Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Daniel Goleman Book Jacket

Having self-awareness means you aren’t afraid of your emotional “mistakes.” – Travis Bradberry

On Thursday and Friday of last week, I was given the opportunity to sit in on a pilot class for my company on the subject of Emotional Intelligence.  This is a subject I have developed a keen interest over the past couple of years, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to provide some of my own perspective on the subject while gaining new knowledge.  In a nutshell, a person that displays a high level of emotional intelligence (EI) has a high level of both personal and social awareness in all aspects of his/her everyday life.  This person has the uncanny ability to quickly analyze people, situations, and themselves and make a decision in such a way that usually has a positive outcome for everyone involved.

Some of the leading scholars on the subject include Daniel Goleman and Travis Bradberry.  Goleman’s books include Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ and Working With Emotional Intelligence.  Bradberry’s main work is Emotional Intelligence 2.0.  Each author contends that people with high EI or EQ (Emotional Quotient) are typically more successful than those with a high IQ but low EQ.

I am a believer in this theory as I have seen many smart people fail in areas where some people of average intelligence have succeeded, and in each case, the person with average intelligence displayed a higher EQ.  I’m not saying that these people weren’t intelligent, but they were what I would call “street smart.”  And “street smarts” is something that people typically acquire over time.  They experience things that many others do not and use the knowledge gained from those experiences to help them make decisions on a daily basis.

So back to the class and why I was in there.  My company hires an exorbitant number of PhD-types, Engineers, Accountants, and people from other areas of the business and science world.  And honestly, many of these folks struggle with the EI part of the job.  These folks operate very well in the black and white world, but when it comes to working in gray areas, they can struggle at times.  We also hire a number of people right out of college which can be interesting too.  So a course like this would be beneficial if presented properly and at the right time.

I was once one of those people.  At the ripe old age of 27, I was given the opportunity to manage a group of about 60 production operators.  The experience for me was like riding a roller coaster.  Not only did I have to manage the people from a professional standpoint, but I also had to be there for them when they were having problems in their personal lives.  Also, when you have more than 60 people working for you, you find yourself being held responsible for their mistakes.  It’s during these times when having a high EQ is critical to being able to properly handle these situations.  One time in particular comes to mind where a little EQ training would have helped a great deal – so I will share.

We had a drill at work one day, and we had a couple of associates dress out to go perform a search and rescue operation.  The guys had on full turnout gear (fireman stuff), and they were hooked up to SCBAs (scuba gear).  When they reached the scene, they decided not to turn on the SCBAs before entering the area.  So the conductors of the drill added them to the group of injured people in the drill, leaving them to be rescued by another team.  When I found out about this later that day, I was furious.  On top of that, we had a number of issues occur around that same time which only compounded my feelings of anger and rage.  So the next morning, I held the production operators over for a little talk.  At that point, I was still pretty amped up.  I wanted to get my point across and let them know I wasn’t going to tolerate mistakes and doing jobs halfway, so I invented the now imfamous “Stupid Policy.”  Do something stupid and pay the consequences.  That was my message.

At some point after I had uttered those magic words, I realized I had gone too far.  And I couldn’t take it back.  I had put my foot in my mouth.  I was mad, and I had let my emotions get the best of me.  At that point, my EQ was really low.  I mean really low.  As I sat in the class, I began to wonder how many people that I work with or work for me have made the same mistake and how having the fundamental knowledge from this class would have helped me better handle that situation.

At that point, I was sold.  Sign up the managers in my plant.  Sign up some of the people I work with and some of the people I work for.  Many of the others in the class with me saw the light too.  We all thought introducing the EI concepts as early as possible would only help new managers – especially those that had not had a great deal of life or professional experience.  Even if they didn’t totally buy into the concepts at the time, they would still learn the concepts associated with EI.  It can only help.

I am at the infancy of my EI journey.  I have read articles.  I have taken the self assessment (I found out that I am above average).  I have started analyzing where I need to improve from an EI standpoint.  I am looking to gain more and better knowledge about the subject, and at some point, I hope to share this knowledge with my team!  I think it’s a worthwhile venture – not only for me but for my team as well.  Not only do I think it can help them and myself from a professional standpoint, but it can help them from a personal standpoint too.

What do you think?

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One comment on “Open Mouth, Insert Foot

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