How good is your EQ?

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Over the past decade or so, emotional intelligence has increasingly come to be seen as a critical factor of success on and off the job. In the June 21, 1999 edition of Fortune magazine’s cover article ‘Why CEO’s fail,’ authors Ram Charan and Geoffrey Colvin categorically state that successful CEOs shine not so much in the areas of planning or finance, but in the area of emotional intelligence (EI).

More recently, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on his first visit to India after he took over the software giant observed that, “In the long run, EQ (emotional quotient) trumps IQ (intelligence quotient). Without being a source of energy for others very little can be accomplished.”

When emotional intelligence first made an appearance sometime in the 1990s, it sparked off a significant point of discussion. Why do people with average IQs outperform others with considerably high IQs, almost 70 per cent of the time?

This was an uncomfortable question for many who had always assumed that the sole source of success was cognitive ability or IQ. Decades of research now conclusively point to the fact that EI is the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. So what is emotional intelligence?

It can be described as a distinct combination of emotional and social skills and competencies that influence our overall capability to cope effectively with the demands and pressures of work and life. It is the ability to understand and deal with feelings, both your own and those of others, in a healthy and constructive way.

Simply put, it’s the '“something” in each of us that is a bit intangible and which affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

In other words, being emotionally intelligent involves tuning in to emotions, understanding them and taking appropriate action.

EI can be described as a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we:

• Perceive and express ourselves.

• Develop and maintain social relationships, how we empathise and work with other people.

• Cope with challenges, recovering quickly from stress and negative emotions.

• Use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way in other words tuning into subtle signals that the body tells us.

Performance indicator

It has been proved that there is a huge correlation between success and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.

In fact, research proves that when tested with 33 other important workplace skills, EI emerged as the strongest, explaining as much as 58 per cent of success in all types of jobs. It impacts almost everything you say and do each day.

It was found that 90 per cent of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. On the other hand, research has also shown that poorly performing or borderline leaders have relatively low levels of emotional intelligence.

As Daniel Goleman says, “A person with high EQ displays outstanding performance throughout his life.”

It’s a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with tremendous results. Emotional intelligence can be usually measured in two ways: Self-report (by assessments) and performance measures.

There are several assessment methods available. EQ-I 2.0, created by Dr.Reuven Bar-On, is popular, scientifically validated and incorporates more than 20 years of research and development. In fact, he coined the term “EQ” (Emotional Quotient) in 1985 to describe his approach to assessing emotional and social competence.

This instrument or tool can be used to predict a candidate’s likelihood of success or possibility of derailment.

EQ vs IQ

IQ is a threshold requirement to get a job. For example, high cognitively skilled jobs such as an accountant, engineer and lawyer require the basic degree, for which one is required to have a certain level of IQ. But after the initial entry-level requirement, their success in an organisation depends on so many other factors, ability to be assertive, empathetic, collaborative, staying focused under pressure and a plethora of non-cognitive skills. EQ is estimated to account for 27 to 45 per cent of job success.

Other results clearly show that the best performing enterprises do have high numbers of high emotionally intelligent leaders in key positions. There is not only a direct link between having large numbers of high emotional leaders in key roles in high performing enterprises but also low performance enterprises appear to have low emotionally intelligent leaders at the helm. Research by the Centre for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of derailment in executives involve deficits in emotional competence.

The three primary ones are: Difficulty in handling or adapting to change, not being able to work well in a team and poor interpersonal relations.

When you see the importance of EI in everyday life, it’s surprising that it’s not included as part of mainstream education. In fact, Aristotle says, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

The March edition of the Education Insider mentions that the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence’s research shows that students with higher EI are better prepared to manage their emotional lives so that they can focus, learn and do their best in school. The tools to deal with emotions that are critical to effectiveness in work and life must be taught early. Emotions are critical and drive learning, decision-making, relationships and overall wellbeing. Students who are unable to handle stress or disruptive emotions might sometimes perform inadequately in academics, and if the school is old-fashioned the student might be branded as a slow learner and has to bear the consequences.

IQ starts developing at an early age of around 6 years and peaks at 17. After this it starts declining gradually. EI, on the other hand, can be developed well beyond 65 years or more. The EQ-I 2.0 can be used to help educate students to be more aware of their emotions and those of others, to be successful reality testers and problem solvers, to cope better with stress, to be less impulsive, to be more positive about themselves, to get along better with others, and to enjoy their lives.

Such “emotional training” adds an important aspect to education in that it would prepare learners to better cope with environmental demands and increase their ability to function and succeed in life.

The writer is an EQ assessor and a coach. Email:

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:08:22 AM |

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