Every so often a new idea comes along that you know will have huge impact – like email or Google – simple, yet startlingly powerful. Can you see the implications beyond the basics?
One area that’s particularly challenging to train or develop, but extremely important in 21st Century leadership is how to help people improve at managing emotional content.
EI or EQ (emotional intelligence or quotient) has proven to be a key missing ingredient for a lot of otherwise promising managers and has never been more necessary than in dealing with today’s more capable workforce and knowledgeable customers. Only by engaging them fully and not turning them off can we unleash the creativity and innovation needed to keep up and keep ahead.
Now, from New Brunswick, a small start-up called Lymbix, has turned a budding idea into a practical application that just might help. but only if enough senior managers take it seriously and ‘walk the talk.’
It’s an add-in for Outlook email called ToneCheck (first version actually free for now at www.tonecheck.com). Like Spell Check, but for emotional content, it can review your email just before sending to see if it is likely to be misunderstood or cause offense. Simple to use, it highlights any section that sounds angry or fits other emotional descriptors so you can edit if you want to be sure you’re getting across not just your idea, but the tone you’re trying for.
According to Lymbix Founder and CEO, Matt Eldridge, “We want to help organizations precisely determine tone in any text-based communication. Email and text messaging services simply don’t allow us to gauge body language and verbal queues, leaving us with just text. With the growth of business email, it is becoming more critical to get the tone of your message right because you often don’t get a second chance with a customer of an employee.” (And can’t we all just think of times when we wish we’d taken a second look before hitting ‘Send?’)
This was developed partly in response to academic research studies that show 50% of emails are misunderstood by providing a practical way to review your hasty typing to make sure it will get your message across effectively. Though it takes just seconds to use, the key will be establishing that it’s needed. Unfortunately many of those who need it most will undoubtedly be last to click the check button.
The good news is senior executives (and HR) have an opportunity to make it clear they’re using it themselves and expect others to as well. People do what the boss does and what the culture expects especially if it takes only moments. The better news is if we can get even a few of our less effective managers to improve at this (and this tool is a learning guide that is private, easy to use and causes them to think in emotional terms they may never have bothered much about before) we all benefit.
We already see developments in robotic devices that assess emotions in people, that read faces, tones and body language and report or respond appropriately to others’ emotional states. Look for this area to evolve considerably in the next decade or two.
Not only for email, but there’s a huge potential spin-off benefit here. As people work privately to correct their shortfalls via email edits, they inevitably will learn to think before speaking as well before as snapping off emails. Imagine if a lot of ‘foot in mouth’ went away as a result of a handy tool people can practice with on their own as opposed to anyone preaching to them about the need to ‘be more sensitive.’ No one is comfortable on either side of an EQ conversation. Here’s a way to automate learning that’s increasingly important for our organizations to master for future success.
The key question is whether you and your teams will be ahead of this curve or less effective than those who are. This budding Canadian success story so far has one workable tool and more planned. Who better to help the world learn to be more tuned to human effectiveness than Canada – but just handing it to staff won’t ensure it’s used. It will requires clear knowledge that it is being used and is expected right to the highest levels. Isn’t that worth the saving in upset customers and disengaged staff? Just imagine 50% of emails today are causing problems. and what do we spend more time doing?