cover image Optimal: How to Sustain Personal and Organizational Excellence Every Day

Optimal: How to Sustain Personal and Organizational Excellence Every Day

Daniel Goleman and Cary Cherniss. Harper Business, $32.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-327976-6

Science journalist Goleman (Altered Traits) teams up with Cherniss (Beyond Burnout), a psychology professor emeritus at Rutgers University, to deliver a mostly successful treatise on the benefits of emotional intelligence (EI) in the workplace. They suggest EI is characterized by self-understanding, the ability to “keep disturbing emotions from disrupting” one’s activity, and empathy, which helps individuals support coworkers and be good team players. Research illustrates the advantages of EI, as when the authors describe a study that found the most productive teams at an unnamed “large manufacturing plant” were distinguished by the “sense of psychological safety” members established through regular check-ins about each other’s needs. Such studies make a persuasive case for EI’s importance in the office, but, as Goleman and Cherniss concede, there are “far too few actual experiments on how to design” EI training. The EI programs that do exist, they note, explain the tenets of EI and offer such exercises as asking participants to “track moments you become emotionally hijacked,” reflect on what caused the reaction, and think about “what would be a more effective response.” Though the advice isn't always actionable, this is a thought-provoking take on what it takes to succeed in business. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman, Inc. (Jan.)