Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the "ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence.” So, what's all the buzz about EQ?

Does the phrase “gut instinct” ring a bell?

Stop and think for a minute: there has to be more to success than just IQ – raw brainpower. Increasingly, people said to have high Emotional Intelligence as well as a strong IQ are the ones who make the best decisions, contribute the most to dynamic companies, make the best executives and have the most satisfying and successful careers.

Whence Emotional Intelligence?

Recognition that there’s more at work in the business world than just corporate culture and personality types has been around for a while.

  • In 1920, E.L. Thorndike, from Columbia University coined the term “social intelligence” to describe the art of getting along with other people.

  • In the early 1990s, Drs John Mayer and Peter Salovey introduced the term Emotional Intelligence to describe a person’s ability to understand his or her own emotions and the emotions of others, then to act based on that understanding.

  • In 1995, psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized the term in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ and for the first time, looked at its application in business.

  • Some of the discussion that follows I’ve adapted from the book Executive EQ, by Drs. Cooper and Sawaf.

The Next Business Revolution?

Many think so. They claim that, as the result of growing changes in organizational life ushered in by the information age and the necessity to deal with increasingly brief and fast-paced interactions among co-workers can be successfully dealt with by leveraging Emotional Intelligence. EQ competency thus becomes equally as important as IQ competency for your and your company’s success.

First there was the Agricultural Age, then the Industrial Age, and we’re in the Information Age now. What will be the next Age?

The Good News About Emotions in General

According to proponents of Emotional Intelligence, emotions are, by themselves, neither positive nor negative. They serve as the single most powerful source of human energy, authenticity and drive, offering wellsprings of intuitive wisdom.

In fact, emotions provide us with vital and potentially profitable information every minute of every day. Contrary to conventional wisdom, they believe, emotions almost have a life of their own. They rarely intrude on our lives, and are naturally intelligent, sensitive, beneficial and even wise. They are the primary source of motivation, feedback, personal power, innovation and influence. In most cases emotions are not at odds with good judgment or reasoning. Quite the contrary. They inspire and enliven good judgment.

Is There an EQ Model?

There are several. Here are two of them.

One model holds that there are four cornerstones of EQ:

  • Emotional Literacy – being true to yourself and developing inner guidance

  • Emotional Fitness – building personal authenticity and trusting relationships

  • Emotional Depth – building character by calling on your potential, integrity and purpose

  • Emotional Alchemy (defined as a process that changes something of little value into something of greater value) – sensing opportunities and actually creating the future

Another model (Bradberry and Greaves) assesses four EQ skills:

  • Self-Awareness

  • Self-Management

  • Social Awareness

  • Relationship Management

Can Managers Test Their Own EQ?

Since women are more likely than men to acknowledge a positive role for emotions in the workplace, I checked several websites, took a few tests and recommend the following one for its workplace relevance and its simplicity of interpretation.

How Can Managers Leverage Their EQ?

Having observed and been a part of human interactions in the workplace for a long time, I tend to believe that EQ can, at the very least, be a helpful tool in aligning your personality type with your corporate culture.

  • List, off the top of your head, the three most exceptional people you’ve ever known. (They don’t necessarily need to be people you’ve worked with.) Then note, by each name, exactly what it was about these people that made them exceptional and memorable. I’ll bet the qualities you listed that made them so special have much more to do with their Emotional Intelligence than their IQ. Right? Begin to use them as your role models!

  • Use your EQ to develop “perspective” – patterns of recognition combined with experience – within your company. (Doctors do it all the time by building up case histories and finding patterns of symptoms.) People without perspective see the world from their own limited viewpoint and keep pushing that viewpoint. When you have perspective, you can step outside your own worldview and acknowledge other perspectives – your customers’, your colleagues’, your direct reports’, and your boss’s.

  • Develop organizational “savvy”. Like street smarts, organizational savvy is knowing whom to trust and whom to avoid. It’s knowing how to navigate competing interests within your company and knowing which interests are important and which ones to ignore. Keep your eyes open, pay attention and talk to people, especially the top performers.

  • Pay attention to conflict, especially when you are drawn into it. All to often, conflicts are not aired. Be sure to listen to both sides then ask yourself if the conflict is big enough to matter and small enough to win. Believe it or not, there often can be too much agreement (referred to as “group think”) that can be just as unproductive. Don’t take the proverbial “Road to Abilene” – agreement for the sake of avoiding disagreement or confrontation.

  • Use feedback from your heart, not just your head. It’s what ignites creative genius, keeps us honest with ourselves, shapes trusting relationships, provides an inner compass for our business lives and careers, guides us to unexpected possibilities, and may even save us or our company from disaster. As EQ is more and more frequently linked to success and profitability, it is gaining legitimacy - even among some of its skeptics.

What is The Future of EQ

It makes sense that today’s organizations will struggle to survive, much less thrive, if they are simply a collection of IQ skills – finance, statistics, information systems, product development, technology, manufacturing, delivery, marketing, etc.

IQ skills need to be balanced with elements of Emotional Intelligence – honesty, trust, integrity, intuition, imagination, resilience, purpose, commitment, influence, motivation, sensitivity, empathy, humor, courage, conscience and humility.

As EQ receives more attention, more organizations are bringing in consultants to conduct workshops for senior executives – sort of kicking the tires to see if they really buy into it before endorsing it for everyone in the company. Check to see if it has a presence in your organization.

Everything important that happens to us arouses emotions! No management training is complete today without this discussion of emotions. Since we can’t just check them at the front door every day, why not put them to constructive use?