Many business organizations today, despite decades of research and findings to the contrary, don’t understand the benefits of emotional intelligence (the soft skills). They don’t get it that when leaders connect better with employees, and employees connect better with each other, there are big performance and ethical improvements.
Too many organizations continue to indoctrinate new employees with the same stale process of showing them to their desk, handing them ten volumes of polices and procedures, and saying: “There you go, everything you need to know about how we operate and what our expectations are is in there.” We’ve all heard the catch phrase: “giving them the corporate pill.”
Last week, Pope Frances made an inspirational visit to the Philippines. I live in Manila and watched as millions were encouraged by the Pope’s visit. He demonstrated the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership. As he would say, to be successful in achieving individual and organizational goals, engage the three languages of “Thinking, Feeling and Doing.”
Too many executives, however, believe that feeding employees policies and procedures will engage them with the business’s goals and values. That approach uses only thinking and doing, and not feeling. Yet without heartfelt two-way engagement, employees aren’t likely to buy into an organization’s values and goals. Employees need to see and feel the tone at the top if the organization is to shine.
While the application of the three languages of Thinking, Feeling and Doing can be highly effective in communicating the company’s overall goals to employees and other stakeholders, it will have its most significant impact in communicating the company’s ethical values.
In organizations where leaders and employees have a heightened sense of empathy, the tone from the top is clearly visible through executive actions. As Craig Dowden points out, “leaders who scored highest on empathy also exhibited the highest levels of ethical leadership.”
Effective leaders “are keenly aware of their connection with other people and the broader communities in which they live,” Dowden said. “They are able to integrate these values into their moral judgments, which limit their exposure to ethical risk.”
The OECD’s Foreign Bribery Report released in December 2014 found that most bribes were paid by large corporations, with the knowledge of senior management. This was consistent with research findings of Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves in their Harvard Business Review article Heartless Bosses. They measured the EI of more than 100,000 senior executives, managers and line employees across industries on six continents. They found that EI scores increased from the line employee to manager level and then decreased from there, “bottoming out, alarmingly, at the CEO level.”
Like Pope Frances, CEOs should try to help others be better people. Imagine what their organizations could accomplish from a financial and ethical perspective.
Troy Charlton is a Senior Advisor with Monkey Forest Consulting (MFC), based in Hong Kong. He lives in the Philippines.