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On Emotional Intelligence: A Conversation with Daniel Goleman

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Train Your Brain Dan Goleman interviewed by Jennifer J. Salopek, Training and Development Mag Oct 1998

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From Educational Leadership - September 1996 | Volume 54 | Number 1 Pages 6-11
Intereviwed by John O'Neil

John O'Neil is Senior Editor of Educational Leadership

Copyright 1996 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

On Emotional Intelligence: A Conversation with Daniel Goleman

Schools have historically concentrated on boosting students' cognitive abilities. But developing students' emotional smarts, argues Daniel Goleman, is just as vital.

John O'Neil and Daniel Goleman

Traditional conceptions of intelligence focus on cognitive skills and knowledge. You've investigated the idea of "emotional intelligence." What do you mean by that term?

Emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart. It includes knowing what your feelings are and using your feelings to make good decisions in life. It's being able to manage distressing moods well and control impulses. It's being motivated and remaining hopeful and optimistic when you have setbacks in working toward goals. It's empathy; knowing what the people around you are feeling. And it's social skill—getting along well with other people, managing emotions in relationships, being able to persuade or lead others.

And you contend that emotional intelligence is just as important as the more familiar concept of IQ?

Both types of intelligence are important, but they're important in different ways. IQ contributes, at best, about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success. That leaves 80 percent to everything else. There are many ways in which your destiny in life depends on having the skills that make up emotional intelligence.

Has research shown such a correlation?

Yes. For example, boys who are very impulsive, who are always getting in trouble in 2nd grade, are six to eight times more likely than other kids to commit crimes and be violent in their teen years. Sixth grade girls who confuse feelings of anxiety and anger, boredom, and hunger are the ones most likely to develop eating disorders in adolescence. What these girls lack is an awareness of what they are feeling; they're confused about what this feeling is and what it's called. So specific deficits in these skills can get a person in trouble, particularly a child who is growing into adulthood. On the other side, having these abilities can help you immensely in life; they affect everything from whether your marriage is going to last to how well you do on the job.

There's also a relationship between these emotional skills and academic success, isn't there?

Absolutely. It's not too surprising, really. We know that skills such as being able to resist impulsivity, or to delay gratification in pursuit of a long-term goal, are helpful in the academic arena.

Your book describes some fascinating findings from the "marshmallow" study at Stanford.

Right. Preschool kids were brought in one by one to a room and had a marshmallow put in front of them. They were told they could eat the marshmallow now, but if they delayed eating it until the researcher came back from running an errand, they could have two marshmallows. About one-third of them grabbed the single marshmallow right away while some waited a little longer, and about one-third were able to wait 15 or 20 minutes for the researcher to return.

When the researchers tracked down the children 14 years later, they found this test was an amazing predictor of how they did in school. The kids who waited were more emotionally stable, better liked by their teachers and their peers, and still able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. The ones who grabbed were emotionally unstable, they fell apart under stress, they were more irritable, more likely to pick fights, not as well liked, and still not able to delay gratification. But the most powerful finding was that the ones who waited scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT.

Was that because their emotional habits were more conducive to studying, sticking with a task and thinking that it would eventually pay off?

That's part of it. Obviously, a child who can stick with a task can do his homework or can finish an assignment much better than a child who is distracted and goes off and does something else.

There's another factor, too: the physiology of the brain and the relationship between the emotional brain and the brain's executive areas. The prefrontal lobes just behind the forehead are where working memory resides. Working memory is what you are paying attention to at any given point. So everything you are mulling over, making a decision about, or are learning, is at first in working memory. All learning is in working memory. And the emotional centers that control moods like anxiety or anger have very strong connections to the prefrontal areas. So if a child is chronically anxious or angry or upset in some way, he experiences that as intruding thoughts. He can't keep his mind off the thing he is worried about.

Now working memory has a limited attention capacity. So, to the extent that it is occupied by these intrusive thoughts, it shrinks what's available in working memory to think about what you are trying to learn.

Is that what's occurring when someone has "test anxiety"?

Yes, test anxiety is a very good example. You can think of nothing else except the fact that you may fail. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because your working memory cannot manage both the extreme anxiety and the demands for retrieving the information that would help you pass. So I think that's why we find that children whose emotional lives are more under control and better managed are able to learn more.

We all know people who have a lot of self-insight, or who are virtuosos in social situations. But are those kinds of personality traits something that people are born with, or can everyone be helped to develop them?

The good news about emotional intelligence is that it is virtually all learned. Even though newborn children differ in terms of their temperament, for example, they are highly malleable.

The best data on this come from Jerome Kagan, who studied shy kids. He found that you can identify a tendency toward shyness within the first two weeks of life, by looking at how much an infant startles to a noise or whether they are likely to shy away from stimulating, new, novel, uncertain experiences. He followed kids from birth into childhood and teenage years and found that this is a remarkable predictor of shyness.

But he also discovered that a sub-group of children whose newborn behaviors suggested they would be shy turned out not to be. Kagan found that the parents of this group treated them differently. Instead of catering to the children's shyness and protecting them from the world, these parents pushed them a bit into challenging situations; you know, meet a new kid, let's go to this new place. Not in a way that overwhelmed them but in a way that gave them the continued experience of mastering something new. And by the time they got to kindergarten, those kids weren't shy. They weren't the most extroverted, but they weren't inordinately shy either.

What's the significance of these findings?

Well, they suggest something that, in theory, we've known all along: the brain is enormously malleable during childhood. The brain's regulatory centers for emotional response are among the last parts to become anatomically mature. They continue to grow into adolescence.

This is vitally important, because we're finding that the repeated emotional lessons of a child's life literally shape the brain circuits for that response. So if a child learns to manage his anger well, or learns to calm or soothe himself, or to be empathic, that's a lifelong strength.

That's why it's so critical that we help children develop the skills of emotional intelligence.

What about children who learn the wrong emotional responses from early on; who come from abusive homes, for example. Can they re-learn emotional skills or do the initial strategies become "hard-wired" in the brain?

It's harder, but the sooner we begin to teach children appropriate emotional responses the sooner these responses can become a part of their repertoire. A child may have learned that when you get mad, you yell and you hit. Someone has to help these children learn an alternative response that becomes stronger than the initial one. So instead of yelling and hitting, the child will stop, calm down, think before she acts, and so on.

Again, the good news about childhood is that it's a wonderful palette to work with. It may look like it's been painted on, but you can keep painting and eventually children can learn healthier emotional responses. The literature on resilient children, those who have grown up in the worst circumstances and yet thrived, shows that what made the difference wasn't the terrible circumstance of their chaotic home life, but the fact that one caring adult really got involved in their lives and helped them out. And oftentimes that person is a teacher.

Before talking about what schools can do to foster emotional intelligence, what can you say about the current state of the emotional well-being of children?

Childhood is harder than it used to be; we've got data on that. For example, in the last 20 years or so the rate of teen homicide has quadrupled and teen suicide tripled, and forcible rape among teens has doubled. Those are the headline-making statistics.

But there are other more subtle indicators of a growing general emotional malaise among children. Thomas Achenbach at the University of Vermont studied a random sample of American kids in the mid-70s and a comparable sample in the late '80s. He had them rated by their parents and teachers and found that, across the board, American kids on average had a growing deficit in these emotional skills. They had gone down on 40 indicators of emotional well-being, which is very alarming. This doesn't mean there aren't great kids, but on average kids were more impulsive, more disobedient, more angry, more lonely, more depressed, more anxious, and so on.

Let's face it: childhood has changed, and not necessarily in ways that anyone intended. The state of the economy now demands that parents work much harder and longer than they had to, so they have less discretionary time to spend with their kids than their own parents had with them. More families live in neighborhoods where they're scared about the kids even playing down the street, let alone going into a neighbor's house. And kidsare spending more time glued to a TV or in front of a computer, away from other children or adults. And most of the emotional skills I've discussed aren't learned on your own, they're learned through your interaction with other children and adults. That's why the emphasis on computers concerns me, helpful as they can be. More time with computers and TV means less time with other people. The changes in families are another reason I think it's vital that schools begin to teach these emotional skills, to promote "emotional literacy."

You're familiar with schools that have been trying to teach emotional literacy. How are they doing this?

A good example is the program developed in the New Haven schools, which goes from 1st through 12th grade and is developmentally appropriate. The program addresses all the skills I mentioned before, like empathy, how to calm yourself down when you are feeling anxious, and so on. In some grades, lessons in emotional intelligence are taught as a separate topic three times a week. In other grades it's part of courses such as health, even math or study skills. And all the teachers are familiar with the ideas and look for opportunities to teach them. So whenever a child is upset, it's an opportunity to make sure that they learn something from that experience that will help them.

In New Haven, they also use techniques that make healthy emotional responses a pervasive part of the school culture or environment. For example, a school I recently visited had a "stoplight" poster on the wall of every room. It indicates to kids that whenever you are distressed or upset or you have a problem, red light—stop, calm down, and think before you act. Yellow light—think about a number of different things you could do and what the consequences will be. Green light—pick the best one and try it out. Now that's a wonderful lesson in impulse control, in soothing yourself, and in making the distinction between having the feeling and what you do, how you act when you have the feeling. These are crucial lessons and kids are really learning them.

That's encouraging, because one of the trends that worries educators is that students seem to be more impulsive, more prone to act without thinking about the consequences.

I've taken aside 7th graders in New Haven and said, "Look, I know they teach you this stuff, but does it really make any difference to you?" And they all have stories to tell about how they're using these skills in their lives. In the culture of adolescents in New Haven, if someone "disses" you, you have to fight them; it's the code. But I talked to this kid, and he said: "You know, this guy was dissing my sneaks, and you know what I did? I told him I didn't agree with him. I like my shoes. And then I walked away." Well, that's revolutionary, and what's happening is that children are expanding their emotional repertoire in some healthy ways.

What are they finding in terms of results?

Well, it works. They've found that students are better able to control their impulses, they've improved their behavior, they have better conflict-resolution skills and skills in handling interpersonal problems.

That's consistent with what's happening in other programs aimed at emotional literacy. It seems important that this emotional literacy curriculum is a schoolwide effort; it's not just isolating the kids who appear to have the worst emotional problems. Ghettoizing is the wrong approach. For one thing, the decline in emotional well-being holds true for all groups of kids, from wealthy areas and poor ones. These lessons are not just for so-called problem kids. The public appears to be very skeptical these days about curriculums that address social issues, or that ask kids to work on their emotions instead of on their reading and math.

Isn't that a major obstacle to broader application of these ideas by schools?

Actually I've encountered the reverse. Parents and teachers are very interested in bringing this sort of curriculum into the schools, because they see that children need it. When they understand that you can do this without taking any time from the basics—which they've been able to do in New Haven—they're very supportive. It just makes good sense.


Book Review: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman. New York: Bantam Books, 1995

Blatant disrespect, repeated fighting, and loneliness among students—until now these troubling situations in our schools have seemed unconnected. Daniel Goleman, a reporter for The New York Times, brings them together under one rubric: the need for emotional intelligence. This cluster of skills includes "self control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself."

Fortunately, says Goleman, these skills can, to some extent, be taught. "As a society," he says, "we have not bothered to make sure every child is taught the essentials of handling anger or resolving conflicts positively—nor have we bothered to teach empathy, impulse control, or any of the other fundamentals of emotional competence." Goleman eloquently explains new and extensive brain research on the neurobiology of our emotions. "The anatomy of emotional hijacking," for example, involves our amygdala reacting to a situation before our neocortex has had time to process it. He documents the link between emotions and long-term memory. And he discusses "flow," studied extensively by Mihaly Csikczentmihalyi. This is a state in which the brain "quiets down" and is more focused.

The research studies that Goleman cites indicate that emotional intelligence is the bedrock upon which to build other intelligences, and that it is more closely linked to lifelong success than is IQ. "Impulsivity in 10-year-old boys," for example, "is almost three times as powerful a predictor of their later delinquency as is their IQ." Goleman warns of the dramatic drop in "emotional competence" over the past two decades. As evidence, he cites soaring juvenile arrest rates for violent crimes; younger teenage girls getting pregnant; more children being withdrawn, anxious, and depressed; and more attention or thinking problems. "Educators, long disturbed by schoolchildren's lagging scores in math and reading, are realizing that there is a different and more alarming deficiency: emotional illiteracy."

Goleman believes schools must teach children how to recognize and manage their emotions, and that educators must model emotional intelligence in caring, respectful interactions with children. "Emotional circuits are sculpted by experience through childhood," he notes, and "we leave those experiences utterly to chance at our peril."

Published by Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. Price: $23.95.

—Reviewed by Launa Ellison, Clara Barton School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Train Your Brain
By Jennifer J. Salopek


T&D spoke with author Daniel Goleman, who explains how emotional
intelligence outweighs cognitive ability and technical skills as a
contributor to success in the workplace.

In his first book, Emotional Intelligence, former New York Times
writer Daniel Goleman reported on scientific studies of emotion and
showed how to bring intelligence to emotion. He offered his book as
a "guide to making sense of the senselessness" that has recently
overtaken our world: random violence, school shootings-what Goleman
terms "emotional malaise."
In his second book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, published
this month by Bantam Books, the author translates his earlier
findings into a formula for success at work. He outlines a set of
emotional intelligence competencies that can contribute more to
workplace achievement than technical skills and cognitive ability
combined. He also proposes a set of guidelines to evaluate corporate
training programs on their attention to emotional intelligence

Goleman currently serves as co-chairperson of the Consortium for
Research on Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace. He is a
psychologist and researcher in psychobiology and underscores his
findings with compelling data gleaned from modern neuroscience.
Recently, we spoke with Goleman about emotional intelligence
competencies, the guidelines, and his latest book.

Salopek: Why did you write Working with Emotional Intelligence?
Goleman: I wanted to give a rationale for looking at this range of
skill as separate from technical skills and cognitive ability. I also
wanted to explore the reasons that the transfer from training to job
performance has been so poor. This poor transfer is why we set about
looking for empirically grounded best practices and why we came up
with the ones we did.

Salopek: How did this book grow out of your first book?
Goleman: The first book became somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon.
It's been translated into almost 30 languages and has become a best-
seller in almost every part of the world. There are now over 4
million copies in print worldwide. In some countries it's one of the
best-selling books ever, such as Taiwan, Brazil, and Germany.

This is all to say that there was immense interest in it. What
surprised me was that I had been expecting to hear from educators,
because there's a lot about children in there, but I hadn't expected
the huge wave of interest from business. To my surprise, I was
answering requests for speeches and consulting from organizations all
over the world. This set me on an odyssey of talking to people in
organizations of all kinds about how emotional intelligence mattered
for what they were doing. The result is Working with Emotional

Salopek: What was your primary goal for the book?
Goleman: To explore systematically, as I had for the first book, what
the empirical data suggested was the importance of these skills. I
was quite surprised myself to find out just how much emotional
intelligence-based competencies affect performance for jobs of all
kinds. They are twice as important as cognitive ability and technical
expertise combined. The higher you go in an organization, the more it
matters. So, for leadership positions, these skills account for close
to 90 percent of what distinguishes the most outstanding leaders from
average ones.

That puts a premium on getting people who have these abilities or on
cultivating these abilities in the people you already have and value-
which gets me to training.

I realized that there was really something significant that needed to
be done in setting new standards for training in this area. Most
companies say that they put a huge amount of effort into cultivating
this range of emotional intelligence competencies.

Salopek: What are the emotional intelligence competencies?
Goleman: [The competencies include] self-confidence, empathy, the
need to get results, constant improvement, influence, and teamwork.
These are the abilities that every organization needs to develop in
people, and yet when you look at the track record of development
efforts in those areas, it's disappointingly poor all too often.

Salopek: Can you give an example?
Goleman: There was a study done at a large pharmaceutical company.
The CEO was worried that they were spending $240 million a year on
training and development, and he didn't know what the return-on-
investment was. He asked for a state-of-the-art evaluation of
outcomes, especially of the premium development program for top
management, in which the executives went away for a week and the
people from a big-name business school came and talked to them about
leadership and so on. The company found that this program had a
slight negative impact on leadership performance as evaluated by
subordinates. That and other similar findings-showing that type of
program for supervisors has a negative impact on performance feedback-
well, it was a very sobering finding. And, of course, some [programs]
did work.

Salopek: So what is a company to do?
Goleman: The key question: What sets apart the programs that work
superbly from those that don't do much at all or actually have
negative effects? So I established and serve as co-chairperson of the
Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations,
and our first project was to sift through the empirical literature on
development in this area and try to come up with best-practice

I have to emphasize "in this area," because one of the fundamental
misconceptions in the training world is the unexamined assumption
that you can teach every skill in the same way. But when you're
looking at emotional intelligence-based competencies, you're talking
about a set of human capabilities that are based on the workings of a
different part of the brain than pure cognitive ability or technical

If you're teaching someone a computer program or how to do a business
plan-something purely cognitive-it's fine to use the classroom model,
because you're using the part of the brain that goes to school. [This
is] the neocortex, the thinking brain, the topmost layers. This part
of the brain learns through association, and it can get it in a
single exposure. The brain is embedding that new information in a
contextual web of association, and it can do that very quickly.

But when you're talking about doing something like improving self-
confidence, or getting people to collaborate better, or motivating
[them] to get results, you're talking about a different kind of
learning. It's behavior change. These are complex abilities, and they
have to do with habits of thinking and feeling and reacting that have
been built up over decades. In order to help someone in these areas,
you need to both unlearn the counterproductive habit and relearn a
new, better way of doing things, and that takes time and practice and

It's of fundamental importance that people in the training world
understand the difference between the two kinds of learning. This is
a new model of learning.

Salopek: You've coined the term amygdala hijack. What is that?
Goleman: One of the things that sets apart this range of capability
from cognitive or technical skills is that you're dealing with the
emotional brain, particularly the amygdala. [The amygdala] is the
brain's center for emotional memory, for emotional reactivity, and
which has the ability to scan everything that's happening to us
moment to moment to see if it perceives a threat.[If it does,] it
mobilizes the entire brain instantly in an amygdala hijack, the signs
of which are three: One, you have a very intense emotional reaction;
two, it's very sudden; and three, when the dust settles, you realize
that it was very inappropriate. It's because that part of the brain,
that particular circuit, is the key to the fight-or-flight response.
It's one of the most ancient parts of the brain and it's critical for
survival, and our brains today are still wired for this circuit to
take over when it sees there's an emergency.

In today's modern organization, it's a great saboteur. Part of
emotional intelligence is being able to manage this circuitry well.
That's a skill that can be learned.

Salopek: That's the positive aspect of emotional intelligence for all
of us, isn't it-that these skills can be learned?
Goleman: Unlike IQ, which is basically the same throughout life, or
personality, which doesn't change, emotional intelligence-based
competencies are learned abilities. Confidence, for example, is a
learned ability that improves job performance.

Salopek: In your opinion, is anyone untrainable in these competencies?
Goleman: My feeling is that no one is untrainable, if they are
motivated. The problem is, most companies send everybody to a
training [program], whether or not they want to be there. And they
don't even bother trying to get them interested in learning. They
just hope that they are-[a process that] one head of HR calls "spray
and pray." You send everyone to the workshop, you spray [training] on
them, and you pray that something will stick. But that's
insufficient. So, one of our guidelines has to do with getting people
motivated, making sure that the change fits with their values or
their goals, and making sure they're ready to change.

Salopek: The guidelines seem to require an intensely personal,
customized, one-on-one approach. Is that really feasible for
companies these days? It seems like it would be terribly Empathy is
one of the most important parts of a manager's tool kit, even though
it doesn't mean you're going to do what the other person would like
you to do.
Goleman: The guidelines have to be understood as a statement of the
ideal, of the optimal. If you're dealing with top executives, for
example, then you can do executive coaching. You can afford to tailor
training programs. On the other hand, I don't think [those methods
are] only for people at the high end. I think there are ways to help
people choose from menus and tailor their own programs, which can be
done with large groups of people. In other words, you can find
economies in putting these guidelines into practice that don't demand
that you have an expensive executive coach for each person.

Salopek: You write that many of the emotional competencies are
closely tied to maturity and that older people seem to respond better
than younger people do.
Goleman: Emotional intelligence tends to improve throughout life. I
think that is what we used to call maturity and that people who are a
little older seem to be able to learn these things a little more
quickly. It doesn't mean younger people can't learn them. But they
may not be as quick at it as older ones. It's one of the paradoxes
that older dogs learn these tricks a little more quickly.

Salopek: With so many young people entering the workforce,
particularly in the next five to 10 years, are there special ways one
would teach these competencies to someone just out of college?
Goleman: Just because older people learn more quickly, you shouldn't
give up on young people. I think quite the opposite. There are signs
that there has been a decline in emotional intelligence in the young
people who are now entry-level in the workplace, relative to earlier
generations. At the same time, these capabilities are more important
than ever to companies' success, which says to me that you need to
put more effort into helping new hires.

I often hear, for example, in the engineering community, that young
people who are coming into companies aren't so good at teamwork,
sharing data, helping out, and so on. They aren't good at receiving
feedback; they take it as a personal attack. These are very basic
skills that new hires need to master in order to do their best.

Salopek: How do you feel about 360-degree feedback? You seem to take
it with a very large grain of salt.
Goleman: That's a slight misimpression. I think there are dangers to
360, particularly when it's used as the basis of a bonus, or a
promotion, and so on, because people can skew the results. Since
people who fill out 360s know the people they're evaluating well,
they can use [the evaluation] either as part of helping out a friend,
or as some kind of vendetta. So in order to avoid those, 360 works
best when it's for the person's own consumption, rather than for the
company, and when it's used as a prod to development, to help people
target where their weaknesses are and where they need to work. It
also helps people confront the fact that they may have some failings
or some gaps in performance they may not have seen so clearly.

I think that multiple perspectives on a person's performance are far
better than any one, whether it be your boss's or your own. It gives
you a truer picture of how things are. However, those perspectives
should be used for development [purposes].

Salopek: Have you encountered people who think there is no room for
empathy in business-that what still matters is the bottom line?
Goleman: I think that it's a misconception to say there's no room for
empathy. The misconception that people are operating under when they
say that-and many people do say that-is that experiencing how another
person feels or understanding their perspective necessarily means you
have to agree with them, or give in to them. I don't think it means
that at all, but it means you'll deal with them more skillfully or
more adeptly.

For example, in downsizing, lots of managers have to fire people
they've been working with for years. That's a very hard thing to do.
How you go about doing that is important not just for the people
you're letting go; whether you do it with empathy affects the morale
of the people who are left. They're watching you very closely, and
you can lose the loyalty of everyone who stays, depending on how you
handle the people you have to let go. Empathy is one of the most
important parts of a manager's tool kit, even though it does not
necessarily mean you're going to do what the other person would like
you to do.

Salopek: Do you plan to get into the specifics of how to teach
someone how to be, for example, self-confident? How do we teach an
attribute, as opposed to a fact or a process?
Goleman: There are many packages now for doing exactly those tasks.
We're not prescribing exactly which methods you should use, whether
it's modeling or the cognitive behavioral model in which you help a
person challenge his or her thoughts and start acting in ways that
those thoughts are [preventing]. We aren't making recommendations at
the level of methodology-rather the overall process in which those
methods should be embedded. I think that many of the generic methods
are quite effective but can be made more effective. One of the
biggest problems, for instance, is that people aren't given support
for on-the-job practice. In order to change behavior, you have to
give it weeks and months, not just a weekend seminar, and optimally
you have to help people try out the new behavior on the job where it
really counts. That's the way it's going to stick. And that's done
too seldom.

Salopek: Let's talk about some of the specific guidelines.
Goleman: Some of the guidelines are self-evident and have been part
of standard lore or convention in training for years. For example,
the first one is to do an assessment of the job, the competencies
needed for the job. Well, that's standard practice in many companies.
A second is to do an assessment of the person. That, oddly enough, is
not done so much, although it seems evident that you would try to
look at a person's strengths and limits. It's not done particularly
in formats in which people are sent as a group through a training
[program] with no regard for individual differences and needs.

Salopek: Isn't that type of customized process more expensive and
more time-consuming?
Goleman: I think it's not done for some practical reasons-the company
may not have money or time to do it. But it's not done even in a
rudimentary way. I think it's one of the places at which we start to
waste time, effort, and money. What it means is that some people in
any training [program] don't need the training, because they don't
actually have the weakness or the need as much as the other people in
the room. So there's no point in sending them.

Salopek: What's wrong with how 360-degree feedback assessments are
currently being delivered?
Goleman: You can go through all kinds of evaluations and then get
what amounts to a data dump, which can be very upsetting. The person
gets back all of the information (that was so carefully gathered) in
a rather careless and thoughtless way. The person doesn't know what
to do with it, and it's upsetting. That's another step at which you
can lose people. That's why we say that assessments should be
delivered with care.

Salopek: Assuming that we've assessed our employees and ascertained
their need for training, how can we make it more effective?
Goleman: Another interesting, simple rule of thumb that is ignored is
to gauge people's readiness to change. There is a very large body of
literature on behavior change that suggests that most people, most
often, are not ready to change much. That rule of thumb is largely
ignored in training and development.

We assume that people are at the same stage of readiness, but in fact
there is a set of methodologies for assessing readiness and actually
helping people who aren't ready, to get ready, which are almost never
incorporated in training. If they were, it would make things much
more efficient and effective. I think that assessing readiness is one
of the most universal absences in training programs. People don't

Another readiness guideline is to motivate people to go through the
training, rather than simply tell them to. This is another step at
which many organizations fall down. They don't get people excited
about the change; they don't try to prepare them or inspire them.

All of the guidelines are very fundamental. Some are very self-
evident or obvious, but when you look at the state of training, you
can also see that they are too-often ignored.

It's not that organizations shouldn't send entire classes of people,
but if they're going to be most effective in what people get from the
training and take back to the job, it would pay to do as many of
these different things as possible.

Salopek: How do we involve trainees in owning the success of the
Goleman: It's important to make change self-directed. This means that
people actually choose from a menu of goals for development and
design their own plans.

Salopek: What if an employee is unclear about his or her own
strengths and areas needing development, and chooses goals that
aren't the most important?
Goleman: The process is part of a dialogue. The supervisor may not
want to support those choices. This is why you want to start with a
very good assessment and a clear profile of strengths and weaknesses.
This is why I think 360 is very important as a I'm picking up a
growing skepticism about the money spent on training and development,
without any hard data showing that it's paying for itself.
tool, because it makes it harder for people to deny what they really
need to work on-especially if you feed that information back to them

"Self-directed" means that people tailor training to their own needs
and circumstances, particularly in terms of what they can practice on
the job.

Salopek: Why is it important to give people clear and manageable
Goleman: This is also self-evident, but not always done. Leadership
or team skills-many of those things are pretty fuzzy. If they're not
broken down into something that is a clear goal a person can work on,
then it's not very helpful at all in terms of an actual, workable

Another interesting element that would improve the effectiveness of
programs is a method called relapse prevention. A lot of the habits
people are trying to change, like being authoritarian, micromanaging,
and so on, are habits that people will fall back into under pressure.
The new learning is tender and fragile, and when the going gets
tough, people tend to do what they're most used to, which is the
habit they're trying to give up.

Relapse prevention is a way to prepare people for those moments so
they don't feel like, "Oh, I've blown it. I'm never going to get it.
I may as well stop trying." They can use moments when they relapse to
learn from and prepare themselves for the next time so it doesn't
happen again. While it's little used now in training, it's one of
those methods that would be a great enhancement.

Salopek: You emphasize the importance of the opportunity to practice
these new emotional intelligence skills.
Goleman: People are given too few chances to practice on the job, to
really make the new habit a lasting habit. They'll get a few days in
a workshop, then maybe they'll get a few weeks of follow-up, but deep
change and mastery take months and months of practice. If the end
goal is on-the-job performance, you want the new competence
eventually to come naturally to people. That's not going to happen
overnight. I believe that the follow-up period should be up to six

There are good neurological reasons for giving people time to
practice. The part of the brain that you're trying to change learns
more slowly and needs lots of practice. That kind of practice needs
lots of support-doing it alone is very tough. In the training itself,
it's good to build a network of support that will be ongoing for the
learner-maybe a buddy system, or coaching, or weekly check-ins.
Whatever the circumstances might allow. The more that's done, the
more supported people will be in that ongoing practice.

There's a kind of six-week phenomenon in which people go to a
workshop and get very excited about it, and six weeks later it's like
nothing happened. All of these guidelines are trying to overcome that
inertia effect. Some other things that help are models on the job or
the sense that the change you're trying to make is really valued-
supervisors letting you know that they think this is really important
rather than ignoring it or putting it down.

Salopek: We started by talking about evaluation and how the
pharmaceutical company found that its leadership training was
actually having a negative effect. Return-on-investment is an
important concept in training now. How do your guidelines address
Goleman: One of the most crucial guidelines, and one of the least
used, is to do a hard evaluation of transfer to on-the-job
performance. I think that in the coming years, more and more HR
departments are going to be put under pressure to provide this kind
of data. I'm picking up in many different organizations a growing
skepticism about the money spent on training and development, without
any hard data showing that it's paying for itself.

I think that more and more trainers are going to be asked to do
evaluations that are more than happy sheets and show a transfer to
performance. Smart trainers will start doing that themselves and
offering the data-and start using the data to improve programs. It's
not that if you find a program that doesn't work as well as it
should, you necessarily should abandon it. You might rethink it.
However, you don't know that you need to rethink it unless you do
this kind of homework.

Salopek: What's next in the field of emotional intelligence? How are
we going to take this further?
Goleman: I think one of the next frontiers is looking at what it
means to have an emotionally intelligent group.

Time will tell whether companies embrace Goleman's ideas and provide
training in emotional intelligence competencies. In fact, one major
corporation already has. American Express Financial Advisors began
the research for its emotional competence training program in 1992
(see the box, Putting Emotion Into the Business Vocabulary). Recent
evidence supports Goleman's theories, at least anecdotally. A July
1998 survey of human resource directors at Fortune 1000 companies
identified interpersonal skills as vital to an organization's overall
success. The survey, conducted by the Memphis communications firm
O'Connor Kenny Partners, asked HR directors to rank the importance of
training in 10 different communication skills. Not only did
interpersonal skills rank highest, but other emotional competencies,
such as listening and persuasion, outranked the only two technical
skills-reading and writing-on the survey.

Daniel Goleman is co-chairperson of the Consortium for Research on
Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at the Rutgers Graduate
School of Applied Psychology; 413.268.0188; goleman @java.net.


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