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Emotional Intelligence Case Study: Revolutionising Leadership at FedEx Express

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In 2014, an excellent case study was released that demonstrated the benefits of emotional intelligence training on internal leadership teams at FedEx. In this article, I will break down the case study, which shows just how valuable management training can be.

FedEx Express, a global leader in express transportation, delivers millions of packages across continents every day on over 600 flights. Behind its vast operations lies not just logistical prowess but also a deep commitment to leadership excellence through emotional intelligence (EI). FedEx’s leadership development emphasises EI as a pivotal tool for fostering a people-first leadership style that stays true to its People-Service-Profit philosophy. The 2014 case study delves into how FedEx integrated emotional intelligence into their managerial training, which had extremely positive results.

The Foundation of FedEx’s Leadership Philosophy

FedEx, renowned for its rapid logistics capabilities, employs over 290,000 people and handles extensive cargo operations globally. Consistently ranked among the top 20 “Most Admired” companies worldwide, FedEx attributes much of its success to its forward-thinking leadership practices, particularly its commitment to creating a culture where people prosper.

While founder Fred Smith placed a big focus on logistics and speed, however, from the start he always believed that people were the key to business and that leadership was about continuous growth. Smith’s vision prioritised people and led to improved service and, subsequently, profit.

“Emotionally intelligent leadership means forming a connection between people at an emotional level”

Recognising the evolving complexities of modern leadership, FedEx has continually sought to enhance its leaders’ expertise and emotional quotient. This involves navigating diverse workforce dynamics, making swift yet accurate decisions, and cultivating a workplace culture that motivates exceptional performance.

In addition, in an extremely fast-paced, task-focused environment, a common challenge for managers was losing sight of the relational dynamics that ultimately sustain team performance ie. They were so task-driven, they forgot about the people. To build a team where people give their “discretionary effort,” task-based management was insufficient: people leadership was required. This meant forming a connection between people at an emotional level.

Integrating EI into Leadership Training

FedEx decided to increase the emotional intelligence focus of the leadership training and deliver a new course called LEAD1 to put EQ into action on the frontlines. It was a five-day course with a six-month follow-up coaching process. All new FedEx Express managers went through the program in order to provide a solid people-first foundation upon which to build their leadership careers.

In LEAD1, the new managers focused on how emotionally intelligent leadership would assist them by managing themselves first, taking charge of their own emotions and behaviours so they could be effective role models and influencers.

Action-Based Management Training

FedEx’s approach to emotional intelligence training is deeply practical and action-oriented. Unlike theoretical models, the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence, which underpins the LEAD1 program, provides actionable insights that managers can apply daily. The model is structured around three key processes:

Know Yourself:  Enhancing emotional literacy and recognising behavioural patterns.
Choose Yourself:  Transitioning from reactive impulses to thoughtful, intentional responses.
Give Yourself:  Aligning daily decisions with broader personal and professional goals.

This structure is designed to foster self-awareness among leaders, equipping them with the skills to manage their emotions and actions effectively.

The Results

“44% of participants experienced very large increases in emotional intelligence”

In all the competencies of EQ, 44% of the participants experienced very large increases (10-50% improvements). The largest increases were in the areas of “Apply Consequential Thinking” with 54% of the participants in this group experiencing large increases, and “Exercise Optimism” with 57% of the participants improving from 10-50%.

While the data are impressive, the human stories are just as compelling. Behind a 20% increase in relationships, we heard the story of a leader rebuilding trust with her team, or a marriage staying together. That 10% increase in decision-making is a story of a new manager finally “getting it” that people are what create value and change the way he treats people.

Participants have shared numerous stories of using the EQ tools to cope with loss, reunite with family members, step up to become better parents, and even make dramatic changes to improve health and well-being. By supporting new managers in this way, FedEx gains by having more competent leaders – and also by showing its people that the company puts its values into action. In turn, this role models the kind of people-centred leadership that FedEx expects from all managers.

Walk the Talk.

The profound impact of emotional intelligence training at FedEx is a testament to the company’s commitment to its people-first philosophy. By investing in EI, FedEx not only enhances its leadership capabilities but also reinforces its corporate values, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to the growth and well-being of its employees.

The company tells supervisors to put people first, so the company puts people first. By supporting new managers to be good people, and investing in their growth right at the start of their management careers, FedEx senior leadership is providing a powerful role model.

Emotions drive people, people drive performance.

The success story of FedEx’s LEAD1 program provides invaluable insights for other organisations aiming to leverage emotional intelligence for leadership development. It underscores the importance of aligning training with organisational values and the transformative potential of emotional intelligence in cultivating leaders equipped to face the challenges of the modern business landscape.

In conclusion, FedEx’s strategic focus on emotional intelligence exemplifies its pioneering approach to leadership development—a model that promises not only to elevate individual leaders but also to propel the entire organisation toward sustained success and growth.

How JEM Training Can Help!

Our training programs align seamlessly with corporate values similar to those of FedEx, which prioritize people-first leadership and continuous personal and professional growth. Like FedEx, which has successfully integrated emotional intelligence into its leadership training to remarkable effect, JEM Training aims to equip leaders with the necessary tools to improve decision-making, enhance the quality of professional relationships, and boost overall workplace morale.

Investing in emotional intelligence training through JEM Training can transform your workforce. It will lead to:

Enhanced Leadership Abilities:  Leaders will be better equipped to handle stress, resolve conflicts, and motivate their teams.
Improved Team Dynamics:  A deeper understanding of emotional intelligence fosters empathy among team members, leading to fewer conflicts and a more supportive team environment.
Increased Employee Engagement and Satisfaction:  When leaders are emotionally intelligent, they are more likely to recognize and address the needs and concerns of their employees, leading to higher levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction.

FedEx’s example serves as a powerful endorsement of the benefits of integrating emotional intelligence into leadership development. At JEM Training, we are committed to providing your leaders with the skills to not only meet but exceed the standards of today’s best corporate leadership practices.

For more information on Emotional intelligence training and improving the emotional quotient of your own workforce contact Jill McCrum today!

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JEM Management Training

JEM Management Training designs and delivers flexible, in-house management training courses to help  organisations in Perth engage their staff fully in the workplace.

As time is often limited, JEM Training offers flexible half-day management training courses which focus on a specific area of management expertise. These short courses build upon each other over a period of time, chosen by you, to provide ongoing management development.

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