“How can people improve their emotional intelligence competencies?”
That’s a question I’m often asked, most recently by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronics, and now a professor at Harvard Business School. Bill co-authored True North, one of the best books I’ve seen on leadership. Bill’s question was pointed: he uses my articles and books on emotional intelligence and leadership in his class. These make the case for why leaders need these human skills. But when it comes to how people can strengthen them, Bill has been frustrated by the lack of materials that would help his students.
There are many views of how to enhance emotional intelligence abilities; the Consortium on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations lists the best practices, based on a survey of research studies. A workbook, due out in 2008 from Harvard Business School Press, puts these into practice; it’s written by my colleagues Annie McKee of the consulting firm Teleos, Richard Boyatzis who teaches in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, and Frances Johnston, who works with Annie. Reuven Bar-On is lead editor on an excellent survey of approaches, Educating People to Be Emotionally Intelligent.
But the method I find most intriguing is undergoing a trial these days at Google University. A few months ago I gave a lecture at the Googleplex arguing that IQ alone was not enough to identify the people who would be star performers and leaders. Especially at Google, where a high IQ seems a universal requirement for employment (and thus a threshold competence, one everyone has to have just to keep their job), you’d expect other dimensions like emotional intelligence competencies to be distinguishing abilities, those that set stars apart from average.
In my Google talk I reviewed the key neural circuits for the fundamentals of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-mastery, and empathy – which facilitate our effectiveness in interactions and relationships. And I described new research suggesting that mind training methods like mindfulness enhance the brain’s circuitry for these same fundamentals.
Now Google U. is offering a course on emotional intelligence that uses mindfulness training to enhance EI. The course’s teachers are Mirabhai Bush, director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and Norman Fisher of the Everyday Zen Foundation. This contemplative approach to enhancing EI should make sense to Bill George. A model of emotionally intelligent leadership while he was CEO at Medtronics, he’s been a meditator for years.