Editor's Note: The Armament University is offering a new class on emotional intelligence. The Picatinny Voice asked staff writer Cassandra Mainiero, who took the class, to write a first-person account of her experience.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Among the various terms that are heard on the installation, one remains a constant: "Team Picatinny."

However, forming a team that functions effectively can be a complex undertaking.

Individual talents, personalities, feelings, viewpoints, values, mentoring styles, and biases can vary and clash within any group, on any day, at any time.

To mitigate these factors, the Armament University recently offered a new training course to all employees titled "Understanding and Managing your Emotional Intelligence." The first class was held Nov. 2-5.

Initially, as a pragmatic journalist, I had doubts about this course. The term "Emotional Intelligence" sounded too vague. I believed that EI was innate, unteachable and finite. You were either emotionally intelligent or not.

The notion that the subject could be organized and taught in a classroom, or that it could benefit the "hard-nosed and results-driven" military culture, was difficult to imagine.

UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

But, as an employee who has learned at Picatinny to explore "why" and ask "what if," I refused to yield to my initial instincts. At least, I could not accept them without testing the possibilities, challenging my assumptions, and enrolling in the course.

Emotional Intelligence, or EI, is the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions and the emotions of others, and to use this awareness to effectively manage your behavior and relationships.

It is a "soft skill" best measured using the Emotional Intelligence Quotient or EQ 360 Assessment. Individual EQ 360 reports provide each person a complete "360-degree" view of his or her emotional and social functioning.

While it is not quantified the same way as cognitive intelligence or IQ, EI's importance in the business world has gained major traction in recent years. It has been proposed as a key to successful civilian and military leadership and a major factor in generating more productive, happier and healthier people.

Moreover, it is lauded as an essential component in better interpersonal relations, decision-making, personal stress management and resilience.

Perhaps this is why it served as the cornerstone in "How Emotional Intelligence Can Make a Difference," a 2011 article by Gerald F. Sewall, an assistant professor of military leadership at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Norma M. Berman, who teaches the new course at Picatinny, views emotional intelligence in a broader context beyond how it can benefit an individual.

"If you can raise the emotional intelligence of multiple individuals, you can raise the emotional intelligence of a team, and if you can raise the emotional intelligence of multiple teams, you can raise the emotional intelligence of a whole organization," said Berman.

"There is hard data that shows that what makes successful leaders is not their IQ, but their EQ," explained Berman. "Moreover, recent studies have also discovered that the group that often tends to fail at effective leadership and fall victim to "ego traps" are CEOs (chief executive officers) and other senior leaders in civilian and military environments.

"This phenomena occurs because leaders at this level often get promoted because of their technical skills," continued Berman.

"But, they often don't have effective people skills and they get into a position, where they are removed from the hands-on work, and everything they're doing is done through people, through the chain of command.

"Furthermore they often become further and further removed from honest feedback from others, especially those below them."

Before starting Corporate Support Services, Berman had clinical and corporate careers.

Berman attended Rice University, has a bachelor's degree from Stanford University, and a Master of Social Work from Adelphi University. In addition to her teaching certifications and clinical license, she is certified in Emotional Intelligence, Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Benchmarks 360, DDI programs, and many career development and assessment tools. Berman also was adjunct faculty at Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Berman has conducted training at Picatinny since 2003 and continues to teach the courses "Effective Briefing Skills" and "Facilitating Meetings Effectively."

She also provides training on a variety of subjects to other military organizations such as West Point, Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, among others, as well as the Office of Personnel Management and various corporate clients.

WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR SUCCESS?

"I've always been interested in people and why some succeed in work and life and others don't, despite high IQ's, degrees from prestigious schools and other personal advantages.

"Thus as the theories of Emotional Intelligence developed and the hard data grew, I knew early on that something really significant was emerging and that I wanted to become proficient in it and help others develop their potential," said Berman.

"As the field of EI has exploded, I think what grabs me now is that emotional intelligence models are very positive and are not based on pathology like many therapy models but are based on people who are functional and who can be so much more," Berman continued.

"Also EI consciously can be developed throughout life as opposed to IQ, which tends to decline over time.

"Increasingly, more and more recent brain research is emerging, which supports the empirical findings."

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE TRAINING AT PICATINNY

At Picatinny, the total Emotional Intelligence program lasts four days, plus confidential post-class, one-on-one coaching.

However, students are actually in the classroom only the first and last day. The second and third days are devoted to individual one-hour, confidential feedback sessions with Berman to discuss and interpret the student's EQ 360 report.

Follow-up coaching sessions take place about six weeks after the training class.

"This is the right way to do it," Berman said about the course structure. "You have to give people enough knowledge to know what they're doing, and then they need feedback and coaching on how to do it."

"I am pleased that Picatinny is allowing me to provide a true emotional intelligence developmental opportunity rather than just presenting facts about EI," Berman said.

"What I bring to the program and the development process is not only knowledge but also the ability to do coaching and counseling."

On the first day, Berman handed out informational student binders and introduced basic EI concepts as well as the EQ-i 2.0, the most widely researched and validated model.

The current updated EQ-i 2.0 model illustrates how emotional intelligence can be divided into five main categories: Self-Perception, Self-Expression, Interpersonal, Decision Making, and Stress Management. Each category is further broken down into three sub-categories or competencies.

For instance, Self-Perception encompasses self-regard, self-actualization, and emotional self-awareness. Decision Making is a combination of problem solving skills, reality testing and impulse control. Stress Management involves flexibility, stress tolerance and optimism.

On this day, Berman also shared a brief history of EI and some of the major researchers in the field.

EI can be observed in reality TV shows such as Survivor, movie favorites such as Twelve Angry Men and Saving Private Ryan, as well as the highly acclaimed Pixar film "Inside Out," which features five major emotions as main "characters."

In addition we learned that most likely it was Abraham Lincoln's Emotional Intelligence that allowed him to overcome many major life and career setbacks.

VERSATILITY OF EI

Still, as a student in a mixed class of senior leaders, long-time employees and junior personnel, I found that the most eye-catching lesson wasn't so much what EI meant, but rather how versatile it is.

Unlike IQ, which early on hits a plateau, EI expands and can be intentionally developed as you grow, making the skills beneficial to all people, regardless of age, knowledge or experience.

In one group exercise, Berman asked students to list what they considered to be the most and least important EI competencies to support ARDEC's mission at Picatinny.

Our class clearly decided that our organization would consider "problem-solving" as the most important competency, with "flexibility" an unequivocal second, and "social responsibility" an unmistakable third.

But we did not agree what was considered the "least important" EI competency.

In fact, our answers varied tremendously, and our personal lists were even less parallel.

INDIVIDUAL FEEDBACK SESSIONS AND EQ 360 REPORTS

On the second and third day, students had confidential one-on-one Feedback Sessions with Berman to discuss the results of their individual EQ 360 reports. The reports provide each person a complete "360-degree" view of his or her emotional and social functioning.

The reports are created by combining data from a 117 item self-assessment survey using a 'not likely' to 'most likely' scale, with data from a similar raters' version of the assessment.

The surveys are electronically distributed weeks before class begins and are completed online.

Using suggested criteria, each student selects his or her own raters, usually 12-15 people. Raters can be peers, direct reports, managers, internal or external clients, family, friends and others.

The more appropriate raters you have, the more meaningful the report. All results are tabulated automatically and are confidential.

Reports are distributed on the first day of class. They are lengthy (42 pages), and students are expected to read them thoroughly as homework and be prepared to discuss them during their Feedback Session with Berman.

RESULTS ARE CONFIDENTIAL

During the private Feedback Sessions, Berman helps each student interpret his or her results, address any questions or concerns, and helps each student evaluate which of their emotional intelligence competencies they might want to work on.

Aside from the student, Berman is the only person who sees the individual reports.

For those who might say that it all sounds very "touchy-feely," and "has no place in the business world," bear with me.

Berman expects some people to react that way and is prepared to assure skeptical students.

"Here, at Picatinny, or any place where you have so much technical work, you have a skewed population," she said.

"You have more introverts and more analytical people--people who usually don't like the 'touchy-feely' stuff at all." "But the first class day of class, with its focus on the concepts and importance of Emotional Intelligence, combined with the receipt of the detailed individual EQ 360 Report, usually results in an opening up of thinking and a gradual willingness to consider the ideas of EI. In fact often there is an unrecognized hunger for it," Berman said.

"More specifically," she added, "by the time the students sat with me during their Feedback Sessions, I had to say very little--they were already into it.

"They had read their reports, made their notes and just plunged right in. People were energized and eager to get started. It was very gratifying to see how they took hold in different ways of the EI development process."

By approaching emotional intelligence training in the way that she does, Berman invites students to cultivate self-awareness, identify their weaknesses, strengths, and blind spots, but remain in a safe, private environment.

She does this by being non-judgmental and very approachable yet professional.

While the decision which EI skills to work on remains with the student, Berman offers guidance with thought-provoking questions and observations.

Furthermore, by encouraging students to improve their EI, Berman also creates an innovative environment that is prepared to embrace and make change.

"Picatinny's bigger vision is to support the warfighter," explained Berman.

"But to do that, you have to start with yourself first. And the reason emotional intelligence training is so valuable is because it helps you see where your blind spots are and where to focus."

Eager to find out how other students viewed their individual Feedback Sessions and EQ 360 Report, I asked several of my classmates to share their perspective.

Some classmates were eager to apply this new knowledge to team environments.

"I decided to work on being less independent in order to promote more of a collaborative, invested and involved dynamic between myself, management, and the team," said Nicholas Baldwin, a mechanical engineer.

Meanwhile, some students found it personally beneficial, sharing how it may apply to their own careers.

"When I was a non-supervisor, I would hibernate in my cube and only focus on technical work," said Adam Hilburn, a software engineer.

"When I became a supervisor, I found that I had to interact with people on a daily basis. At times, these interactions were confrontational and stressful, which pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

"It has taken me years to get more comfortable in these situations, but I am finding it easier," continued Hilburn.

"Stepping out of my comfort zone is extremely rewarding. I find myself saying, 'That wasn't too bad' and 'I'm happy that I forced myself to do that' when I step out of this comfort zone.

"Emotional Intelligence is critical to doing this. As a supervisor, I need to coach, counsel and lead individuals. I have found that my conversations with people are not much technical, but more personal. I have also found that if I connect with a person at a personal level, I can lead them better."

COACHING AND COUNSELING

On our final day, we reconvened as a class and discussed some important ways to better manage our emotional intelligence such as identifying your our "emotional hot buttons," improving our stress management techniques and active listening skills, and especially having an EI Development Plan with measurable goals.

Using information from our EQ 360 Report and our Feedback Session and class with Berman, we selected an EI competency we either wanted to improve or further develop as a strength.

Then we worked in triads with each other, which was extremely valuable, and helped us create our preliminary EI Development Plan and prepare for our follow-on coaching session with Berman.

For me, for example, my ability to "self-actualize" (find purpose and meaning) as well as "empathize" (respecting and understanding another's feelings) showed high results. Yet "assertiveness" showed lower results.

By collaborating with two other classmates, I created a flexible plan for improving "assertiveness" to benefit my career.

I identified mentors who could serve as models for this behavior and considered changes that I can make to reach my goal.

One simple change--initiating face-to-face discussions and telephone calls, rather than email everything--has already improved my connections with interviewees and colleagues, helping me to put a face to a name and generate faster responses to help complete articles.

This tangible, quick and positive result is why I advocate now that emotional intelligence is important for everyone.

Building flexibility can benefit the project team searching for new ideas.

Improving interpersonal skills may help strengthen relationships with external and internal customers.

Developing emotional self-awareness could not only help staff leaders understand multiple groups, but in a military environment can help a squad trying to make it through a deployment.

And, despite my initial thoughts, emotional intelligence can even benefit me--a young, detail-oriented wordsmith, who finds it interesting that the Latin root for "emotion" and "motivate" are the same: Movere.

The next classes on emotional intelligence are April 18--21 and July 11--15.