Emotional Intelligence from Outa SpaceX

Many hats came off to Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla fame last week, and he certainly scored points for high Emotional Intelligence in his recent letter to employees about safety management at Tesla. His personal letter to his staff was in response to reports of injury rates at Tesla being 30% higher than the industry averages for 2014 and 2015. The way he demonstrated what sounded like sincere concern and action-focused emphasis, highlighted a rare form of emotional intelligence, that we are not regularly accustomed to see publicly from leaders of his stature. To be sure, his actions and follow-through will be watched to confirm the sincerity of his message of empathy and his personal commitment to listen, investigate and make real changes going forward.

“…No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.” 

“Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.”

“This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and  comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own”. link to article

Leaders are now operating in an increasingly transparent business world where bad behavior can be outed with an upload click and public reports and workplace reviews provide their own version of 360- degree feedback to management.

Emotional Intelligence (referred to as EI or EQ) is the ability to perceive and express emotion. It is key for anyone who wants to interact more effectively with the people with whom they come into contact, but especially important for company leaders, where their actions can positively or negatively impact the lives of people throughout their organization as well as the organization culture.

Top business management schools now offer EI (aka EQ) courses for aspiring business and civic leaders, such as Stanford University’s course on “Emotional Intelligence: Improving Relationships, Influence and Conflict.” The focus is on learned skills that draw on a different method of intelligence that can bolster one’s emotional antennae and techniques that can be applied to understand and communicate — especially in times of conflict and crisis. Here are six positive traits employees high in EI contribute to their organizations:

  • Confidence
  • Collaboration
  • Open-mindedness
  • Motivating
  • Innovation
  • Self-improvement

EI does have much broader implications beyond the leadership ranks. It seems obvious that personality tendencies in this area would be a natural predictor of individual performance for sales and human resource managers, for example, where empathy, understanding, and emotional connection are a strong component of everyday interactions. There are strong EQ links to job suitability for specific positions, dependent on the traits the job requires. There is also a link to greater job satisfaction and job security for those with higher EI tendencies who exhibit optimism and resilience in the face of work challenges.

The make-up of the overall culture of a team or organization is also impacted by the strength or weaknesses of EI. Just as it is difficult to be self-reflective to know where one needs improvement of one’s own emotional intelligence, it is equally complex to understand the behavior and abilities of others. That is made even more difficult when co-workers are virtual, when the internet has replaced the office water cooler hangout, when work projects don’t really intersect with other team members, and employees want to leave to face long commutes home rather than join in casual social mixers with work friends. The new “order of work” often has less opportunity for interaction.

How can you assess EI in your organization?

The Consortium for Research on EI in Organizations offers guidelines and detailed research at http://www.eiconsortium.org/reports/guidelines.html. However, if you don’t want to reinvent the wheel yourself, Harrison Assessments has an app for that! New hires, employees, teams or leaders can make use of Harrison’s new EI assessment platform to bring employee EQ out of ambiguous territory and into a clearly defined soft skills framework.  This EI Framework is then used to derive high impact influence across the entire organization, not only maximizing individual performance, but team and leadership performance as well.   Peoplescape Consulting Group is one of Harrison Assessments certified providers of the full range of Harrison Assessment tools across the US.