The House on the Sand Went Smash

As a youngster, I remember learning a Vacation Bible School ditty about the wise man and the foolish man. In the song, there was a great rainstorm. One builder had built his house upon a rock, and that house stood firm. The other had built his house upon sand and the house fell down (went smash!) The morale of the story is to make a sure foundation before beginning an endeavor whose outcome is important.

Most businesses know that they need to do some business or strategic or turnaround planning. Planning is vital to creating shared mission and eliciting commitment from stakeholders in the outcome(s). Most executive teams, however, underestimate the value of educating employees to prepare them to execute the plan and achieve the desired results.

We all want employees and managers who maintain a cool head and concentrated focus. What is our role, however, within executive teams, to help our people become prepared? We would assert that our role is to lead and influence through empowerment. Empowerment enhances employee engagement and reduces the likelihood that only executives will be expected to take responsibility for outcomes. 

Skilled employees are usually made, not born. Therefore, key employees deserve professional education and job training. Be constantly grooming your staff to take on more and more responsibility. Much like a second-string player on a sports team, a second generation of managers should be in waiting, ready to step in when called. This intentionality is also very useful in succession planning, because those who vacate their positions already have trained backups who would be ready to perform the role should their predecessor no longer be able or willing.

Grooming Effective Managers

Continuously analyze employees for management potential through an interactive process of interview, observation, and written response. Be on the lookout for employees in all areas who posses strong analytical and evaluation skills, combined with the emotional intelligence to handle changes effectively and appropriately. Give your people the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of consideration for grooming.

When evaluating management candidates, leaders will often try to determine, through an employee’s actions or words, the employee’s perceptions about the company’s mission. A demonstrated commitment to the mission shows promise. Using individual interviews and feedback sessions, leaders can determine whether employees understand chain of command and critical success factors for business success. Asking employees how to improve the productivity of their part of the business, their own execution, and corporate profitability can reveal (through their responses and actions) whether they understand the key levers of management.

Education and Training

Those who can consistently make recommendations for company improvement should be considered for management positions and be given an opportunity to refine their skills through education and training. The employee development need not be formal; the one-to-one mentoring of high potential employees can yield significant results. Formal workshops and continuing education offered within your industry or organizations serving people in key roles can sharpen skills, focus, and performance.

Personnel files should document employee attendance at educational programs as well as innovative solutions they have offered to real problems. These files serve as the basis for performance reviews as well as management development. Difficult work assignments containing known problems offer the high potential employees to contribute on  meaningful decisions. If unsatisfactory decisions are made in these situations, the employees can be coached and mentored through what should have been done differently and learning will occur.

Adapting to Change

Over time, employees will learn to adapt to changing events in the operating environment. The first few times a managerial candidate faces unforeseen circumstances, it may be difficult to revise the game plan to suit the conditions. With effective coaching and a sprinkling of successes, however, the new manager will learn to handle tough situations without the need to involve a higher up.

Every business has its share of unpredicatable events that can influence performance. While these events cannot be anticipated exactly, they can be expected and planned for in a hypothetical sense. As employees become more flexible in the way in which they carry out their responsibilities, they will be able to aid the business plan execution by adapting to change more quickly and accurately.


Entrepreneurs: Learn to Delegate to Capable Employees


The “take charge” attitude that permeates a builder’s very makeup is easily channeled and tempered with proper direction and focus. Avoiding “one man rule” tendencies is as easy as one word: delegation. The effective executive delegates rather than performing all critical tasks. However, successful delegation requires that responsibility and authority also be delegated. Herein lies a problem for the executive–“hands off” management.

An experienced founder’s abilities and characteristics relate to starting and preserving a good business idea. Chief among those abilities would be creating a vision for the company, which is usually unstated but somehow understood. While it may seem a chore for others in the company, projecting a confident and self-assured image that appeals to prospective buyers  comes naturally to the experienced executive.

Additionally, identification of market opportunities and provision of top notch service to meet customer needs are focal points of the founder’s vision. Unfortunately, the ability to create a workable organization to achieve company goals and objectives may prove more elusive. The business owner who possesses the innate skill to attract others to pursue an unwritten vision may lack the skill to build an efficient organization.


Clearly, employees are critical to the success of profit maximization in any business; it is their effort that keeps the wheels of progress turning. Most employees have spent careers in similarly sized (small) companies in the same industry setting–be that white collar or blue collar–with limited exposure to alternate environments. Consequently, their frame of reference in employer/employee relationships amounts  to that which the founder and, where applicable, previous employers have provided.  With limited cross-training in other professional disciplines, these members of the team have the least job flexibility and therefore generally welcome changes in work flow patterns that can make their jobs appreciably easier and more effective.

Job Specialization

While cross training or shared skill sets occur as a matter of necessity, job specialization is a focus of many small businesses. A certain “pride of ownership” can arise from this high degree of specialization. Fiercely loyal, most employees would rather sacrifice some temporary perks rather than leave a benevolent employer “high and dry” in a time of financial duress. Since the employees tend to be skill-oriented, they require a great deal of direction in defining work assignments. At the same time, they spend a lot of time observing the founder and mimicking his or her efforts; if the entrepreneur is a go-getter, they will learn to hustle on the job in order to meet production requirements. In short, employees can be extremely valuable in performing the legwork that makes the business optimization a reality.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees are required to adhere to schedules, commit to the strategic plan, be willing to work long hours, and be brand ambassadors of the company in the community. Schedules governing production, documentation, and reporting must be religiously followed to ensure optimal work efficiencies. Time, budget, and administration constraints are to be respected and emphasized among employees and their  supervisors.

Mindful of how they represent the company, your people are the “front line” experience that others have with your brand. Whether buying from suppliers, meeting with customers, or serving in a local non-profit, they have an opportunity to make you look great–or not.

When company plans cause inconveniences for employees, it should be up to the employees themselves to raise the issue with their superiors. Once they have been given the right to voice their opinions and concerns, they should be expected to fall in line with the plan. Failure to follow established guidelines should not be tolerated. Without respect of your core values, your employees should be replaced by those who can carry your banner proudly!


How Successful Businesses Maintain Organizational Morale



Organizational morale builds quality products (and services). Employees who are well-paid, well-trained, and appreciated work harder than those who are merely trying to earn a living. Giving employees more and more responsibility as they develop skills and gain experience makes them feel wanted and valuable. training employees to do their jobs expertly teaches them the value of quality performance. Finally, rewarding an employee for continuing contributions to company profitability reinforces the company’s goals, mission, and objectives.

Some of the benefits to organizational morale include the following:

  • Employees are willing to work longer hours to ensure that a job is done correctly.
  • Customer service and sales are carried out with positive attitudes. As the company makes more money from these quick and repeat sales, the business can afford to hire the cream of the crop in employees. The appearance to anyone outside the operation is that of a well-oiled machine.
  • Rather than fending off mercenary plots and complaints all day long, management can plan for upcoming projects, ensuring the best use of employees’  talents.
  • Striving and bitter rivalries are easily ended when all employees are treated impartially and fairly.
  • Quality control is much easier to enforce with a group of hard-working, motivated workers than with uncaring employees who are simply filling a slot.


Truly effective training and development programs make good employees out of average employees, and great employees out of good ones. When an employer takes the time and effort to teach employees how to perform their jobs better, employees usually respond with increased effort on the job.  Bonds between management and employees are created as an employee gains a greater sense of self worth. The employee begins to feel that his or her contribution to the overall business matters and is important.


Employees in successful companies have two types of responsibility–to their peers and to their bosses. Each is important to a smooth-running company. However, responsibility can prove an albatross around the neck of the employee who lacks the corresponding authority to make decisions. Good employers will therefore not only be creative in assigning work to employees, but also in providing the best possible environment for them–including adequate authority where appropriate–to help them succeed. Reporting to management helps employees feel they must do a good job and that someone is around who can help them if the going gets rough. Being accountable to peers in addition to bosses teaches employees to respect one another’s work and to learn how to work together to reach common goals.

Motivation and Reward

Bonus and incentive compensation programs are the rewards of excellent employee performance. Rather than threatening to discipline or even dismiss a problem employee, it is often better to motivate employees through encouragement. Fear of failing will not lead to successful work attitudes and performance–it will only lead to ultimate failure. On the other hand, building up an employee’s confidence has proven much more effective than criticism in raising performance levels. 

Once an employee has performed at or beyond the established level, successful management teams find a way to reward the employee. Not rewarding someone who has done everything requested and more makes the employee wonder a.) whether he/she has indeed done a good job, b.) whether the supervisor is a good enough manager to recognize the employee’s contributions, and c.) whether a “change of scenery” may be preferable. However, bonuses and incentives must reflect current and projected financial performance. A company experiencing financial loss must have a flexible plan to adjust employee compensation as necessary. 

A successful company becomes a self-perpetuating entity–the more successful it becomes, the more successful it can become. Executive teams who maintain high organizational morale and plan for growth will create positive cash flow from efficient operations. While your business may not be in a position to always do what larger businesses do, remember to run your organization in a professional manner any you will meet with greater success!


How Do Successful Businesses Manage Their Operations?

After working hard on the marketing plan and the financial plan, successful executive teams develop operating plans to implement them. These are the plans that ultimately result in successfully bringing one’s idea into the marketplace–and profits into the owner’s pocket. Staffing, office administration, and work flow supervision are the primary needs. Successful businesses anticipate problems and take steps immediately to improve workflow efficiency. Supervisors and budgets are assigned to control costs. If necessary, outside fractional help is secured to make sure that appropriate resources are allocated to the best potential outcomes. In addition, the top executive may recommend steps financial and marketing teams can take to enhance overall productivity–and, by extension, profitability. For example, organizations that offer and sell the same or similar goods or services over and over usually see fewer cost overruns and therefore generate more profit per unit of sale.

Staffing a business with the correct number and types of employees makes your workplace both productive and more enjoyable. Sprinkle in some training and development and you demonstrate care and concern for your people. Create feedback loops and engagement will soar. Successful organizations increase or decrease staff levels as operating plans require. Outsourced human resources–whether through independent contractors, fractional professional staff, or subcontracting–allows your company to optimize human resources for any level of work necessary. Making preparations to finish existing projects while beginning new ones and documenting how the work will be accomplished will focus your efforts.

Administering a variety of initiatives simultaneously places certain demands on office staff as well. A successful executive team thinks through the documentation needs of the organization and assigns responsibilities to appropriate personnel. Institutional knowledge is thereby captured for the benefit of all and adjustments become easier to make. Well-organized files–physical and electronic–are another vital component to smooth business operations and can eliminate wasted time and effort, as well as reinforce best practices!

Successful supervision of field (or plant or billable or development) personnel involves more than simply the “management by walking around” approach of yore. Think about technology as a means to do more with less. Creatively brainstorm as to how to maximize the benefits of being face-to-face versus virtual–it’s a trade-off of time, money, and precious additional resources. Recruiting and hiring should reflect an effort to add to the team those who are the best cultural fit rather than simply strong technicians who may undermine the esprit de corps. Compensation and performance management systems should reinforce your value system–not stand separate from it. Think of processes like equipping, quality management, customer service, coaching, mentoring, motivating as key factors in your success. When you do, plans can be made to enable your organization’s operations to become efficient and profitable.

What Can EQ Do For You?

Whether your executive team is trying to evaluate cultural fit, develop a post-merger integration strategy, or simply run a business, emotional intelligence is the key to decision making.  Some proof of the benefits of superior emotional intelligence:

1. The US Air Force used the EQ-I to select recruiters (the Air Force’s front-line HR
personnel) and found that the most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in
the emotional intelligence competencies of Assertiveness, Empathy, Happiness, and
Emotional Self Awareness. The Air Force also found that by using emotional
intelligence to select recruiters, they increased their ability to predict successful
recruiters by nearly three-fold. The immediate gain was a saving of $3 million
annually. These gains resulted in the Government Accounting Office submitting a
report to Congress, which led to a request that the Secretary of Defense order all
branches of the armed forces to adopt this procedure in recruitment and selection.
(The GAO report is titled, “Military Recruiting: The Department of Defense Could
Improve Its Recruiter Selection and Incentive Systems,” and it was submitted to
Congress January 30, 1998. Richard Handley and Reuven Bar-On provided this
2. Experienced partners in a multinational consulting firm were assessed on the EI
competencies plus three others. Partners who scored above the median on 9 or more
of the 20 competencies delivered $1.2 million more profit from their accounts than
did other partners – a 139 percent incremental gain (Boyatzis, 1999).
3. An analysis of more than 300 top-level executives from fifteen global companies
showed that six emotional competencies distinguished stars from the average:
Influence, Team Leadership, Organizational Awareness, self-confidence,
Achievement Drive, and Leadership (Spencer, L. M., Jr., 1997).
4. In jobs of medium complexity (sales clerks, mechanics), a top performer is 12 times
more productive than those at the bottom and 85 percent more productive than an
average performer. In the most complex jobs (insurance salespeople, account
managers), a top performer is 127 percent more productive than an average performer
(Hunter, Schmidt, & Judiesch, 1990). Competency research in over 200 companies
and organizations worldwide suggests that about one-third of this difference is due to
technical skill and cognitive ability while two-thirds is due to emotional competence
(Goleman, 1998). (In top leadership positions, over four-fifths of the difference is
due to emotional competence.)
5. At L’Oreal, sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies
significantly outsold salespeople selected using the company’s old selection
procedure. On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional
competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase
of $2,558,360. Salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence also had
63% less turnover during the first year than those selected in the typical way (Spencer
& Spencer, 1993; Spencer, McClelland, & Kelner, 1997).
6. In a national insurance company, insurance sales agents who were weak in emotional
competencies such as self-confidence, initiative, and empathy sold policies with an
average premium of $54,000. Those who were very strong in at least 5 of 8 key
emotional competencies sold policies worth $114,000 (Hay/McBer Research and
Innovation Group, 1997).
7. In a large beverage firm, using standard methods to hire division presidents, 50% left
within two years, mostly because of poor performance. When they started selecting
based on emotional competencies such as initiative, self-confidence, and leadership,
only 6% left in two years. Furthermore, the executives selected based on emotional
competence were far more likely to perform in the top third based on salary bonuses
for performance of the divisions they led: 87% were in the top third. In addition,
division leaders with these competencies outperformed their targets by 15 to 20
percent. Those who lacked them under-performed by almost 20% (McClelland,
8. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of
derailment in executives involve deficits in emotional competence. The three primary
ones are difficulty in handling change, not being able to work well in a team, and
poor interpersonal relations.
9. After supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional
competencies such as how to listen better and help employees resolve problems on
their own, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent, formal grievances were
reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and the plant exceeded
productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham, 1996). In another manufacturing
plant where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17 percent.
There was no such increase in production for a group of matched supervisors who
were not trained (Porras & Anderson, 1981).
10. One of the foundations of emotional competence — accurate self-assessment — was
associated with superior performance among several hundred managers from 12
different organizations (Boyatzis, 1982).
11. Another emotional competence, the ability to handle stress, was linked to success as a
store manager in a retail chain. The most successful store managers were those best
able to handle stress. Success was based on net profits, sales per square foot, sales
per employee, and per dollar inventory investment (Lusch & Serpkeuci, 1990).
12. Optimism is another emotional competence that leads to increased productivity. New
salesmen at Met Life who scored high on a test of “learned optimism” sold 37 percent
more life insurance in their first two years than pessimists (Seligman, 1990).
13. A study of 130 executives found that how well people handled their own emotions
determined how much people around them preferred to deal with them (Walter V.
Clarke Associates, 1997).
14. For sales reps at a computer company, those hired based on their emotional
competence were 90% more likely to finish their training than those hired on other
criteria (Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group, 1997).
15. At a national furniture retailer, sales people hired based on emotional competence had
half the dropout rate during their first year (Hay/McBer Research and Innovation
Group, 1997).
16. For 515 senior executives analyzed by the search firm Egon Zehnder International,
those who were primarily strong in emotional intelligence were more likely to
succeed than those who were strongest in either relevant previous experience or IQ.
In other words, emotional intelligence was a better predictor of success than either
relevant previous experience or high IQ. More specifically, the executive was high in
emotional intelligence in 74 percent of the successes and only in 24 percent of the
failures. The study included executives in Latin America, Germany, and Japan, and
the results were almost identical in all three cultures.
17. The following description of a “star” performer reveals how several emotional
competencies (noted in italics) were critical in his success: Michael Iem worked at
Tandem Computers. Shortly after joining the company as a junior staff analyst, he
became aware of the market trend away from mainframe computers to networks that
linked workstations and personal computers (Service Orientation). Iem realized that
unless Tandem responded to the trend, its products would become obsolete (Initiative
and Innovation). He had to convince Tandem’s managers that their old emphasis on
mainframes was no longer appropriate (Influence) and then develop a system using
new technology (Leadership, Change Catalyst). He spent four years showing off his
new system to customers and company sales personnel before the new network
applications were fully accepted (Self-confidence, Self-Control, Achievement Drive)
(from Richman, L. S., “How to get ahead in America,” Fortune, May 16, 1994, pp.
18. Financial advisors at American Express whose managers completed the Emotional
Competence training program were compared to an equal number whose managers
had not. During the year following training, the advisors of trained managers grew
their businesses by 18.1% compared to 16.2% for those whose managers were
19. The most successful debt collectors in a large collection agency had an average goal
attainment of 163 percent over a three-month period. They were compared with a
group of collectors who achieved an average of only 80 percent over the same time
period. The most successful collectors scored significantly higher in the emotional
intelligence competencies of self-actualization, independence, and optimism. (Selfactualization
refers to a well-developed, inner knowledge of one’s own goals and a
sense of pride in one’s work.) (Bachman et al., 2000).

-Cary Cherniss, Ph.D., Rutgers University

What role does emotional intelligence (EQ) play in your organization’s management? How can it become more integral?