Book Review: Working with Emotional Intelligence

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August 2001

Book Review: Working with Emotional Intelligence

CIDMIconNewsletter Reviewed by Diane Davis, Senior Technical Publications Manager, Synopsys, Inc.

In some ways, Daniel Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence has nothing new for enlightened managers. As managers, we know we should maintain standards of honesty and integrity in our dealings with those above and below us in the corporate hierarchy and keep our tempers in check. Because the corporate environment is dynamic, we need to be flexible in handling change. What Goleman’s book provides is hard data to support these beliefs.

Goleman’s premise is that emotional intelligence is really more important in any business environment than a high IQ. He bases this premise on extensive research done with 500 corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations and more than 25 years of empirical data.

Working with Emotional Intelligence is divided into five parts. In Part 1, Goleman makes his case that “emotional intelligence counts more than IQ or expertise for determining who excels at a job-any job-and that for outstanding leadership it counts for almost everything.” Part 2 describes 12 specific job capabilities and how each makes a unique contribution to a successful leader. In Part 3, Goleman describes 13 key relationship skills that enable emotionally intelligent employees to navigate organizational dynamics successfully while others stumble and fall. Part 4 describes how you can develop emotional intelligence. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence grows with life experience, and Goleman offers practical guidelines for using your experiences to enhance your emotional intelligence. In Part 5, Goleman describes an emotionally intelligent company. He believes that such companies are better equipped to deal with turbulent times than other companies.

The Intel Example

Working with Emotional Intelligence includes a section on how Intel Chairman Andy Grove handled a particularly difficult situation. Andy Grove is one of my favorite executives because he is so down-to-earth, and he continues to learn from his experience. Remember the disaster Intel had with its first Pentium processor? The processor was flawed. Initially, Intel denied there was a problem. But when faced with incontrovertible facts, Grove and his executives agreed to replace the processors when requested by customers. The replacement costs were about $475 million. This incident took place over one month; during that month, the executives had to let go of some basic assumptions, visions, and strategies.

Intel weathered the storm of bad publicity and reinvented itself with the “Intel Inside” campaign. Goleman explains that what happened to Intel is a business reality-mistakes happen. What makes the Intel story a good example of working with emotional intelligence is how quickly Grove and his executives were willing to accept reality and use that reality to their advantage.

Applying Goleman’s Techniques

Recently, I was able to apply what I had read. I decided to take two weeks of vacation around the holidays. My department had completed all of the required work for a major software release; I would not be missed. I was at home, relaxing and reading a good book, when I got a telephone call from a recently hired production specialist. There was a problem with the CD-ROM artwork she had created for the release-all the CD-ROMs had to be destroyed, and the release would be held up while new CD-ROMs were manufactured. She wanted to know if she should pack up her desk and leave. I told her not to pack anything; everything would be just fine. I could have lost my cool, let my emotions get the better of me, and made someone who was already feeling terrible feel worse; instead, I took an emotionally intelligent approach to the problem.

I spent the next four hours on the telephone, talking to the release manager, the procurement representative, and my managers. Was the production specialist the cause of the problem? No. What I found out was that the process I thought was being used to create the CD-ROM artwork was, in fact, not being used. Why? Because the process had never been documented within my department. The people who signed off on the artwork made assumptions about the accuracy of the information without any real knowledge of the facts. Some people who should have reviewed the artwork did not do so even though that task was clearly listed on the corporate master schedule. My wonderful staff stayed late and made the changes, and the release was held up only a day or two.

After the holidays, I returned to the office and met with the production specialist. She was still beating herself up over the incident. We talked about what she had done and why. My only issue with what she did was why she had not asked for help when she was unsure of what to do. As her manager, I should have checked on what she was doing and how she was doing it. Together we corrected the problem by identifying the root cause and developing a solution. The process for creating the CD-ROM artwork was written, reviewed, and posted on the department’s Web site.

In Goleman’s terms, I showed some emotional intelligence in dealing with the CD-ROM artwork incident. By not losing my temper, I recognized my own emotions and the effect they would have on the production specialist. I also showed empathy for her response to the situation.

Did the mistake with the artwork cost my company a lot of money? I don’t think so. If I had lost my temper and fired the production specialist, what would have happened? Someone would still have had to correct the artwork, and I would have had to start interviewing new production specialists. I believe replacing the production specialist would have cost the company far more than the cost of replacing the CD-ROMs.

Am I always that emotionally intelligent? Hardly. Sometimes I lose my temper, even when I know I am overreacting. The point is we can all learn from each new experience. Emotionally intelligent people have self control. They seek new ideas and adapt to changing circumstances.

So what are the chances that your company will adopt Goleman’s model? Do you think your executives are only interested in the bottom line? Do they think that soft skills have no value? Goleman’s book includes numerous stories about employees whose productivity improved significantly after they learned to use Goleman’s model.

Although the book had no examples of technical writers improving their productivity after learning to be emotionally intelligent, I could relate to one example about a financial advisor who could not keep her emotions under control. She could only see issues from her own perspective. Although she was a high performer, her behavior was costing her money, especially when she could not drop issues that others considered dead. After learning Goleman’s techniques for using emotional intelligence, she increased her sales to $1,700,000 the first year and $2,400,000 the second year.

Like that financial advisor, I cannot let issues die. When people perceive this tenacity as a good trait, they call me persistent. (I cannot tell you what they call me when they think I really should drop the issue.)

Sometimes the importance of reading a book like Working with Emotional Intelligence is to remind ourselves of those traits that will make us successful. With the pressure that everyone is under during the current downturn, it is easy to focus on tasks and not on people. Have you ever been focused on accomplishing some task when a direct report or someone else came to your office seeking your advice? Truthfully, have you ever wanted to say, “Get out! I’m working”? Working with Emotional Intelligence should convince you that in that sort of situation, whatever task you are doing is significantly less important than dealing with whatever is bothering the person who interrupts you.

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