Emotional Intelligence: It Takes More than a High IQ

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence.” Robert K. Cooper. Ph.D.

As Human Resource professionals we experience firsthand the complexities and challenges of managing people in organizations each day. We often find ourselves completely baffled when really smart people act very “un-smart”, sometimes sabotaging their careers and personal lives in ways that seem inconsistent with their IQ scores. The flip side of the coin is the individual with only average intelligence who consistently excels in their career and personal lives at a level far above what their IQ score would lead us to expect.

Could it be that IQ measurements are only giving us part of the picture or have we even been measuring IQ in a meaningful way? All of us have encountered high IQ individuals whose career/personal lives just don’t seem to jive with their high IQs. Obviously IQ alone isn’t telling the story. If it did then everyone with a high IQ would be a star performer in their professional and personal lives. We could just hire people with the highest IQs and all of those messy HR issues and performance problems would be a distant memory. We all know that just isn’t the case and as early as the 1970’s and 1980’s the theory of “emotional intelligence” began to be put forth as the missing link in the IQ puzzle. Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” was first published in 1995 and continues to be considered a groundbreaking work on the subject although the body of literature on the topic has become very substantial.

The true significance of the theory of Emotional Intelligence or EI really struck me recently when my nephew, a college psychology major, enrolled in a full semester course that uses Goleman’s book as a text. Our subsequent discussions have been enlightening as I’ve come to understand that Emotional Intelligence is now viewed as a mainstream concept and fully embraced by many in the academic and business communities.

So what exactly is Emotional Intelligence and what role can it play in your business life? The fundamentals of EI based on Goleman’s model are fairly straightforward: to be successful requires the effective awareness, control and management of one’s own emotions, and those of other people. Ok, so what if an employee lacks EI? Is it something we are born with or can it be developed throughout the course of our lives? The question has been studied and debated extensively. The definitive answer remains a work in progress because we are constantly increasing our understanding of human psychology and how the brain really works. For now we will leave the minutia to academia and focus on the question from a practical employee management perspective. The bulk of the available literature says yes, your employees and managers can improve their EIs.

Adele B. Lynn’s book “The Emotional Intelligence Activity Book” , offers the following five sets of talents as critical to EI development. I am including these in their entirety as a concise framework from which to begin examining EI:

Self Awareness and Control – This talent comprised two separate skills. The self-awareness component demands intimate and accurate knowledge of one’s self and one’s emotions. It also demands understanding and predicting one’s emotional reactions to situations. One who is emotionally competent at self-awareness is also fully aware of one’s values and core beliefs and knows the impact and effect of compromising these core components. The self control component requires full mastery of being in control on one’s emotions. Both positive and negative emotions are challenged in the most productive manner when one controls the emotion versus having the emotion control the person. The person with mastery and control of emotions can anticipate and plan emotional reactions to maximize effectiveness.

Empathy – empathy requires the ability to understand how others perceive situations. This perception includes knowing how others feels about a particular set of events or circumstances. Empathy requires knowing the perspective of others and being very able to see things from the value and belief system of the other person. It is the ability to fully immerse oneself in another’s viewpoint, yet be able to remain wholly apart. The understanding associated with empathy is both cognitive and emotional. It takes into consideration the reasons and logic behind another’s feelings or point of view, while also allowing the empathic party to feel the spirit of a person or thing.

Social Expertness – Social expertness is the ability to build genuine relationships and bonds with others that are based on an assumption of human equality. It allows people to genuinely express feelings, even conflict, in a way that builds rather than destroys relationships. Social expertness also enables a person to choose appropriate actions based on his or her feelings of empathy. The talent of social expertness allows caring, support, and concern to show for fellow humans in all of life’s situations. Social expertness also demands that one read social situations for readiness, appropriateness, and spoken and unspoken norms. Resolving conflict without compromising core beliefs or values is an important component of social expertness. High social expertness also allows for strong networks on both a professional and personal level that can be enlisted readily when needed for aid.

Personal Influence – Personal influence is the ability to inspire others through example, words, and deeds. It is the ability to lead others by way of social expertness. Personal influence is the ability to read situations and exert influence and leadership in the desired direction. It is also the ability to confront issues that are debilitating to relationships, goals, missions, or visions. Personal influence is, in addition, exhibiting motivation for one’s visions, missions, core values, and beliefs.

Mastery of Vision – Mastery of vision requires that the individual has the ability to set direction and vision guided by a strong personal philosophy. The ability to communicate and articulate with passion regarding direction and vision are also essential to mastery of vision. The talent serves as the inner compass that guides and influences one’s actions. This inner compass also provides resilience and strength to overcome obstacles. It is the inner motivator and the guardian angel of our purpose. Mastery of vision allows us to know who we are and what we are compelled to do with our lives. When our actions words are consistent with this personal philosophy, it is our sense of authenticity. When inconsistent, it is our sense of stress and discomfort.

So, you may be asking, why does any of this matter to me as a business owner or manager? For those of us who address HR issues on a daily basis it doesn’t require psychologists or academics to tell us EI is important. We seldom receive calls about employee issues that are rooted in a lack of IQ but each and every day we address issues with employees and managers that are EI based. Employees and managers with low EIs cost you time and money. High EI performers will quickly flee a situation where managers and coworkers are lacking good EI’s. A frustrated high EI employee may not know the technical term but will know the work environment is “off” and seek a more positive and constructive job opportunity.

The concept of EI and its relevance to work/life success has become integrated into the framework of even the largest corporations. “Interpersonal communication and other so-called soft skills are what corporate recruiters crave most but find most elusive in M.B.A. graduates,” says the Wall Street Journal. “The major business schools produce graduates with analytical horsepower and solid command of the basics – finance, marketing and strategy. But soft skills such as communication, leadership and a team mentality sometimes receive cursory treatment.” Wall Street Journal.

While you may not have the time to become fully conversant in the language of EI that doesn’t mean your company cannot derive benefit from the concept. You can easily implement some basic business practices that can help improve your company EI. For instance, when you are recruiting new employees include a few behavioral interview questions that will give you some indication of the applicants EI. As an example, ask someone about a work situation that was frustrating and listen carefully to how they respond. Do they have a balanced view or is their first response to lay blame or take all the credit for the solution? Another opportunity to up the EI in your organization is by consciously and consistently modeling communication and behavior that supports improved EI. It may be tempting to use some of the trendy pop EI assessment instruments you will find on the internet and in various popular books. While these can be a lot of fun and offer some personal insight we urge caution with these as hiring or promotion tools. Profiles International, the company we use for our psychometric assessment instruments has been working to develop a comprehensive EI assessment instrument for more than 5 years. The instrument is still in development and testing, since they have found it very difficult to develop a reliable tool that will meet validation standards, so if some of the best professionals in the world are proceeding cautiously we urge you to do the same.

As managers, if we can better maximize individual effectiveness we can achieve better organizational results. Working with our employees and managers to raise their EIs is an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, their job performance, the work environment and ultimately your bottom line. So where to begin? In addition to the two excellent books cited here you can log onto www.eiconsortium.org and find a substantial number of recommended books and articles.

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