Egos, emotions, and errors

2006

It's sad, really. After so much research on the benefits of Emotional Intelligence, too many managers and leaders continue to ignore the facts. They're stuck in their old patterns of intimidation and coercion, demoralizing employees and creating attitudes of grudging compliance.

Consider this interaction that occurred recently at a high-level meeting:

Manager: Wouldn't it be a good idea if we got input from our more experienced technicians on how to implement this new solution?

Senior Executive: I'm not going to waste my time with that. I'm the bottom line authority here, and if I say 'do it,' I expect the project to get done. Now go get this project implemented.

According to the manager that related this scenario to me, the senior executive was popping his veins. He was truly upset that anyone would challenge his right to dictate what was going to happen.

Emotional Intelligence means being intelligent about the emotions, values, and expectations of all concerned and making the best decision based on those observations.

Using this definition, the senior executive in the above example showed no emotional intelligence whatsoever. He firmly believed that simply because he held a senior position, he could throw his ego (and his title) around and people should do what he wanted.

What people want is to have input into important decisions

Granted, the executive certainly had the right to make such a decision. In fact, such an approach can be quite efficient; but it's rarely effective. The long term consequences can have a tremendously negative impact. People can become apathetic or grudgingly compliant toward what they're being told to do. What people want - especially those with solid knowledge about their profession - is to have input into important decisions.

Unfortunately, some leaders and managers don't care. They don't think about how people might lose commitment and stop investing their best efforts. They don't realize that people want to give input and feel like their opinions matter.

The result? Wasted resources. Missed opportunities. Less effective results.

Consider Marie, a mid-level supervisor for a national hotel chain. She's been with her company seven years, and each year her performance review noted that she'd gone over and above the call of duty in providing exceptional customer service.

Unfortunately, after tearing some ligaments during a horse-riding accident, Marie needed surgery. Upon informing her boss that she might need to be off work for six weeks, Marie received a shock. "I don't know if I can hold your job that long," her boss blurted out. No attempt was made to ask if Marie thought she could contribute while she was out. Just a blanket statement that her job might be in jeopardy.

"It's hard devoting yourself to people with power issues," Marie told me. "They have to be in control all the time." She went on to tell me that she'd had a plan to help through telecommuting, but after her manager bowled her over, she felt like giving up.

Essentially, it's a huge mistake to ignore the intellect and motivations of people. The idea that employees can't contribute to problem-solving is an error. A manager's or leader's ego may insist on the right to dictate actions, but the true impact of that often creates more damage than the action seeks to solve.

The point to remember is Emotional Intelligence is learnable. All that needs to happen is for managers and leaders to see the benefit of doing so.

Perhaps a financial benefit might provide motivation for some. Consider two managers who didn't get along. Although the company was profitable, egos reigned and production wasn't optimal. When company leaders and managers underwent training in Emotional Intelligence, it sunk in, albeit slowly. Six months after the program, one of the leaders approached me with the following:

"It used to be that I didn't care what happened in [the other person's] department. But after the training I realized that we simply had different work styles. So I chose to work with this guy instead of against him, and together we now make decisions that save the company more than $20,000 per day."

Twenty thousand per day? Even if they do that only five days a year, the payoff is huge.

What it takes is managers seeing that ideas and solutions other than their own need to be considered. They have to set aside their egos. They need to want to learn. And they have to be willing to choose new patterns of employee interaction.

It's possible. I see it all the time. And it's the intelligent thing to do.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

The old management style is repeated in our political leadership. We can see that for many, power over others is the ultimate drug. We have experienced politicians who hang on to power at any cost and in doing so, sacrifice the principles that may have originally motivated them to seek office. I often wonder how adults can be surprised when children use bully behaviour. It would a surprise if they didn't because adults in powerful positions model that behaviour for them. Many children learn about 'power over others' from abusive parents. The other extreme is overly permissive parents who refuse to set limits on their children's behaviour. This early training sets the tone for our future managers and political leaders. Teaching social responsibility, impulse control, problem solving, reality testing and empathy, a few of the emotional intelligence components would make a positive difference in parenting and in setting a new standard for business and political leadership.

Donna Chevrier Canada