Transcript of the interview below:
Diane: Hello im Diane Coutu, senior editor at Harvard business review and im delighted today to have as my guest Dan Goleman. Dan is the psychologist known around the world for his expertise in social and emotional intelligence. He’s also the co-author of the Harvard business review article ‘social intelligence and the biology of leadership’. Dan welcome to the program
Daniel Goleman: Thanks it’s a real pleasure to be here.
Great to have you. Dan, we’ve invited you because we wanted to talk about social and emotional intelligence and how they effect organizations and leaders. So lets just start at the beginning. Emotional intelligence – What is it and why is it important for us?
Emotional intelligence refers to how we handle ourselves. Are we aware of our feelings, our passions, the things that turn us on, the things that turn us off. What makes us effective, what gets in our way. Also how we manage our emotions. Do we let things interrupt our ability to focus, to get work done effectively or not. Empathy – recognizing other peoples emotions. Knowing how the other person sees things. How their feeling, and using that all to interact with people effectively.
You know your work has changed how leaders and businesses do their work around the world. Can you think of a leader who has changed how he’s done his work or how she’s done her work based on your insights into emotional intelligence.
Well you know I hear about hundreds but I can’t name any. Erm.. I can think of a very highly placed executive who was hearing from direct reports that things weren’t going so well. The messages came for example in the form of people leaving, as well as a lot of grumblings. It turned out that when he really faced what was going on people were saying “you know you just don’t listen”. You just tell us what you think. You say you want to hear what we know and we know a lot, but you don’t really care about that.
What he had to do was get better at the social intelligence ability of listening, of tuning into other people. It’s a real problem for many executives because of course you know a lot but you don’t know everything. But because your the boss people defer to you so they start listening but the really excellent, the outstanding leaders, are people who first listen, and get other people to say what they think and what they know and then put that altogether for a higher order integration, that’s real leadership. That’s what he had to learn. Through coaching he was able to change and his business performance and the performance at his unit was much much better afterward then before.
Diana: So the level of a leader’s emotional intelligence affects a leader’s performance
Daniel Goleman: We have so much data now, about 10 years accumulated data from organizations of all kinds showing that there’s a direct correlation between the emotional intelligence of leaders at every level and how that organization performs by what ever performance metric you want to use.
Diana: Well but it seems to me that leaders often think they have more emotional intelligence then they do. How do you begin to assess your level of emotional intelligence?
Daniel Goleman: Actually I think we all think we have more emotional intelligence then we do. One of the most brutal ways is to ask your teenage child, but at work what you can do is ask other people because it turns out that we ourselves are not the best gage of how we’re impacting other people. But other people if you can get them to be candid can tell you what your strengths are, and we all have them and what you can get better at and that’s the most interesting, valuable information because that’s where any leader can get a bump in improvement. by getting better at listening as that executive did you can become a more effective leader and therefore because you depend on other people for your success by getting better at listening to them, helping them develop, helping them do their jobs well, the whole organization benefits.
Diana: Dan, you talk about emotional intelligence and I’m very curious how you got from that to social intelligence.
Daniel Goleman: Well emotional intelligence when I first wrote about it was prompted by me by a new breakthrough in brain science and our understanding of the emotional centres of the brain and how that effects our ability to think well. It turns out that when we’re upset it hampers our ability to process information, to think creatively. We fall back on over-learned primitive behaviours, it makes us dysfunctional. But if were passionate about what were doing, if were motivated in the throw of positive emotion we think very very clearly. So there is an immediate obvious implication for business there and I wrote about that.
My new work on social intelligence has been stimulated by the same thing – Big breakthroughs in brain science. Now their not just studying one brain and one body and one person but two – the interaction. We’re finding out that this is the key to why a leader like Herbert Kelleher of Southwest airlines was so spectacularly successful in growing that airline. We have been looking at video of Herb Kelleher just walking down the hallway of lovefield in Dallas and its though there was a circle of good feeling radiating around him wherever he went. Everyone, passengers, personal, passers by, all of a sudden lighten up and beam because he was someone who engaged people, who was positive and let you know that he was tuning into you, and was doing it with such positivity that it was contagious for you.
Diana: Now how about leaders that do not have that natural inborn instinct. How can they use your insights in emotional and social intelligence in order to improve their leadership expertise.
Daniel Goleman: First of all for leadership its social intelligence that our data is showing counts the most. Social intelligence is being able to tune into other people, to read them, to know how they are thinking about things, what their feeling right now and using that to communicate effectively with them, and the good news is that even though we learn our habits – for example, what kind of listener you are. We learn those early in life. We can change them at any point if we are motivated, if we know what to do and if we have a little help. So there is an easy five step process basically for enhancing social intelligence abilities in a leader.
First the question to ask yourself is “do you care”, “are you motivated”. Second, get some feedback. You’re actually probably the worse person to judge where you need to improve. You need to ask the people around you in a way that they can be candid, they can be honest, and that’s often with the 360 device where they anonymously rate you. You don’t know who said it but you’re getting the truth. You look at that profile and you identify your strengths, your weaknesses. Where can I get better? Where can I get a bump? Then you make a learning agreement to yourself to do it in a better way at every naturally occurring opportunity. If you do that for a few months you will see real change.
Diana: So how can a company use social intelligence in order to increase organizational performance?
Daniel Goleman: So many companies are doing that now. I just spent the morning with a group where a national insurance company, a global pharmaceutical company, a world famous medical centre. Their all doing the same thing with emotional intelligence. Their using it to enhance the effectiveness of their leadership but also to change the culture. And the way their doing it is integrating it into the HR function. Their trying to hire people who have these abilities already. That was the strategy that south-west used. They look for people that are like little Herb Kelleher’s and it worked great, it worked beautifully for them. Their promoting these abilities. It becomes part of how you evaluate it and part of what’s looked for in taking people to the next level in the organization. They are also putting a lot of effort into individual development to help everybody grow these abilities to a greater strength.
Diana: So if we were going to go back and sum up for our audience today you would say the difference between emotional and social intelligence is…
Daniel Goleman: Emotional intelligence really has to do with self mastery. How you handle yourself and it makes outstanding individual performers. There are so many people in the world of work that are excellent. But their excellent because of their own efforts and they have very good discipline, very good motivation, they have drive. These are individual abilities. But when it comes to leadership your success depends on every one else being effective so you need to be successful by influencing, persuading, developing, growing, inspiring and motivating other people. That’s the social intelligence ability. Requires empathy, and requires skills and interaction and that’s what make s great leader.
Diana: Dan, one of the problems that companies really have is figuring out how to hire people because it’s so difficult to hire people and know what their emotional and social intelligence level’s are. So how do you go about trying to find little herb Kelleher’s?
Daniel Goleman: Well first of all if your looking for a Herb Kelleher type you have to expand the criteria because Herb was a unique. He was extremely , extroverted extremely up. But social intelligence doesn’t always look like that. One of the sure signs of social intelligence is rapport. You feel comfortable with the person. You feel they are paying full attention. You feel they are really listening to you, they are really attuning, their really empathizing. We know what that feels like. We feel felt. When your with someone like that you have chemistry. That is one of the sure signs.
Diana: Daniel Goleman, thank you very much.
Daniel Goleman: Thank you too, it was a great pleasure
Diana: Thank you