Helping others reach their potential requires a leader who is emotionally intelligent (EI). Such a leader is made, not born as demonstrated by the farmers in Enterprise, Alabama.
To affect change in their people, we coach leaders how to use 3 steps to identify the Emotional reality of their group. We do this because we know emotionally intelligent leaders build emotionally intelligent organizations. – And this begins by understanding the emotional reality of teams and how this understanding helps shape the culture of organizations.
So, what exactly is emotional reality and why should leaders care about it? I liken the Emotional reality of a group or team to the boll weevil-an agent for change. As defined by Daniel Goleman in his book, Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, The root of the reality of how groups function often lies with long-established and deeply embedded ground rules or habits that govern the group’s norms.
It is these habits or group norms that influence and shape the culture of an organization.
Take a look at the first of the 3 steps is:
Let’s go back to 1915 Enterprise, Alabama. The emotional reality of the time that governed the behaviours and habits of the farmers was what they have always done: plant cotton.
So, when the agent of change- the boll weevil rolled into town- naturally the farmers’ intention was on how to keep doing what they have always done. No one spoke this out loud but their actions spoke loud and clear that this was the agreed to norm.
Fast forward to 2016 and many organizations still fail to first understand the emotional reality of their teams and groups and eventually their organizations, before investing in step number 2 which is:
Whether as a leader you are tasked with championing an existing vision or to help create a new one- it is critical to first understand the emotional reality of your group and your organization. Emotionally intelligent leaders instinctively know “groups begin to change only when they first have fully grasped the reality of how they function…”
This change in groups, according to more than 30 years of research into organizational effectiveness, happens because the process of understanding their emotional reality includes understanding the individual group/team members’ values and how these align or not with the organization’s values.
The third step in the process of identifying the emotional reality of groups and teams is to:
Emotionally intelligent leaders look for shared gaps or blind spots in order to better foster and develop teams, partnerships and alliances as well as sharpen their own ability to think strategically. Increased awareness of one’s own blind spots and the gaps facing the group; better position leaders to deliver higher quality advice and direction that would foster aligning current state with the vision for their organization.
So, the handful of farmers in Enterprise, Alabama executed this point very well- identify and explore gaps. The powerful questions they asked allowed them to develop a different focus and consequently identified how to close the gap between the reality of their situation and a new desired state.
This is emotional intelligence at work and it resulted in Enterprise, Alabama moving away from planting cotton to planting peanuts. What happened then to the agent of change- the boll weevil? It disappeared. Peanuts were not its preference and by then it had done its work- which was to force the farmers to change the way they look at things in order to have things change.
Enterprise, Alabama went on to become the 4th largest peanut grower in the United States. They also diversified their agricultural practices to include coffee among other commodities. Change had come to Enterprise, Alabama.
The story about Enterprise, Alabama ended on a happy note. In fact, if you were to drive into Enterprise, Alabama today the monument on the screen is the first sight that will greet you. Why erect a monument to a bug that killed the economic life line of a state?
The inscription at the base of the monument answers this question:
“In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity…
According to John Maxwell, A leader’s lasting value is measured as legacy. When you add value to people you lift up people.
The boll weevil added value to the people of Enterprise, Alabama and consequently is held in high esteem for life. Adding value to people is why leaders must use emotional intelligence to move their people in a positive emotional direction resulting in groups that are more resonant and effective.
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