It’s been proven time and time again that Emotional Intelligence is a far better predictor of success than Intelligence, or IQ. When IQ tests are correlated with how well people perform in their careers, generally IQ accounts for only 4% to 10% of a person’s success. A study of Harvard graduates in the fields of law, medicine, teaching and business, found that scores on entrance exams had zero or even negative correlation with their eventual career success. People who become leaders in their professions have high level of EQ. Technical expertise is considered by progressive companies to be BASELINE COMPETENCE only.
Dr Claude Steiner, international expert on Emotional Intelligence, defined it as having three distinct abilities:
1. The ability to understand your emotions
2. The ability to listen to others and recognise and empathise with their emotions
3. The ability to express your emotions productively
The great thing about emotional intelligence is that, unlike IQ, it can be learned. Some might say emotional intelligence is having good interpersonal skills, but they don’t necessarily go together. You can have good interpersonal skills, without being very emotionally intelligent. Although generally people with high levels of emotional intelligence have fairly good interpersonal skills. And there’s also a difference between emotional intelligence and emotional competence; it’s not good enough to possess high levels of emotional intelligence, you have to be able to use it constructively in managing your work relationships.
In my extensive work with call centre staff, I’ve found that people whose job it is to work with the public in a helpdesk environment have to develop emotional intelligence rapidly – otherwise they won’t last in that stressful environment. The ability to manipulate a conflict situation with an angry customer, or not to take abuse personally if it doesn’t work, is a difficult skill for most people to learn. But those who learn these skills become far better leaders and more influential in any job they take on. I often tell call centre staff that it’s really worthwhile to invest time and effort developing these personal skills, as they get a person further than any qualifications or technical skills will.
It doesn’t matter what your job is, your role in the hierarchy or the size of your work team; everyone who works needs to have the ability to work positively with people, to influence them in order to get a job done. Whether you’re a checkout clerk, a call centre agent, a buyer, a computer programmer or a senior executive, most of the time your job entails influencing others and getting people to co-operate with you. For example…
You have just found out that your manager has given your colleague the promotion you were promised. When you enquire about why, he/she tells you that the selection process was a fair and objective one, but refuses to elaborate more. You’re furious because you believed the job was yours. How do you deal with this?
a) Start looking for another job immediately and say nothing
b) Close up and do the bare minimum until a better job offer comes along, while becoming increasingly more negative and unhappy at work
d) Lodge a complaint via the HR department and demand a thorough explanation
e) Rally around some support from your colleagues to try to elicit action against the manager
f) Set a plan in motion to understand why your manager’s perception and your own are different, and try to reduce those gaps over the next year by addressing the shortcomings the manager believes you have – even if that means simply finding creative ways to convince your manager of the talents you possess.
The most emotionally intelligent response would be f). The other responses, while reflecting normal human emotions, don’t’ serve us well as they alienate those around us, and prevent us from achieving our goals. Having emotional competence means separating your emotional reactions from other people’s reality, and being able to create enough distance from your opinions to be able to make sound judgments and decisions. If we can find ways of identifying how to communicate better with people whose perceptions are different from our own, we create a work environment that is constructive, positive, despite diverse cultures, personalities and opinions.
Can you build greater Emotional Intelligence into a work team?
When sufficient numbers of people in a group are emotionally intelligent, you have an organizational culture that is more positive, fun and productive. If your organization, team or department has these things in place, you are more likely to foster an emotionally intelligent culture in the group:
- Emotionally intelligent managers who lead in a believable, trustworthy manner
- More coaching, and mentoring practices and less direct supervision
- Recruitment practices that incorporate EQ competencies in selection
- Performance assessment practices that are sensitive to divergent ways of thinking
- Company policies and informal practices that encourage open communication and tolerance
- Managers with high levels of personal self confidence to enable them to handle conflict, criticism or frustrated employees without having to defend or shut people down
- Company practices that allow for information-sharing without fear of retribution
Much of the success in fostering an emotional intelligent culture lies in being able to identify where your interpersonal gaps are, either as a group or in individuals. Copperline has developed an EQ assessment tool, which can help pinpoint where specific development is needed, and which adds more value to performance assessment tools that companies might already have in place. Contact me if you’d like to know more about this.
Cape Town, January 2014