Primal Leadership: Book Advice for Group Leaders

Are you trying to become an emotionally intelligent leader? How can you create an emotionally intelligent culture at your company?

In the book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee explain that emotional intelligence in groups and organizations creates a harmonious work environment. They share clear steps on how to transform your company from one of discord to one of resonance.

Here’s the Primal Leadership book advice on how to create an emotionally intelligent group.

How to Create an Emotionally Intelligent Group and Organization

The authors explain that, once a leader becomes emotionally intelligent, her next responsibility is to spread this emotional intelligence to her group and organization.

First, leaders should focus on fostering EI competencies within their group. Then, they should look at the underlying norms that dictate how people think and behave in the organization and change them if they lack EI.

(Shortform note: Business and management experts second the author’s argument, emphasizing that leaders are the foundation for organizational change. When leaders are emotionally intelligent, they will spread their EI skills to their group members. And because organizational culture is shaped by the actions and feelings of employees, this will work to change the organization’s culture. Ultimately, organizational change must start with leaders, move to groups, and then tackle the organization as a whole.)

Creating Emotionally Intelligent Groups

The Primal Leadership book explains that to create an emotionally intelligent group, you first need to understand the current EI practices of the group. Then, you need to uncover the ideal vision for the group and formulate a plan for achievement.

Step 1: Identify Current EI Competencies of the Group

To uncover the EI of your group, examine how well each of your employees exhibits the EI microskills. Then, examine how prevalent these microskills are in group interactions. Next, ask your employees to self-report their competency in each of the microskills, and then to report how well the group exhibits these competencies during interactions as a whole. When individuals or the group score low in a certain microskill, question employees about why they think that is.

This investigation will uncover the norms of the team that dictate how and why they act so you can determine which microskills to work on. For example, you might discover that a group norm is to interrupt others if someone thinks their idea is better, indicating you need to improve on group empathy and managing impulses and emotions.

(Shortform note: Experts second this approach to improving team EI. They explain that both individual attention and group work are necessary to bring groups together as a cohesive whole. Working only one-on-one with individuals will prevent group relationships that are needed for effective collaboration from forming, while only working with the collective group may leave individuals who need extra help behind, which can cause discord.)

Step 2: Identify the Ideal Vision of the Group and Create a Plan of Action

Once you’ve uncovered the group reality, gather people’s individual visions of ideal emotionally intelligent interactions so you can create group goals and a plan of action to achieve them. For example, if you want to foster support in place of the norm to interrupt others, set a standard that members must allow each other to finish speaking and provide feedback before proposing other ideas. This shows self-awareness, self-management, and empathy for the people speaking.

Techniques to Explore EI

Management specialists explain that two techniques you can practice with your group to enhance EI are role-playing and “storyboarding.” When role-playing, members take on others’ opinions and interaction styles which can help everyone in the group understand why that person may be acting the way they do. For example, someone’s passive-aggressive behavior might not be because they have a superiority complex, but because they feel inadequate in the situation. Storyboarding is another technique that helps group members understand each other’s ideas—each member writes their ideas and feelings on a small poster. Both of these techniques are shown to improve trust and participation.

Creating an Emotionally Intelligent Organization

The authors explain that once you’ve created emotionally intelligent groups, you can move on to implement EI throughout the organization. Emotionally intelligent organizations have a culture and set of norms that are founded on five components: truth, transparency, integrity, empathy, and healthy relationships.

(Shortform note: Experts add that in addition to EI, organizations also need to have balanced incentives or motivators, clear authority and decision-makers, accurate and timely information, and clear organizational structure to function properly. When these four components become misaligned, for example, the organizational structure becomes a power-hungry hierarchy because the incentives are too money-focused, the organization can become what experts call a “passive-aggressive organization.” This type of organization is the antithesis of an emotionally intelligent organization. So, when creating new norms and culture based on EI, be aware of how these four factors may be impacting the organization’s culture.)

The authors note that changing an organization’s culture is hard, but they recommend a few steps to do so:

1. Uncover the emotional and cultural reality of the organization by asking employees at all levels of the organization open-ended questions. These questions should explore what employees care about, like, and dislike in the organization, and what’s helping or hindering their success. Within their answers, shared language will emerge that’ll uncover the underlying feelings, complex norms, and overall culture of the organization—in other words, the emotional reality.

2. Uncover the ideal emotional and cultural climate of the organization by asking employees how they think the organization should incorporate the five components into daily functions and interactions. The shared language that emerges will generate goals and will motivate people to change by tapping into their hopes for the future.

3. Bring the ideal culture to life by getting people—leaders and employees—emotionally involved. A great way to do this, the authors explain, is to bring people together to share a unique experience that highlights the new culture you want for the company. For example, you can bring employees together to watch an inspirational movie that illustrates the five components and have a discussion afterward.

4. Make these changes sustainable by ensuring that emotionally intelligent leaders who uphold the five components are present at every level of the organization. Further, make the development of emotionally intelligent leaders and employees an ongoing process—continue training people in EI and hire people who are emotionally intelligent.

Primal Leadership: Book Advice for Group Leaders

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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