The Secret to EQ Workshop Success

Workshops can be a boon or a fatal error. In this post, we’ll look at how to ensure that your workshops succeed, whether you are the presenter or the person in your organization who is charged with providing effective development. 

First, some history: Daniel Goleman’s first book on EQ, published in 1995, created a lot of excitement. Before long, every consultant with a pulse had developed an EQ workshop. Companies bought them by the truck load. 

Just one teeny tiny little problem. Almost no one’s EQ improved in response to these workshops. Companies were investing billions, with nothing to show for it. 

Why? The workshop model can work well for intellectual mastery, but not behavioral mastery, especially mastery of soft skills like EQ. So those early workshops probably did an excellent job of introducing the concept of EQ, and maybe even convincing people that it would be great to have some. But workshops don’t have the capacity to provide behavioral practice in the participant’s real work world, nor can they provide the feedback needed for ongoing learning. As a result, the half-life of such workshops is only about twenty-one days. Over that short period of time, attendees of those early workshops gradually returned to their original default behaviors. No lasting change occurred. Without positive changes in behavior, EQ was in danger of being relegated to “the flavor of the month” ash-heap.  

If you are a coach or consultant, you want to achieve lasting impact. If you are a Chief Learning Officer, you want to provide programs that can deliver sustainable growth for your organization’s leaders. Either way, you don’t want your program to be cast into the ash heap reserved for poor outcomes. 

But don’t give up on workshops. Workshops have their place. The secret is knowing what workshops can and cannot do. 

Leader development programs that create behavioral mastery have four components: an introductory workshop, individual skill set assessment, development planning, and coaching.

Today, let’s talk about the workshop itself, an often necessary but never sufficient component of a successful leader development program

Successful EQ workshops don’t just deliver information. Their key mission is to win the hearts and minds of participants, preparing them to engage willingly and even eagerly in a science-based behavior change process. Participants leave wanting more. We find that they almost always agree to the next step, an EQ assessment. 

How do successful workshops win hearts and minds? It’s simple. First, they make sure to speak to participants’ issues of urgent concern. Are you a workshop leader? If so, your first step is to discover what your participants care about. Different participants, and participants in different organizations, will have different concerns. One group I worked with needed to upgrade the coaching they did with their subordinates. Members of a group in another company were being groomed for top jobs. A third group needed to better communicate among themselves. The CLOs who hired me did a great job in helping me know what my audiences needed. Our job as presenters is to link EQ development to such concerns. Fortunately, those links exist. 

At a general level, you can trust that each participant wants to succeed. Therefore, show participants data that links EQ skills to success. There are thousands of such studies to choose from. Select studies that speak to things like promotions, coaching subordinates, and so forth. Also include studies from their industry or profession. Doing so will go a long way toward helping participants feel that you understand them. Include exercises that allow participants to see for themselves what using EQ skills on problems they are wrestling with right then can do for them.

A second element needed to win hearts and minds is presenter EQ. Information on EQ/success has to be shared in emotionally intelligent ways. Here are two examples:

  • Use empathy. Care genuinely about your participants’ success. Don’t say that you care. Actually care. If you are a CLO and have to choose a presenter, consider how possible vendors strike you emotionally. Which one seems to be interested in your success, and the success of your company? Such caring is likely to transfer over into caring for the people in the workshop.
  • Successful presenters build relationships with participants during the workshop. How can you do that? Be someone participants want to spend time with. Be friendly, be curious about their goals, and listen well. Present your material in a conversational tone. Have a sense of humor. Humor signals safety, which enhances learning and engagement. If you’re a CLO, these are qualities to look for in a presenter. Even if someone has impeccable academic credentials, if you get bored talking with them, try someone else.

Armed with these pointers, you are ready to design your own successful EQ Workshop. If you don’t have time, the EQ Leader Program2.0 ( has sample workshops designed to win hearts and minds. They include PowerPoints with relevant data on EQ and success as well as engaging exercises that participants report enjoying. As a result, 100% of participants (so far) have opted to take the next step in our program. 

In later blog posts we’ll address the other necessary components of a successful EQ development program for leaders.

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