Conventional wisdom says the best business decisions are based solely on careful analysis of the facts, and emotion should be kept out of the boardroom.
Robert K. Cooper says that idea could not be more wrong.Cooper, author of "Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations," told more than 250 business people at a Tuesday seminar in Salt Lake City that disregarding feelings will not bring a business success.
As business moves faster and pressures rise, he said, it is easy for employees to fall into the trap of working just to get a paycheck, without any passion for their jobs.
"Think about the people you live and work with," Cooper said. "How many of them are (just) going through the motions today?"
The business world is not going to slow down, he said, but leaders can use their emotional intelligence to improve both themselves and their companies.
Emotional intelligence, Cooper said, is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of energy, trust, drive, influence, information and creativity.
As companies increase their dependence on technology, many business leaders are treating employees like any other assets, he said. That makes people feel that they are not valued and respected.
Because of that, Cooper said, 70 percent of people are afraid to speak up at work for fear of making "career limiting utterances."
"There's a drive in every one of us in this room to leave a unique imprint on the world through our work," Cooper said. "We have a need to be heard, to have a voice, to be seen."
A good leader will help an employee use her voice so she does not feel invisible, he said.
Anyone can list words they would use to describe a good leader - honest, fair, visionary, caring, fun. But for many managers and employees there is a gap between believing in those ideals and living them, Cooper said.
"We cannot live them if we don't feel them," he said. "That's the bridge. . . . You have to live these things to make them real."
Cooper said leaders must depend not only on academic intelligence, but also on the heart's intelligence, to guide them. That means emotions should be seen as a source of energy, values, information and drive, and they warrant acknowledgment and understanding.
To get to that point, he suggested leaders use several specific mechanisms. For example, they can make sure meetings start and end as scheduled to show respect for the time of all those involved.
"I think meetings are a black hole in human life right now in the West," Cooper said.
Leaders also can use the mechanism of eye-to-eye validation.
"We have this need to be seen," Cooper said. "In general, we are way too careful, we are way too close, we are way too quiet. . . . Just open your eyes when you're walking around."
Another mechanism is to make every minute count. Cooper said that means leaders should take the time to talk to employees and show that they care by sitting down and giving their complete attention to any concerns or ideas.
"One minute standing feels like nothing. One minute sitting feels like 10," he said.
Cooper said he knows some people at the seminar may have to use a kind of "covert action" to make points about emotional intelligence with their leaders. But he said it will be worth it for them to speak up.
"What I'm proposing, I think, in a sense, is a very constructive rebellion," he said.
Paul Gavronski, operations manager for Kimberly-Clark Corp. in Ogden, said he especially liked Cooper's thoughts on feeling empathy for other people in an organization.
"I've always known that for people to be able to feel what others are feeling is very important in business," Gavronski said. "I don't know if (the seminar) will have an overwhelming impact, but every time I attend a seminar, I take away bits and pieces."