By Alison Goodwin - @Goodwina1
In my career I have come across many people who are sceptical about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and its possible benefits. Needless to say I am not one of those and indeed have had the benefit of access to much EQ research. However, before I understood what EQ was and it’s crucial importance, I must admit that I, too, thought it was either something you had or didn’t have, it was all a bit too ‘touchy feely’ and belonged to a list of latest American fads!
I think it is true to say that my life changed one weekend in February 2009 when I decided to take myself off onto a coaching course as a means of personal development but also as a possible way of building capacity in others at my school. I was blown away! The weekend transformed how I thought about myself, how limiting beliefs could hold people back and more importantly that if you were lacking in self-awareness how could you purport to understand others and lead them. As a result I began to question my patterns of thinking which had always centred on the negative side of my self- belief, I began to view others from a different perspective in terms of their behaviours and motivations and I became passionate about unlocking potential in both myself and others.
So what changed my mind? Simple, the POSITIVE effect it had on my thinking, the enhanced performance in my leadership skills at work, noted by colleagues and other stakeholders and the thrill of influencing others to become the best they could possibly be.
If I have one regret, it is that I did not come across this discovery much earlier in my formative years. IQ was the big thing then. All success seemed to be measured by academic results and entrance into university which was at that time the privilege of only the few. I was lucky enough to be one of those few. Even back then, it was obvious to me though that if future performance was to be measured by your ability to pass exams then how was it that some academics weren’t particularly successful in leadership roles. Now, it all makes sense. Research has suggested that no more than 25% of an individual’s success in his/her career is attributable to IQ and EQ may be a better indication of success in life than IQ.
If that is true then, how can we afford to keep such skills training out of schools? The ever changing national curriculum continues to focus on acquiring knowledge, as we have seen earlier this week and indeed this is very important. But what about the skills that will determine how well our children put that knowledge to use? What about the quest to know and understand yourself and the effect you may have on others? What a about the ability to inspire, take people with you and create win win solutions? These skills are not given to us all. Unlike IQ which is pretty well fixed, EQ can be developed and improved throughout your life. It therefore doesn’t make sense to keep it out of a core and integral part of the curriculum and indeed some forward-thinking schools are adopting this very innovative approach to improving performance not only in their staff but also in their students, where it is seen as offering ways of providing them with skills for their personal and working lives. Daniel Goleman who has popularized the work of Joseph LeDoux on the brain and the primacy of emotions has been very influential in the world of business, where increased personal effectiveness is very important. Emotional intelligence (which is both intra- and inter-personal) he says, should be acknowledged, nurtured and developed. We should encourage the ability to read and be sensitive to other people’s feelings and encourage the development of three emotional competences: emotional awareness; accurate self-assessment; self-esteem. He suggests that emotional lessons can be built into the fabric of school life (through the manner of teachers’ engagement with pupils).
How many times do we, sadly, come across colleagues in our professions who are rigid in their thinking, entrenched in their views, are unable to empathise and are clearly blind to their abilities or even worse their inabilities? In the teaching profession I have seen it all and it is clearly dangerous to have such dinosaurs in charge of the nurturing of our children. Emotionally intelligent teachers and leaders are powerful facilitators of transformation in our children and I have been fortunate to have had the privilege of working with some truly outstanding practitioners with highly developed EQ skills. These colleagues are self-aware, they can empathise, they can manage conflict, lead change, diffuse potentially difficult situations and above all they are visionary and open minded. In short they are leaders who achieve sustained results, enhance their own and others’ performance and know how to get the best out of the students they teach and the staff they lead.
How emotionally intelligent are you and how does this impact on your performance as a teacher and more importantly as a leader?
For many, the jury is still out on the validity of Emotional Intelligence, but with the sheer amount of evidence stacked in its favour, there is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to leadership, EI is the difference between being an average or even poor leader and an outstanding one.