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Can't We All Just Get Along?


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Can't We All Just Get Along?

"Emotional intelligence," or EI, may sound like a squishy management concept--but it gets results

Despite a 20% annual growth rate, all was not well at Cooperative Printing. The 45 employees at the Minneapolis commercial printer were more stressed-out than ever, griping and bickering incessantly. With productivity and morale plummeting, the company's name began to seem like a bad joke.

CEO Dennis Hanson turned to a business consultant, who suggested training the staff in something called "emotional intelligence." Don't roll your eyes just yet. Emotional intelligence, or EI, is similar to IQ, except that rather than measuring analytical abilities, it refers to the ability to manage your emotions and interpersonal relationships. Sure, it sounds spongy. But it's backed by 30 years of research. One study tracking 160 people in a variety of industries and job levels revealed that EI skills were twice as important in contributing to excellence as intellect and expertise alone, according to Daniel P. Goleman, author of two best-selling books on the subject.

Emotional intelligence divides leadership skills into four components--self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills--and examines how they interact with one another. The goal is better day-to-day maintenance of relationships, says Larry R. Richard, a principal at Altman Weil Inc., a legal consultancy in Newtown Square, Pa., that uses the method to help dysfunctional law firms. "Ignoring this has a big cost," he says.

That's especially true at small companies such as Cooperative Printing, where collaboration is key. After a day of EI training--which included lectures, videos, and stress management exercises--it emerged that communication between the company's sales and production departments had almost completely broken down. Particularly helpful was a role-reversal exercise in which sales staff played production workers, and vice versa, which led to a newfound sense of empathy in the office. "There's a feeling of `we're all in this together,"' Hanson says. The price tag: $2,000.

EI has been catching on, so it's not hard to find a consultant. Hay Group, a Philadelphia human resources consultancy, offers two-day training programs for a few hundred dollars a head. The International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org) also can refer you to a consultant or coach. Cooperative Printing's Hanson believes EI is essential to the long-term health of any company. "We can't get rid of pressure, but we can work with our employees to handle it better," he says. Either that, or find the company a new name.For more on business coaching, click Online Extras at frontier.businessweek.comBy Joshua Kendall


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