Research Paper By Costa Mitchell
(Leadership Coach, SOUTH AFRICA)
Introducing and exploring the possibility and dynamics of transforming corporate culture, notably in the area of a corporation’s level of Emotional Intelligence, and the role of leadership in the form of coaching in such transformation.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to take charge of our emotional reactions and filter them through responsible and rational thought processes, or in the words of Daniel Goleman “to bring intelligence to emotion” It has four dimensions, namely:
- Empathy or Social Awareness
- Relationship Management
These “emotional competencies” in the individual human are not products of birth but learning; not nature but nurture. EQ has been learned from the emotionally significant, formative influencers who taught us in the early stages of our life. The psycho-cultural style of an individual begins with the child’s response to “show and tell” in the family setting, and develops through the stages of formation until the person becomes “unconsciously competent”in expressing that style.
What is Culture?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it, in the sense, I am using it, as:
- the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group;
- the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization, e.g. a corporate culture focused on the bottom line
- the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
The dynamics of the formation of both EQ and group culture lead to the state of being that Goleman calls “flow” – “a state of self-forgetfulness”, or the above-mentioned unconscious competence, in relating to oneself and others. We learn our culture at the feet, so to speak, of our parents and family. How we interrelate, our use of language and idiom, the activities we enjoy, our culinary, aesthetic, and artistic tastes, our sense of sartorial style, all form and become habitual, until a person will say “This is me!” We are then unconsciously competent in being what we have been raised to be. This way of becoming formative for the flow of life between the members of a family. I believe it also becomes so between participants in other social constructs.
It is not the purpose of this paper to examine the neuroscience, or causative factors, of emotion and its management. I am rather approaching the subject from the other end, namely the outcomes of EQ: how it shapes character, or culture. Leaders have the power to influence the unconscious dynamics of the organizations they create and lead. Emotionally significant persons in a child’s life empower the development of the child’s cultural ways and individual EQ. Leaders in organizations similarly empower the corporate cultural EQ of the organization they lead. “As go the leaders, so go the people.” Which brings me to the subject of Corporate Culture
Corporate culture will be an expression of the values, priorities, and resulting practices that are modeled and taught by the founding management and then imitated and absorbed by employees until they become unconscious and creates the “feel” or chemistry of the workplace. Daniel Goleman uses the term “climate” to describe this:
“ Climate ” …refers to six key factors that influence an organization’s working environment: its flexibility – that is, how free employees feel to innovate unencumbered by red tape; their sense of responsibility to the organization; the level of standards that people set; the sense of accuracy about performance feedback and aptness of rewards; the clarity people have about mission and values; and finally, the level of commitment to a common purpose.
Corporate culture provides the rules for eg how management relates to employees; how employees relate to clients and whether the customer is “king” or the brand is “king”. The qualities contained in corporate culture will determine things like employee retention rates, loyalty, productivity, and work ethic “while no one is looking”. Some of the markers of a corporation’s culture include its values(for people vs. profits; for the employee as a whole person or a means of production; quality of service vs bottom-line focus; responsibility vs freedom individual creativity vs conformity; etc.)
Corporate culture, like ethnic culture in each family, was formed in the dim and distant past and is passed from generation to generation by its elders. This is done by modeling and training and is reinforced by rewards such as recruitment and promotion, awards, salary increases, and bonuses, or the opposite of these things (termination, demotion, etc.). The culture is “massaged into the soul” of an organization by communication and training, the use of slogans and other branding and awareness-raising practices, and structural things like layout, aesthetics, facilities, and events. Culture is not only spoken but needs to be communicated by corporate “body language” if it is to become reality.
Corporate Emotional Intelligence
The 4 markers of EQ listed in section 1 above, can be seen to have both intrapersonal (Self-awareness and Self-management) and interpersonal (Empathy and Relational Management) dimensions. The same markers apply to organizations as to individuals. The culture of the organization will be communicated inwardly and outwardly. That communication is verbal and non-verbal, intentional and unintentional, and creates a sense of “how we roll”.
Organizations with good EQ will firstly be characterized by awareness of the group’s “intrapersonal” emotional tone (how it feels to be a part of this organization), and intentional action to manage that tone (what does each person in the organization need to do to maintain and express our ethos, or to change it as needed?). Secondly, people will be “interpersonally” intelligent about the layers of people in their circle of influence (employees, their families, clients, and potential clients), both in terms of how each of those people is feeling and how to build good relationship management into the organization. The EQ of a corporation will be known by its fruits. Not the “hard” measurements such as financial turnover, product generation, market share, or profit vs loss, but rather the “soft” aspects like friendliness and warmth, enthusiasm, and retention and growth of employees. Daniel Goleman largely sums up EQ as Empathy. And he makes the point that, just as EQ can be shown to be the key ingredient of personal, relational, and professional success, this can be extended into the corporate context as a matter of profound importance:
Empathy means thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings – along with other factors – in the process of making intelligent decisions. Empathy is particularly important today as a component of leadership for at least three reasons: the increasing use of teams; the rapid pace of globalization; and the growing need to retain talent. People who have it are attuned to subtleties in body language; they can hear the message beneath the words being spoken.
The EQ of a corporation is transformed in the same way as it was first formed. What catalyzes transformation is self-awareness on the part of the leadership (the clan’s “elders”) of what the current culture is, and what needs to be transformed. Emotionally Intelligent leaders will take responsibility for this kind of corporate self-awareness, and are motivated to improve what they see to be lacking.
self-regulation… enhances integrity, which is not only a personal virtue but an organizational strength. If there is one trait that virtually all effective leaders have, it is motivation – a variety of self-management where we mobilize our positive emotions to drive us toward our goals.
Once having identified the need for change, leaders also need to believe in the possibility of change. They will understand and own the fact that the job of leaders, as Annie McKee says, is to move people: “Resonant leaders live and lead with hope and optimism. They capture passion – their own and that of others – and use emotion, relationships, and vision to move people toward a better future.”Goleman says the same thing “Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through the emotions.” Having identified the need and inspired belief in its possibility, the business of change management can begin.
The culture was acquired “from the top down”, which is another way of saying from parent to child, elder to younger. Incorporate terms, as previously stated, this means the leadership or management team. It requires strong intervention, modeling, and contagious leadership of all leadership. However, it is not a matter of change by decree, but by influence. It doesn’t start with mission statements and memos, but with circles of connection, trust-building, and then vision sharing. It is reinforced by social engagement and storytelling, and by celebrating what we want more of. You can transform corporate culture in direct proportion to your effectiveness in transforming the people in it because the culture is nothing more than the collective beliefs and habits of the people in an organization. In the end, therefore, you can only transform cultures by facilitating personal transformation in people.
The article quoted above refers to three strategies for transforming corporate culture, namely
- identifying and unlocking (“unfreezing”) the thought system that prevails;
- spending time with existing teams to think through the culture, working from the inside out and top-down; and
- looking for ways to connect people throughout the corporation with the values they already have and want, and finding ways to implement them in the workplace.
“A winning culture includes collaboration, personal responsibility, learning and growing, respect, trust, and many other important personal values. Fortunately, it turns out that we don’t need to learn these values — we already have them.”
Leadership as a Key to Lasting Change
The management of a corporation can certainly implement the three above-mentioned strategies for corporate culture change. Culture change happens in the same way as culture formation happens – “from the top-down”. However, management should not believe that change occurs overnight, or simply by decree, rebranding, or motivation by incentives. It will need a comprehensive, coaching-style approach, involving engagement with groups within the organization to share life, listen, and reflect together. Management has to be seen to be the first adopters of the change if it is to become the corporate culture:
The continual interplay …among members of a group creates a kind of emotional soup, with everyone adding his or her flavor to the mix. But it is the leader who adds the strongest seasoning. Why? Because of that enduring reality of business: Everyone watches the boss. People take their emotional cues from the top. Because the leader’s way of seeing things has special weight, leaders “manage to mean” for a group… …the more open leaders are – how well they express their enthusiasm, for example – the more readily others will feel that same contagious passion. 
The fact is, however, that leaders will have different effects on the company depending on their style. Goleman, like other authors on leadership, explores the 6 styles employed by leaders, but here I want to examine only one of them As I said at the beginning, we each internalize the beliefs, culture, and style of relating we learn by observing the models that surround our early life. Culture is inculcated in children by parents – it is, as one of my coaches used to say, “better (or more) caught than taught”. “The Coaching Style”, which Goleman describes as an ‘alongside’ and ‘life-connected’ style, “help(s) employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses” and empowers goal-directed action, challenging the employee to live out their full potential. However, this happens, not by “tell and leave alone”, but by “show and tell” along with “notice and celebrate”. The drivers of climate, or culture, are in turn driven by attentive, engaged leaders who care not only about the bottom line, but the wellbeing and enjoyment of success experienced by their employees.
This is an echo of the traditional African concept of UbuntuThis Zulu term and the culture it espouses is summed up by the phrase: “I am because we are”. It is the essence of empathy and community-orientation, and stresses supportiveness, sharing, listening, building community, and cooperation, and is all-important for building community and a caring, (emotionally intelligent) culture in the workplace.When applied to the role of leaders it reinforces what Goleman says above. Ubuntu in leadership, according to Reuel Khoza, means: “The wellbeing of the people you lead must be your absolute priority.” What he proposes as “attuned leadership” is the acknowledgment that “people make the best leaders when they act in harmony with the spirit of the group”, He sums up attuned leadership thus: “Listen, deliberate, reflect, respond to the followership, be compassionate towards suffering, be humble in leadership, seek to be effective, expand your personhood through relationships, and above all, be ethical.” In my opinion, the Coaching style of leadership could not have been better summed up!
The fact is that people adopt beliefs and values modeled by leaders whose company they enjoy, and with whom they feel noticed and safe. When they do this as a family, a community, or a corporation, the result is enculturation – a culture internalized and then lived out.
The use of external coaches alongside and supplemental to what internal leaders do can deepen and maximize the effectiveness of culture change. Coaching is uniquely geared toward empowering change, from the individual client to teams, and form teams to the entire corporate culture. Coaching contains three keys to lasting change, namely that
- it empowers the discovery of the values mentioned above, that exists in every individual, and which can be overtly linked to corporate values;
- It empowers the articulation and definition of goals for each individual, and a plan of action for their achievement, which can also be linked to agreed corporate goals;
- It includes the possibility of an “accountability partner” for each client about the changes they have committed to work on.
Coaching, says Goleman, “improves results. The reason: it requires constant dialogue, and that dialogue has a way of pushing up every driver of climate. …the (coaching) style’s implicit message is, ‘I believe in you, I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts. Employees very often rise to that challenge with their heart, mind, and soul”.
And because the transformation of corporate culture requires the transformation of the people in it, as people are changed and rise to the challenge, the corporation, too, will respond with its corporate heart, mind, and soul.
Coleman, Dan. Emotional Intelligence: Improve Your EQ For Business And Relationships | Unleash The Empath In You. Kindle Edition, 2018.
Goleman, Daniel. Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. More Than Sound. Kindle Edition, 2011.
Khoza, Reuel J. Attuned Leadership – African Humanism as Compass (Johannesburg: Penguin Books, 2011).
McKee, Annie, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnston. Becoming a Resonant Leader. Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition, 2008.
Rock, David, and Paul, Linda Coaching with the Brain in Mind John Wiley & sons, Kindle edition, 2009.
Ventura, Michael. Applied Empathy – the new language of leadership Hodder & Stoughton, Kindle Edition, 2019.
 Daniel Goleman “Emotional Intelligence” Kindle Edition loc 119
 Daniel Goleman Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence
 The term was first used in an article describing the 4 stages of teaching or learning, by Martin Broadwell (1969). Here is an excerpt: “At the bottom is the “unconscious Incompetent.” This poor creature is a very poor teacher but doesn’t know it. …he can’t be changed until he reaches the next level, which is the “Conscious Incompetent.” Now we have a bad fellow, but fortunately, knows he is bad. …he now has been raised to the third level, the “Conscious Competent.” This person is a good teacher and knows why. …There is a final level, though, – …the fellow that is a good teacher by nature. Somehow he just always does the right thing, says the right thing, and gets the right results. The trouble is, he doesn’t know why he does what he does. He is in the small class of people we will call the “Unconscious Competent.” He’s good, but he doesn’t know what it is that makes him good.” http://www.wordsfitlyspoken.org/gospel_guardian/v20/v20n41p1-3a.html
 Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, Kindle edition, pp. 90-91.
 The source is unknown. Quoted by a range of authors, including Simon Sinek on Twitter on August 8, 2018.
Daniel Goleman, Leadership, the power of Emotional Intelligence, Kindle edition, loc 583
Goleman Leadership, the power of Emotional Intelligence, op. cit., loc 443
Goleman, op. cit., loc421
 Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, Frances Johnston Becoming a Resonant Leader (Harvard Business School Press, 2008) p. 174
 Goleman, op. cit. loc 994
 Goleman Leadership, op. cit., locs 1089, 1100, 1121
Reuel J. Khoza, Attuned Leadership – African Humanism as Compass (Penguin, 2011).
Ibid., p. xix.
Ibid., p. 150.
Ibid., p. 392.