Event Report: The added value of EI for business psychologists: the what, the how, the why

Jo Maddocks,  JCA Global
Manchester: 21st February 2018


Most methods of assessment take a competencies or functional approach to evaluation, but pay insufficient attention to the softer elements of our construct, argued Jo Maddocks at the February event held at Manchester Metropolitan University.  Feelings are not only important but they are an inner dynamic which can affect the more visible and measurable characteristics of performance, engagement and wellbeing in a working environment.  Emotional Intelligence (EI) seeks to identify and recognise this dynamic and link it in with traditional methods of assessment and appraisal.  


Responding to criticism that EI is difficult to measure and therefore of little value, Jo cited the increasing numbers of companies which have tapped into EI in order to solve dysfunctional behaviour in the workplace.  For example, one financial services company was losing money, used EI as a means to help build new teams and force people with negative behaviour into considering their positions, and eventually the organisation had new goals and objectives and became profitable.


Jo admitted that EI is no silver bullet and had to be used in the most appropriate manner with proper guidance, and that everyone had to become involved and work hard to maintain improvement.  The goal of EI is to help people and organisations grow, by improving performance, engagement and wellbeing in a sustainable way


EI as a concept is not new.  For years, companies have been helping people adapt into apprenticeships, and then into new roles, with an attempt at a mutual understanding of culture and attitudes.  What is new is the recognition that the process has to be consistent and ongoing.   Where negative aspects are identified there has to be a habit change: people have to be helped to do it for themselves with a view to learn how to be more constructive with others in their approach to work.  In short, there needs to be a culture which is inclusive and where people can be themselves.  There will inevitably be conflict and issues of commitment to work and productivity, but without this first stage, problems are magnified exponentially.


WHY Emotional Intelligence?


The question of whether EI exists is a continuous subject of debate. The challenge is to develop tests that can accurately measure a string of EI measures.  To add to the complexity practice measures differ from theory   Practitioners prefer a mixed approach because it offer the opportunity of predictability.   


WHAT is Emotional Intelligence?


EI is a new interpretation of Social Intelligence, promoted by Edward Thorndike, widely debated in the 1920s.  A key feature of this is that it made use of past experiences to predict the present and the future. 


Meta-analytic research into EI indicates that:

  1.      EI measures can predict job performance
  2.      Ability EI and Mixed EI are not highly correlated (Joseph and Newman)
  3.      Mixed EI tends to be a stronger predictor of performance than Ability EI


Mixed EI data is

*          Multi Faceted
*          Predicts effectiveness
*          Measurable, Changeable and Developable
*          Contributes to aspects of the whole person


The reason why it has taken so long for EI recognition is that there has been insufficient understanding of how to use the innate human resources.  For instance, there is a need to use Imagination.  As the Brain is predisposed to survival, there tends to be a focus on bad news and material - simply because it sells.  It does not naturally focus on positives and we have to work hard to shift our predispositions.


EI is very much about managing energy in the moment.   Whether introvert or extrovert, EI digs deeper than Cognitive Intelligence and helps us to understand why, for example, our ability to think clearly varies from day to day.  It focuses more on emotional state, leading us to manage our emotional states making it easier to meet our emotional needs.


Benchmarking of personality is the doorway into a conversation but it does not provide as full a story as emotional intelligence which allows for an explanation about changing traits in different sets of circumstances.  Personality is a broader measure but what is missing is the reaction in the present which is driven by emotion.


EI is driven by the Limbic part of the brain, which supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction.  For example, when emotional needs are not met, such as when we are not treated fairly, we get angry.  The key point about EI is that it is about "Learning to Manage ourselves in the Moment".   We need to learn how to guide our behaviour, which can be underscored by personal attitudes.    We need to develop a sense of awareness of our feelings over time: managing our emotions to this extent enables us to better predict out limits and push ourselves further and achieve more.


The JCA Global Emotional Intelligence Framework is neatly illustrated by this table, which throws up the importance of Interpersonal Intelligence:

  Personal Intelligence  Interpersonal Intelligence
 Behaviour  Self Management    Relationship Management
 Feeling    Self awareness  Awareness of others
 Attitude        Self regard    Regard for others


So, HOW do we develop and apply Emotional Intelligence?


We need to focus on feelings that drive behaviour that lead to outcomes.  Competency is about skills and ability but it only touches on behaviour.  EI's focus on feelings.  Building on work by Russell, we arrive at a "feelings" grid:

High Arousal









Low Arousal


The advantage of this grid is that with such a simple model we can look and analyse whether we are stuck in one area or whether we move around depending on external factors.  In other words, we can use it as a model for mapping our EI.  Examples abound:

    • When energised - people perform well as a team
    • Stress - this can be negative, but when controlled, some people are more decisive when stressed. 
    • Olympian athletes are trained to manage extreme stress and outperform others.

And this is where application of EI has real value: people are in real danger when single sets of feelings become prolonged without significant change.  The problem can be exacerbated by negative self attitudes.  This can result in permanent stress and can trigger the need for external help.  By becoming familiar with the use of EI, organisations can learn to recognise the early subtle signs of extreme stress and behaviour and take remedial steps before it has fully developed.


An individual can have traits which are opposite and extreme. A profile would identify an average, but what is really happening is volatility, often with feelings which are "bottled up" and which can manifest themselves as passive, assertive or aggressive.  EI enables these feelings to be measure separately and therefore managed more effectively. 


Effective use of EI as a tool requires hard work, dedication and concentration.   Unfortunately we have limited capacity to focus and concentrate, so need to create habits.  Bizarrely, just simple interactions and initiating simple verbal exchanges can shift attitudes and begin an energising process.  The interactions need to become more spontaneous and "In the Moment".  Once attitudes shift, then feelings and behaviour follow and a whole new climate can arise almost Phoenix like.


In summary, we have reviewed the Why, the What and the How of EI.  But in conclusion it needs to be transformed into a practical proposition and measurable, which means bolting the concept on to other initiatives.  Companies are interested, for example, in resilience and health and wellbeing at work.  EI can assist organisations in adopting a measurable approach to action in these areas.  EI, with its relentless emphasis on repeating simple actions and processes with no short cuts, can provide the tools and resources to support positive transformational programmes.