Talking Point: We are not corporate machines
It is high time bosses recognise emotional intelligence in the workplace, says John Macaulay, founder of the Alchemy Agency.
I recently completed an MBA, spending much of my course studying here in the North West and a few months in Shanghai, China's largest and most commercial city.
The MBA is the world's most prestigious business qualification and with many institutions charging upwards of £30,000, it is not cheap. It left me with a better idea of how to run a successful business – but some fundamental elements appeared to be neglected.
Not everything about my MBA seemed in tune with modern-day corporate life. For a start, many business degrees are far too rigid, too by-the-book and obsessed by out-of-date theory. Such an academic approach has its place: Harvard Business School, for example, is rightly revered the world over.
But businesses succeed and fail because of their people: chief executives, partners, entrepreneurs, as well as teams of loyal staff. Currently it seems there is precious little that reflects the fact that we are emotional beings, not computers that merely need programming to work effectively.
That concept – what I and others refer to as "emotional intelligence" – is what forms the basis of the Alchemy Agency. As an idea it can sound abstract, so let me put it simply: if individuals in businesses can learn how to manage their relationships with others, they can more easily and successfully achieve their professional goals.
I am now working with some incredible people from all sorts of backgrounds with decidedly un-corporate careers. For example, I defy anyone to be unmoved by the life stories of John Amaechi OBE and Richard McCann, two of our 'alchemists'.
Manchester-born John was among the first British players to succeed in America's National Basketball League. Later, he revealed he was gay, which took huge courage in the macho world of sport. Richard, meanwhile, has become a successful motivational speaker despite a chaotic childhood which included losing his mother at the age of five when she was murdered by 'Yorkshire Ripper' Peter Sutcliffe.
The point is that we are far too restrictive when we look at training organisations and consultants to invite into our businesses to improve performance. Data from research firm Gallup show that only one in five UK employees feels 'actively engaged' in his or her work, and another one out of every five feels fully 'disengaged'.
In world-class organisations, typically nine people are engaged for every one who is disengaged. Choose the right people, those who will inspire and add real value and similar results can follow.
I have seen, for example, alternative thinkers go into companies, watch how bosses and employees interact with their organisations and work on aligning them. The outcomes – increased wellbeing and improved results – speak for themselves.
It is time we recognised that we are not corporate machines that can be programmed to succeed. We are all emotional animals who have doubts about where we are and where we are going. Accept that and half the battle is won.