EQ into the four quadrants of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Like I said, it’s no more complicated than the ability to work effectively with others.
I prodded and poked the executive management further to describe in simple terms to me what they saw as the problem. I felt like the TV cop Colombo when I asked questions that began with, “I’m just curious about …” and, “one more thing …” or “I’m just trying to understand…”
When I’d exhausted my questions, I summarized back to them how they’d described the issue: lack of decorum; bullying; sexual harassment; gender bias; favoritism; arguments over religion; lack of grace and forgiveness toward each other and people easily taking offense on the slightest of issues. I asked if I’d got everything and they confirmed I had.
I left the meeting scratching my head about the sadness of the human heart. What is it about our human condition that causes such levels of dysfunction among such an intelligent group of people at the executive management and senior leadership of this esteemed organization? It wasn’t surprising to me at all to hear that the other staff members who reported to the senior leadership also had all sorts of issues.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize if there are problems at the executive and senior leadership levels, there is undoubtedly going to be issues at the staff level. It’s the same with families though, isn’t it? If there are issues between the parents it’ll often come out in the behaviors emitting from the children of those parents. Whenever I see issues at the staff level, I always see issues at the leadership level. The two always go hand in hand.
As we reviewed the proposed curriculum for the two levels of training we would be conducting — leadership development at the highest level and personal and interpersonal effectiveness and teamwork at the staff level, I sensed a seachange in the conversation. One of the executive team members had the humility to offer an opinion that essentially went like this: “I believe we need to do some work on personal and interpersonal effectiveness and teamwork ourselves. We should do what the staff members will be doing. We can better support them by getting ourselves in order first.”
The ripple effect started and within about two minutes all of the executives agreed with their colleague’s suggestion. They wanted us to help them improve their interpersonal skills and teamwork mindset. They wanted to do what the staff would be doing. They wanted to do their own “marriage counseling,” per se, rather than just send the kids off for behavioral modification.
On one hand, I was pleased with the outcomes, but on the other, still saddened to think about the human heart: that regardless of one’s IQ, what really matters is our ability to manage ourselves and influence others. Yes, I was reminded again that EQ trumps IQ.