All organizations have one or more constrained, or more accurately, constraining resources, resources that limit what can be accomplished. To illustrate, imagine that in a moment of poor impulse control, you agree to bake fourteen cherry pies for a company event. You have lots of cherries, lots of flour, mixing bowls, spoons, an oven that holds seven pies, and one, only ONE, pie pan. That pan is your constrained resource.
We often think of constrained resources as tangible. For example, the auto industry is currently in a jam. It can’t get enough computer chips to make cars. Show rooms are nearly empty. Want a car? Expect to wait several months. As Rudyard Kipling said, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost . . .”
But some resources that organizations need are intangible. You can’t see them, but they can have a major constraining impact on organizational performance when they are in short supply. Examples include technical expertise, intellectual horsepower, and Emotional Intelligence (EQ). If EQ is a constraining resource, you, as an executive coach, a consultant, an HR leader, or a Chief Learning Officer, can so something about it.
Here are some potential signs of EQ limitations in an organization:
- Right hand/left hand miscommunication. When some departments operate without regard for what other departments need, it may indicate that Empathy is in short supply. The leadership within various departments might not be stopping to think of what other departments need. Assertiveness might be in short supply as well. Leaders may not be letting other departments know, in unthreatening ways, what they need from them. Bottom line? Poor communication likely means the need for more EQ.
- What do you hear when leaders or groups talk about each other? When two areas are in conflict, it is not uncommon to hear judgmental or disparaging comments, such as, “They don’t really care all that much.” “Those guys are just not very good at their jobs.” “I’m pretty sure they have it in for us.” “He’s on a power trip.” These are stories people often make up about others when there are problems. Sometimes (but rarely) they are true. Often they are not. Reality Testing is an EQ skill that can be used to see which is which. Reality Testing means that we go get more information to test whether our interpretations of others’ behavior are accurate. Conclusion? Lots of judgmental language likely means the need for more EQ.
- Sometimes talented people don’t perform at the level their talent alone would predict. What gets in the way? Sometimes it’s Self Regard, also an EQ skill. Even talented people may have trouble seeing themselves as you do. Something blinds them to their true potential. Then they create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or a person may be too impatient to nail down that last piece that would make a performance top notch, jumping to something else before a task is finished. Or someone might be too inflexible to change ways that worked before, but no longer. Impulse Control and Flexibility are EQ skills, and like all EQ skills, can be learned. These talented people may be unaware of what is driving them off the path which they and the organization want them to be on. Self Awareness is another EQ skill that can be nurtured and grown. Bottom line? Under-performance may indicate not a talent deficiency but a need for more EQ.
- Sometimes whole leadership teams hang on rigidly to outdated methods of creating organizational success. Bottom line? Don’t wait for the company to die. Greater Flexibility (EQ) is a much better solution.
- Are there leaders in the organization who alienate others? Maybe they make insulting comments or interrupt rudely. In addition to Empathy, this can also be an Impulse Control issue, an Interpersonal Relationship issue, or both. Impulse Control is driven by mismanaged anxiety. People who have trouble in relationships may never have had the chance to learn how to create good working relationships. Impulse Control and Interpersonal Relationships are learnable skills. Bottom line? If key people anger others with regularity, don’t wait until it’s so bad they have to be fired. Build their EQ skills.
- How well does the Executive Team work together? Is there sufficient trust? Conflicts are inevitable, even desirable, but are they managed constructively? Is one person scapegoated on the team? All of these are EQ issues. Limited skills in Interpersonal Relationships, Impulse Control, Assertiveness, and Self Awareness, among other EQ skills, can all lead to significant constraints on team performance. Bottom line? Don’t just say “We don’t work well together!” Find the causes and fix them.
When it comes to EQ, we usually think about individuals. But that can be short sighted. Organizations that have not hired for EQ, or have not created systems that help to encourage EQ skills, are likely to find that limited EQ is constraining their performance, and thus their bottom line. Fortunately, this is a solvable problem. And as with any problem, the first step is awareness. Coaches, consultants, HR leaders, and Chief Learning Officers can do the organization a tremendous service by identifying patterns of behavior that interfere with the organization’s success. Then, rather than blame, offer a systematic approach to build the EQ resources that the organization needs.