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Mixed Feelings

The best leaders have something even more important — and harder to cultivate — than traditional smarts and skills: emotional intelligence. Here’s how to improve your EI

SAM WAS RACING AGAINST THE CLOCK. He had only recently started working for a new manager at the midsized Montreal account ing f irm where he’d been employed for 6 years, but he already knew the score — the deadlines were tight, the expectations were high and there would be repercussions for mistakes. He had been given a new file to handle and his boss expected results, stat. “I worked day and night to meet my deadline, but I was so scared of making mistakes that I ended up making more of them,” Sam says. “The next morning, aſter reviewing the file, my boss called me into his office and I was berated for an hour. He ques- tioned my intelligence, attention to detail and my work ethic.” For some, Sam’s boss had the right

idea: high expectations and little toler- ance for error certainly count as a man- agement style. But recent research


indicates there’s no place for this old- school approach in the modern work- place. Instead, managers with high emo- tional intelligence (EI) are the ones who have the most satisfied teams and, subse- quently, produce the best results. According to a study in the journal Psychological Inquiry, “accumulating evi- dence indicates that EI, measured as an ability, predicts a variety of important outcomes. As EI rises, so do measures of relatedness and the ability to communi- cate motivating messages such as vision statements and other similar criteria.”

Defining EI “Definitions vary, but EI is the ability to identify, manage and take ownership of your emotions and to appreciate the emo- tions of others,” says Shawn Ireland, a Vancouver-based management consul- tant who regularly works with CPA BC.

In management, this matters. A boss

who has high EI keeps cool under pres- sure, doesn’t get overwhelmed by his or her emotions, evaluates difficult situa- tions before acting and knows how to motivate. This doesn’t mean he or she is taking notes from Pollyanna or is con- stantly focused on team-building activi- ties, though. “High EI means recognizing emotions and adapting accordingly,” adds Estelle Morin, an organizational behaviour professor at HEC Montreal. “People with high EI still experience neg- ative emotions, but the way they handle it will be efficient and appropriate.” A boss with low EI, on the other hand,

can’t communicate clearly, doesn’t boost morale, avoids conflict and has difficulty dealing with his or her emotions and the emotions of the team. “People with low EI are very rigid. They react in the same ways over and over, but they don’t realize what they’re doing isn’t working,” says Morin. “They also have trouble taking responsi- bility; someone else is always to blame.” This kind of behaviour can mask a

manager’s good qualities. “The longer I worked for my boss, the more I realized

Sébastien Thibault

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