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Emotional Intelligence:
   the Driving Force Behind Effective Communication

Interview with Christophe HAAG, assistant professor of applied psychology, EM Lyon Business School, France,
December 2008.

Gaining the support of those around you
                                                                                                  Christophe HAAG holds a PhD in
requires an ability to communicate feelings                                                       Management from the ESCP-EAP and Paris X
and sincerity. Emotional expressiveness                                                           University and did a post-doctoral research
is in fact the key to successful                                                                  fellowship at INSEAD. In 2007, he joined
                                                                                                  EM Lyon as assistant professor of applied
communication. In difficult situations,
                                                                                                  psychology in the HR department.
transmitting positive emotions can help                                                           His research focuses on the influence of
people cope with negative circumstances                                                           CEO’s (American and European) emotions on
and help maintain team dynamics. What are                                                         the dynamics and performance of boards of
                                                                                                  directors in crisis situations.
the mechanisms of what Christophe Haag
calls emotional communication?

“There is a very close link between emo-         discriminate among them, and to use this         researchers to recognize the importance of
tion and successful communication,” says         information to guide one's thinking and          this form of intelligence and define an
Haag, who has conducted a long-term              actions”. How does this apply to business        associated management model3 (the
study on the correlation between the emo-        leaders? “Emotionally intelligent CEOs are       Goleman or mixed model). He paved the
tional intelligence and communication            more sociable and more approachable than         way for many researchers like me, though
effectiveness of 40 French CEOs of large         leaders who are emotionally distant. The         some people have focused on another
corporations. In crisis situations, amongst      latter see the same things as emotionally        model (Ability-Based Model4) to define the
others, the most effective communicators         intelligent people, but they see them in         emotional quotient. Although these two
use a wide range of emotions (ranging            black and white... Today’s managers need         approaches differ, they both deserve to be
from joy to anger) to gain their audience’s      to see things in “high definition color.”        treated seriously and scientifically, and
support. “Their emotional intelligence1              Haag believes this form of intelligence is   they can both contribute to identifying
(EI) is actually a tool that they learn to use   a natural gift whose roots go back to child-     effective, modern managerial practices for
and develop,” says Haag.                         hood2 but which also develops throughout         the third millennium.”
                                                 a lifetime. Levels of EI, measured as an
EI: not a fad, but a phenomenon                  Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), can        NB: EI is about adaptability,
The first studies on emotional intelligence      be improved at any time through appro-           not simulation
appeared at the beginning of the 1990s           priate training. This may mean coaching,         Haag warns, “Expressing your emotions
with the work of Salovey and Mayer. They         sponsorship programmes, or collaboration         does not mean simulating them!”
defined EI as “the ability to monitor one's      with an organizational psychologist.             People will quickly detect a lack of since-
own and others' feelings and emotions, to        “Daniel Goleman was one of the first             rity, and this will discredit the spea- •••

                                                                                 DECEMBER     2008 •   BUSINESS   DIGEST   • NO. 191 • 1
DOSSIER                C O M M U N I C AT I O N


  ker. Still, emotionally intelligent mana-      two forms of intelligence need to act in
  gers know (or have to know) how to             unison. Finally while EI is definitely
  increase or reduce the intensity of their      important, it must be used ethically.” I
  emotions depending on the circums-                                                                  French leaders’ IE:
  tances. During a crisis, positive emotions     1. Emotional intelligence is a concept that was
  will ease the transmission of difficult        developed by American writer and psychologist        the study
  messages and reassure teams. Instead of        Daniel Goleman.
                                                 2. The children of parents who express their         “There is a very close link between
  saying “This crisis is hopeless,” an emo-                                                           emotion and successful communica-
                                                 emotions are emotionally expressive.
  tionally intelligent manager would talk                                                             tion,” says Haag, who has conducted
                                                 3. Read Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can
  about a previous success or another posi-                                                           a long-term study on the correlation
                                                 Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman,
  tive event before focusing on the difficul-    Bantam, 1995.                                        between the emotional intelligence
  ties at hand. Indeed, it is easier to talk     4. Peter Salovey and John Mayer were the first       and communication effectiveness of
  about a problem when listeners are in a        to use the expression “emotional intelligence”       40 French CEOs of large corpora-
  positive frame of mind.                        (Salovey and Mayer, 1990) and place EI at the        tions. In crisis situations, amongst
     Negative emotions, such as anger,           intersection of cognition and emotion. They
                                                                                                      others, the most effective communi-
  fear, and stress, can actually be useful,      have continued their research on the impor-
                                                                                                      cators use a wide range of emotions
  provided managers sparingly. For exam-         tance of this concept (Mayer, Salovey, Caruso,
                                                                                                      (ranging from joy to anger) to gain
  ple, a manager might exploit a fear-ins-       and Sitarenios, 2003) and since revised their
                                                 initial definition of EI. Now, they say EI is “The   their audience’s support. “Their emo-
  piring scenario during negotiations to                                                              tional intelligence (EI) is actually a
                                                 ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to
  obtain greater concessions. Similarly,                                                              tool that they learn to use and deve-
                                                 facilitate thought, understand emotions, and
  anger can help a speaker emphasize the                                                              lop,” says Haag.
                                                 regulate emotions to promote personal growth.’
  importance of a serious problem and            5. See our dossier “No Bullying in the
  mobilize a team.                               Workplace!”, Business Digest no. 179,
                                                 November 2007.
  The sceptics are wrong; EI is not
  a joke
  “The studies I have conducted on
  French CEOs offer are a response to
                                                    Hints for effective communication
  sceptics who think that emotions have             CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WITH CARE Words have an emotional impact that must be
  nothing to do with leadership. EQ is a            taken into account. Moreover, a rich vocabulary, metaphors, and literary references
  powerful, valid notion. It is gradually gai-      are effective ways of forcefully communicating ideas when talking to well-educated
  ning scientific clout, and it has a defi-         people.
  nite impact on leadership perfor-
  mance. Some people realize this and               BE INTENSE People who are curt or dull cause boredom, lack of interest, and even
  have even started talking openly about            withdrawal. On the other hand, emotional intensity strengthens the power of com-
  their EQ.” Haag also claims that EI acts          munication, even though intensity should be reduced in the presence of a small
  as a barrier against damaging workplace           group, such as a board of directors.
  behavior. “I hope this type of study will         DON'T FORGET THE SIMPLE RULES The simple rules of social etiquette, such as
  contribute to significantly reducing the          saying “hello” and maintaining direct eye contact, are easy and always effective.
  number of ‘assholes’ (as Robert Sutton            Managers who leave their office doors open show that they are approachable and
  refers to them in his book, The No                concerned about their employees.
  Asshole Rule5 ) running our compa-
  nies. The behavior of these odious but            DON'T USE CHARTS/SLIDES/POWERPOINT DURING A CRISIS
  sometimes brilliant leaders is always             Emotionally intelligent leaders avoid using them and create more direct contact
  harmful. They create a strained atmos-            with their board.
  phere and hinder team performance.”
                                                    SPEAK QUICKLY Leaders with a high EQ speak very quickly (at an average rate over
     Haag concludes, “EQ is not the only
                                                    three words per second). Employees tend to pay more attention to what the person
  measure of performance; IQ (intelligence
                                                    is saying, and in the majority of cases, they feel more positive about the message.
  quotient) is an even more powerful indica-
  tor of leadership success. However, these

  2 •   BUSINESS   DIGEST   • NO. 191 •      DECEMBER   2008

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