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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

26 Nov '13

Low organizational EQ and its impact on staff

Posted by T.J. Addington
Here is an interesting question: Do organizations have a corporate EQ? I firmly believe the answer is yes and it is the sum of the EQ of its leadership and staff. Poor EQ in an organization leads to poor decision making and acceptance of behaviors which would not be permitted in a healthier organization.

A reader of this blog recently wrote me about an organization he had worked for and made this statement which goes to the heart of the issue: "So often there is just wholesale action with so little consideration of the effect. The EQ of the whole organization is unbelievably low." Notice the connection here between wholesale action, lack of consideration of the impact and low EQ within the organization as a whole. 

What are some of the signs of poor organizational EQ? One of them is allowing staff to stay in place even when they create relational chaos around them. I have seen ministries suffer significantly because of one highly dysfunctional leader who created chaos for those who worked for him but was protected by those above him. 

Organizations with low EQ often lack the ability to talk about the elephants in their midst. Thus even when significant issues are present those impacted by the dysfunction do not have the ability to talk to and be heard by those who could deal with it. One of the key signs of poor EQ is the inability to handle conflict: talk about it, deal with it and resolve it. The more organizational elephants there are the lower the organizational EQ.

Making decisions without thinking through the ramifications is another sign of poor organizational EQ. Have you ever watched a ministry make a series of sweeping changes that made no sense and had major unforeseen (by them) consequences? People with good EQ think through the ramifications of what they do with great care and solicit the input of those who can give good counsel. They are rarely caught unawares of the consequences of their decisions. Those with poor EQ tend to make decisions without adequate thought and get caught in the backdraft of those decisions.

Poor EQ also keeps organizations from admitting when they are wrong just as it keeps individuals from the same. When bad things go wrong there are two ways out for ministries with poor EQ. The first is to spin the situation the best they can which often lacks key elements of truth. The second is to spiritualize the situation and play the "God card." "God is leading us to do such and such" which sounds great but is often more about not solving problems earlier and now needing to spin the outcome. God gets blamed for a lot of bad decisions by ministries! 

Spirituality is not necessarily a sign of good EQ.  Sometimes it simply gives a veneer of spirituality to an otherwise toxic workplace. In my experience there are few things that create greater cynicism than poor EQ covered with a veneer of spirituality by leaders.

Truth is a sign of good organizational EQ while spin is a sign of poor EQ. Ironically people usually see through the spin and the only ones fooled are the individuals (leaders) who are creating the spin.

A key indicator of good or poor EQ in individuals is how they treat those around them. The same is true with ministries and organizations. Poor treatment of people internally and externally is a sign of poor EQ. It may be in not protecting them from toxic leaders, in not keeping their commitments, in not dealing with problems which then leave staff or others vulnerable or poorly managed transitions that leave people hurt. 

Those who work for ministries with poor EQ pay a high price, as do those from the outside who also get caught in the dysfunction. It is a sad but not uncommon scenario. If you are in such a situation and find it "crazy making" don't be fooled that it is you who is responsible. You may well be working in an unhealthy environment where the organizational EQ is creating chaos and dishealth.