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Managers show their sensitive side

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(CNN) -- Most employers wouldn't ever consider trying to build up a staff member's IQ -- either it's high or it's not, a product of birth and schooling rather than workplace training.

But many companies are now prepared to invest in their staff's emotional intelligence and an industry is booming to cater for that multi-million dollar market.

At Ei World, classes involve brightly colored rugs, balloons and flip charts bearing motivational messages.

It may sound like a self-help group, but this is the latest in management training, helping global companies to tap into a range of personal skills in their staff beyond those taught in business school.

"The way I look at it is emotions are our biggest resource and probably the resource we have least focused on," Ei Group founder Geetu Bharwaney told CNN.

"So the way I look on emotional intelligence is it's helping people to tune-in to their emotions as a resource for their decision making."

Once dismissed as a passing fad, Bharwaney says that emotional intelligence is now widely recognized as a core part of a manager's leadership development.

Author Daniel Goleman, whose bestselling 1995 book "Emotional Intelligence" brought the concept into the mainstream, also believes it has an essential role to play in business.

"Technical skills are a baseline but do you have that something extra? The motivation, the drive, the empathy, that's the emotional intelligence," he told CNN.

"The higher you go in the organization, the more it matters, so for top leadership, you're talking 80 to 90 percent of what sets the stars apart from average is based on emotional intelligence."

Shell is a company that deals with the hard realities of oil drilling and refining. But Dennis Baltzley, head of the company's leadership development program, is a convert to the EI cause.

"If you want to lead in a large multi-national, in a highly-ambiguous, highly-complex environment, you must have the corresponding high emotional intelligence skills," Baltzley told CNN.

Others, however, remain skeptical about the benefits of investing in emotional intelligence.

Trevor Merriden, the editor of Human Resources magazine, warned: "There is a danger that some managers can be over-workshopped. I think that lower down in the organization, there's not so much call for emotional intelligence training."

But Bharwaney insists that even the most ruthless executive sometimes needs to show their sensitive side: "People who have IQ and EQ working together are definitely more effective in business."

Ultimately, the key to success may lie in understanding feelings as much as spreadsheets.

-- CNN's Diana Magnay contributed to this report.

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