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EQ: Theoretically It’s a Good Idea, but Practically?
by Susan Dunn

Chances are you’ve heard about Emotional Intelligence, the ability to understand and manage the emotions of yourself and others, and to apply this understanding in conjunction with your understanding of cognitive thinking for better people skills, better decisions, better relationships, more productive work, and better living.

And probably you agree it sounds like a good theory, but what are the applications for this? Probably you can see applications to relationships, but maybe you wonder what the applications of EQ might be for serious business.

Often when you hear the term, you may think it means emotions are more important than thinking, when actually it’s the interface between the two: your thinking, and your feeling.

Putting Emotional Intelligence into practice can enrich your life in many ways. To give you an example, we decided to interview Lorna Ramsay, who, along with her husband, is in one of the most serious businesses there is: accident investigation. Lorna and David Ramsay are Directors of Kelvin TOP-SET, a leading Scottish Consultancy of expert investigators. They run investigation courses where they teach investigators how to do this with Emotional Intelligence. They have a special and unique approach.

Me: Lorna, I know that you investigate serious incidents at business and industrial sites. Can you tell us why you teach investigators how to do this with Emotional Intelligence and what this means exactly?

Lorna: Investigating, especially serious incidents, requires meticulous gathering of information. We want, ultimately, to prevent accidents, and to keep people safe. Most information comes from people. The normal way of interviewing, while teaching consideration for the interviewee (who is often under stress for various reasons - fear, trauma, upset, angry) does not go nearly far enough. On TOP-SET Investigation Courses we teach investigators how to manage the individuals involved - themselves as interviewer and the interviewee as a unique individual also. This is the only way to get maximum, accurate information. Human emotional drivers affect the whole process.

Me: I know you’ve had extensive experience as investigators and interviewers. Can you tell us what you’ve learned and how emotions fit in to all this?

Lorna: At TOP-SET, we have developed a relaxed but highly effective approach. We must be effective of course, and then because of the high stress involved, we have to bring in relaxation. People who are tense can’t provide the necessary information. Kelvin TOP-SET is a unique approach to Incident Investigation based on systems theory. Human beings are, of course, part of the systems TOP-SET deals with. But human systems are different; emotions are included! A major part of our TOP-SET Senior Course deals with teaching greater awareness of what drives and affects human beings. In terms of the interviewer, we teach a greater understanding of how to manage themselves (as investigator and interviewer), and an awareness of the interviewee as an individual. Emotional awareness and management are key.

Me: So you teach people how to investigate accidents more effectively, as well as doing it yourself? You’re after human error, aren’t you? Can you tell us more about this?

Lorna: Yes. We are very focused on the human factors and on the root causes of human error. There are many excellent systems around which, nevertheless, fall down when they come to what their authors see as the "soft issues." I say that the "soft issues” are the "hard issues" and Emotional Intelligence is the key to making them easier to penetrate. Incident Investigation can never be effective or get to the root cause if the "non-measurables" are ignored. At Kelvin TOP-SET, as real experts in the field of incident investigation, we work to give companies and individuals the key to this most vital area.

Me: So you don’t just give them a fish you teach them how to fish?

Lorna: Exactly, and the key is awareness. Incident Investigation is about really switching on awareness and especially helping all the people involved towards an understanding of their reactions to the incident, to each other, in the team, and in relation to the company and the outside world of media, lawyers and the general public.

Me: I would imagine people are somewhat uncomfortable about looking at these root causes. Is that true?

Lorna: Yes. We’re really at the forefront of developing this area of understanding where for so long incident investigators have been uncomfortable. Looking inwards as well as outwards is essential. As always, human beings and their complexities are at the heart of the incident and so, inevitably, of the incident investigation, and interviewing as a crucial part of that. Our system allows you to quickly identify the immediate causes, underlying causes, and root causes of an incident whether it’s a minor incident, a “near miss,” or a large-scale incident.

Me: So it’s a highly stressful time for all involved, and it’s important to manage the emotional side?

Lorna: Also to understand the emotional side. If you want to get to the cause of the incident, and therefore be able to prevent it happening again, you must look at the emotional factors as well as the facts and figures. You must look inward as well as outward. It takes keen Emotional Intelligence to be a skillful investigator and interviewer. You can see some of the courses we offer on our website, . Our slogan is “The Power of Knowing, Prevention by Investigation,” and the “knowing” applies to both cognitive and emotional knowledge and understanding.

Me: Why is it so important that companies investigate accidents thoroughly?

Lorna: It allows the company or individual to protect its assets, both financial and in terms of people and equipment. It allows the company to improve business performance and profitability. It allows the company to maintain a reputation for safety and environmental performance, and, finally, it allows them to maintain the trust of employees.

Me: I can see how that works. So there’s a very fine example of Emotional Intelligence applied in the workplace. Thank you, Lorna, and good luck with your important work.

You can read more about TOP-SET at, and also receive free safety advice on their website.

Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, , Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. Coach Certification Program - fast, affordable, no-residency, training coaches worldwide. Email for free ezine.


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