Emotional Intelligence,
KAIZEN™ and Company Culture

by Chris Leonard, Consulting Director, Kaizen Institute Canada (BC)


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills: 

  1. Emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions
  2. The ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving 
  3. The ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.

An emotionally intelligent individual is both highly conscious of his or her own emotional states, and able to identify and manage them. Such people are especially tuned in to the emotions that others experience. It’s understandable that a sensitivity to emotional signals both from within oneself and from one’s social environment could make one a better friend, parent, leader, or romantic partner. 

One thing is for sure, we know when we experience a display of low emotional intelligence, it’s obvious to us at the time, however do we know when we are displaying low emotional intelligence ourselves?

If we have low Emotional Intelligence then we probably won’t recognise it, which makes it doubly hard to live, work and cooperate with individuals in this category. 

Some facts about Emotional Intelligence:

  1. The concept of emotional intelligence has gained wide acceptance
  2. Some employers have even incorporated psychometric tests in the hopes of gauging a candidates Emotional Intelligence
  3. There is no validated psychometric test or scale for emotional intelligence

Having high Emotional Intelligence does not mean that you’re a better person than someone else

Having high Emotional Intelligence does not mean that you’re a better person than someone else, in fact it is very possible, and some studies have suggested, that psychopaths use Emotional Intelligence in order to manipulate their victims.  

“Psychopathic individuals do not simply lack empathy. Instead, it seems as though for most of us, empathy is the default mode. If we see a victim, we share her pain. For the psychopathic criminals of our study, empathy seemed to be a voluntary activity. If they want to, they can empathize, and that explains how they can be so charming, and maybe so manipulative. Once they have seduced you into doing what serves their purpose, the effortful empathy would probably disappear again.”

Dr. Christian Keysers, Professor of Social Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam, published at inc.

Emotional Intelligence should not be the only criteria for recruiting and promoting individuals to your organization. If you had a choice between an Average performer who you could trust and a high performer who you could not trust, who would you choose?

Simon Sinek gives the Navy Seals answer to this question. Watch the video at YouTube.

Trust, what does this mean in a business setting?

Trust them to identify with and display the values of your business! Leaders can create the working conditions that engage the workforce. Engaged employees can create a culture that they can thrive in. If the employees you have don’t know what the company values are and identify with them, then the ability to make a cultural change is limited; in this scenario a concerted effort must be made to recruit and keep staff who share the company values. 

Leaders who don’t know what the company values are and or don’t identify with them will be a disaster for the culture and the future of the business.

Vital steps to creating the template for your company culture:

  1. Dig deep and uncover what you value as an owner and or leadership team
  2. Express them in aspirational terms focused on your employee’s welfare first then your customers, community etc.
  3. Invite your employees to engage and further develop both the terms used and the application of them
  4. Communicate theses values as an owner and or leadership team daily and if needed sometimes use words! (action speaks louder than words)
  5. Hold yourself and everyone accountable to act based on these shared values daily

Effective leaders balance emotional and mental energy in their teams. They are aware of the feelings of others and help their staff identify and work with their strengths, moving them into emotionally positive directions. If the company’s roles, responsibilities, authority, accountabilities or expectations are unclear, emotional energy can easily be spent, giving rise to frustration and displays of low Emotional Intelligence.

Can Emotional Intelligence be developed through training?

In a new, comprehensive review paper, Colorado State University’s Victoria Maddingly and Kurt Kreiger put their meta-analytic skills to work in evaluating the claim that Emotional Intelligence is a teachable quality. Their findings suggest that there are people that seem to be born with Emotional Intelligence but there may be hope for you if you weren’t blessed with this ability at birth.

If you know someone high in Emotional Intelligence ability, then the chances are good that you feel comfortable in this person’s presence as they seemed sense your mood and rarely display emotion that make you feel uncomfortable. 

This “pure” version of Emotional Intelligence contrasts, as the Colorado State researchers note, with “mixed-model” approaches, which include soft skills  that lead to successful coping under difficult situations…[and] incorporate motivation, personality, temperament, character, and social skills” above and beyond emotional recognition and management.

The good news that came from the research is that behavior associated with Emotional Intelligence did appear to increase among those who took part in Emotional Intelligence training and coaching.

Across studies and samples, and despite differences in methodology, the findings provide reasonably robust, encouraging evidence that Emotional Intelligence can, in fact, be trained. The sizes of the training effects were, the authors note, comparable to those reported for training in other domains. 

The first component of an effective Emotional Intelligence program is that you are given the opportunity to discuss the ideas offered in training with your fellow learners. As the authors note, “trainees should acquire more emotional intelligence when they can discuss the meaning of the construct and how it applies to them”. 

This conclusion is consistent with other literature on adult education. Being able to apply new ideas to your life and share your thoughts with others can give you the chance to test whether these ideas are going to work. 

The second related component of successful Emotional Intelligence training involves being able to practice your ideas in between sessions through talking to others and getting feedback on the new approaches you are trying to use in your everyday life. 

The link between KAIZEN™ and Emotional Intelligence and company culture

The links between the KAIZEN™ and Emotional Intelligence need to be looked at in two levels:

  1. The impact KAIZEN™ Philosophy has on a person’s Emotional Intelligence
  2. The impact a KAIZEN™ Business System has on a person’s Emotional Intelligence

The impact KAIZEN™ Philosophy has on a person’s Emotional Intelligence:

  1. It teaches a person that they can change and improve and that their physiology is designed to help and reward you in the effort to change
  2. It teaches that all problems are valuable in the pursuit of improvement 
  3. It teaches humble or servant leadership is effective leadership
  4. That all change, even personal change, is best achieved through daily cycles of small efforts towards a bigger goal through the Plan, Do, Check and Act process
  5. It teaches that respect for people is the foundation of cooperation and good change personally and in families, groups and teams

The impact a KAIZEN™ Business System has on a person’s Emotional Intelligence: 

  1. The system mandates a daily check in with each team member that includes an opportunity for people to express how they feel that day, negative or positive
  2. The System teaches that problem solving is more effective when conducted with a diverse group of people that all contribute
  3. The System prompts leaders to allow others to identify problems that frustrate them
  4. The System prompts leaders to hear the quiet or even silent voices of team members
  5. The System prompts leaders to engage in daily coaching
  6. The system mandate using all your senses to assess a situation not just data
  7. The system prompts leaders to reward team members based on following the right process not just getting the right results at all costs 
  8. The System prompts leaders and teams to constantly seek to understand what their internal and external customers value from them


  • The Emotional Intelligence of the Leaders and team members is an important factor in the creation of positive work cultures, but it is not the only factor to consider when recruiting and promoting staff.
  • Genuine company values that are known and practiced by leaders will help a business to organize and optimize their teams.
  • The Emotional intelligence of an organization can be improved by well-developed and targeted training and coaching.
  • Instilling the philosophies of KAIZEN™ within an organization will support the development of Emotional Intelligence.
  • Implementing the KAIZEN™ Business System will provide a daily boost to the organizations overall Emotional Intelligence and provide a framework for developing company culture.

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