Emotional Intelligence – why it can matter more than IQ

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Over 80% of competencies that differentiate top performers from others are in the domain of EI. (HBR 2003)

Companies, who have executives with higher levels of emotional intelligence, are more likely to be highly profitable. (‘The relevance of emotional intelligence for leadership performance’ by Chris Dulewicz, Mike Young, Victor Dulewicz)

IQ contributes only 20% to life success – the rest comes from emotional intelligence (EQ) -Dan Goleman

Emotional intelligence has been a topic discussed and debated for a long time and now gaining more focus again especially at the workplaces. Organizations of the future are undoubtedly considering EQ as one of the most important factor in the leadership development and performance.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a term created by two researchers – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer,later on popularized by Dan Goleman vide his book in 1996. In simple terms, EI or EQ can be defined as the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions. And recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.

In his book Dan Goleman writes – “The interest in emotional intelligence in the workplace stems from the widespread recognition that these abilities – self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skill – separate the most successful workers and leaders from the average. This is especially true in roles like the professions and higher level executives, where everyone is about as smart as everyone else, and how people manage themselves and their relationships gives the best and edge.” (Goleman, 2012).

Yale psychologist Peter Salovey cites five major areas of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness — knowing one’s emotions.

We may think that our feelings are obvious, but they often are hidden from us. Unconscious emotions can have a powerful effect on thoughts and reactions, even though we are not aware of them. When we become self-aware of these emotions, it helps us in evaluating them. It also means you are aware of your strengths as well as weaknesses and can take better advantage of your conscious emotions.

2. Managing emotions — handling feelings so they are appropriate.

This is one of the most difficult task. Once you become self-aware of your emotions, managing or self-regulating your emotions helps in reducing stress, focussing on the work &relations instead of reacting in any situation. This also helps in reducing interpersonal conflicts.

3. Motivation — marshalling emotions in service of a goal.

Motivating self without any external pressure is the key for success. Self-motivation is extremely important for any person in any field to become successful. A self-motivated person can not only manage own career but can positively influence others.

4. Recognizing emotions in others — empathy, which is the fundamental people skill.

The more we become self-aware, the more we will be able to read other’s feelings. Dealing with empathy with others helps in building strong relationships and reduce conflicts. This helps us to control our feelings and reactions.

5. Handling relationships — skill in managing emotions in others.

As a human we express our feelings and also react to the action of others.  Our body language also plays vital role in the way we communicate with others. Being sensitive to the emotions of other people is a reflection of maturity. This is also called as social skill.

How important is EI at workplace?

The need of EI at the workplace was always evident however, it was not considered as a priority. Today also, this is less discussed in most of the organizations. A smart employee may not be effective if he/she is not emotionally intelligent. Let’s see how EI influences some of the activities at workplace;

  • Giving or receiving feedback: Any employee in an organization, has to give or receive feedback on various occasions. It can be for a performance review, incorrect or incomplete task or an improper behaviour. Emotionally stable person will be able to give or receive feedback in a more constructive way without creating any unnecessary conflicts.
  • Tight deadlines: Short timelines is not a new situation for anyone at workplace. There are times when the assignments or projects are to be completed in a very short period of time and with limited resources. This puts a lot of pressure and creates unwanted stress for the team. A self-regulated person is in a better position to handle this situation more effectively.
  • Challenging relationships: There is always a diversity of people in any organization with different behaviours, thought processes, ways of working etc. Sometimes, this creates a conflicting relationship between two people who do not try to understand and recognize each other’s view point. Dealing empathetically with others certainly helps to reduce the tension in a professional relationship.
  • Dealing with change: It is said that change is the only constant thing in the world and organizations cannot be excluded from this. Every organization at some point of time goes through change, whether smaller or bigger. Sometimes, the span of such change is big and impacts a large number people. It is easier for an emotionally balanced person to get adapted to the change and also help others to cope up with it.
  • Flexibility and creativity: A person with high EQ/EI can be more flexible and creative and will allow others also to behave in a similar manner. This boosts the productivity and performance of the team as a whole.
  • Setbacks and failures: Professional life is always about ups and downs. While everyone likes to be successful in the career, there will be some setbacks or failures during this journey. Many a times, failures can break a person’s confidence and pull back from putting efforts to overcome the failure. In such a situation self-motivation is the best way to keep engagement on the right track.

How does EI affects workplace?

It is believed that People who take the pessimistic stance are extremely prone to emotional hijackings.”

Emotional intelligence is an important factor at a workplace as it influences the job satisfaction and performance of the employees. An employee with high EQ/EI will have higher job satisfaction and can positively influence other team members as well. Imbalanced emotions can impact functioning of brain, resulting in negative thoughts, reduced cognitive abilities, poor decision making and weak interpersonal skills. Expressing emotions is very natural but if not managed well, can negatively impact on the mental and physical health of a person. An employee with high EQ/EI will be self-motivated and can focus on building own career and can help others too.

Thus is it clear that efforts and investments in improving EI have a high potential for increasing the productivity and value of leaders in organizations.

Note- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the organization he is working for.

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