The Underlying Importance of Emotional Intelligence


Every company, large or small, has customers. Be it employees who interact and assist one another on a daily basis or the person who purchases your product. The ability to truly connect with customers so they feel important and appreciated requires emotional and social intelligence. Recently, Dr. Keith Levick had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Goleman, leader, author and expert in the field of emotional intelligence, to discover how this increasingly important set of skills truly factors into the customer’s experience — positively or negatively.

CCN: Dan, how is it that you became interested in the emotional intelligence field?

DG: I am a psychologist by training and was the science writer for the New York Times. When the new research was coming in regarding neuroscience and other relevant data about the brain, I knew I needed to write a book. It was at that time my journey into the field of emotional intelligence began.

CCN: You have been a pioneer in the area of emotional intelligence. You have written numerous books on the topic and have linked the importance of emotional intelligence to organizations, schools, marriages — all aspects of life. What is emotional intelligence?

DG: Emotional intelligence refers to ways we can be intelligent about our emotions: self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill.

CCN: Historically, leaders in many organizations discouraged emotionality in the workplace. Why is emotional intelligence an important quality for leaders (and employees)?

DG: Emotional intelligence does not mean being emotional — letting it all out. Quite the contrary — it means being skillful in the emotional and social realm. With neuroscience finding that emotions are contagious, and that they flow from the more powerful person outward, leaders are on the spot: your emotional state is contagious, for better or for worse.

CCN: Are you saying that employees actually “catch” the emotions of their leader?

DG: In my book, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence – Selected Writings, I discuss the concept of interpersonal limbic regulation, whereby one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function and even immune function inside the body of another.

As a conversation begins, their bodies each operate at a different rhythm. But by the end of a 15-minute conversation, their physiological profiles look remarkably similar — a phenomenon called mirroring. This happens in the office, boardroom, a restaurant; people in groups at work inevitably “catch” feelings from one another, sharing everything from jealousy and envy to angst or euphoria.

CCN: For a leader to be highly effective, do they need to be aware of their own emotional state?

DG: Leaders who can emanate positive motivation and enthusiasm for shared goals get the best results. Remember, leadership is the art of getting work done well through other people.

CCN: Today, more than ever, creating an extraordinary customer experience is critical for an organization’s survival. Can you address how emotional intelligence plays a pivotal role in the area of customer care?

DG: Because emotions are contagious, how your employees interact with your customers determines how the customer will feel about your company. You want your employees to be using their emotional intelligence to get and stay in an upbeat, empathic space, and to relate to your customers from that state. In my book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, I reviewed data from the hospitality industry showing that the most effective employees were adept at emotional intelligence competencies like emotional self-management (curbing negative feelings and encouraging motivation and engagement), empathy (which allows them to sense how others feel, and so be more effective communicators), and collaboration (so they work seamlessly as team members).

CCN: It appears there is a link between the leader’s emotional intelligence and the employee and customer (patient) satisfaction?

DG: Yes, how a leader treats/interacts with the employee can have a direct affect on how the employee services the customer.

CCN: Then it becomes critically important that leaders know and understand how the customer experiences the company as well as the employee?

DG: I also address this issue in Working With Emotional Intelligence. To shine at service we need to monitor the satisfaction of customers, not waiting to hear complaints but freely offering information that might be helpful without self interest motivating the gesture. This lays the groundwork for a trusting relationship, one where the customer (or coworker) will feel a positive regard and start to see you as a source of reliable and helpful information — elevating the relationship above one simply of a buyer and a seller.

CCN: So, creating the ultimate customer experience is critical for an organization and its leaders?

DG: How customers feel when they interact with an employee determines how they feel about the company itself. Loyalty is lost or strengthened in every interaction between a company and its customers. To paraphrase business maven Peter Drucker, the purpose of business is not to make a sale, but to make and keep a customer.