Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) has always mattered, yet assessment and development of EQ often falls to the bottom of the training pile.
Why? People are afraid to talk about their emotions and feelings. After all, leaders need to be tough and objective. Emotions are subjective, and some people don’t trust them. There is a belief that you either have high EQ or you don’t, which is often linked to an individual’s values and morals. There has been a belief that while it would be nice to have some training and development around EQ, time and money should be spent on technical skills and manager task development.
These beliefs are based on a false assumption about what EQ actually measures and neglects the fact that high EQ is a skill that can be developed. The science explaining why high EQ is so beneficial in the workplace is often ignored as well. Daniel Goleman’s research indicated that 67% of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders were emotional competencies, and they mattered twice as much as technical expertise or IQ.1. Those with high EQ have better job performance and leadership skills. Thus, understanding EQ helps understanding why it is integral in today’s work environment.
What EQ is: Assessments and measurements
EQ is not about having emotions or even about what those emotions are. It is the ability to recognize emotions and then effectively manage them for successful collaboration and productivity. I utilize the TTI Success Insights EQ assessments as part of my programs. To take away the perceived softness, EQ can be framed around what is being experienced in the moment and what one is going to do about it.
Goleman’s Model of EQ has five components:
- Social awareness
- Social regulation
Awareness is the starting point for self and others. We need to examine what we are experiencing, what triggers it and the impact. Regulation is determining what we should or could do about it. Motivation examines how driven we are to focus on our EQ — how often we examine our awareness and chose our actions.
When we are experiencing fear, anger or frustration, the information is sent directly to the amygdala portion of our brain. The amygdala triggers our fight-or-flight response and can hijack our conscious processing. Instead of processing the fear at a cognitive level, we first have a basic animal instinct we need to overcome.
This is our brain’s normal response. Consider that we are all working in an environment with greater-than-normal stressors, such as working from home while homeschooling kids and sharing a computer with a spouse; or living alone and feeling isolated; or being an essential worker on the front lines. A friend — who normally is one of the most even-keeled people I know — called and said she was at the end of her rope with the team. We talked about the fact that she had cabin fever and just wanted to do something — even though she normally worked from home before the COVID-19 pandemic. With no kids, her life seemingly hasn’t changed much. Yet even this relaxed person is experiencing frustration over things she may have not even noticed B.C. (Before COVID-19).
Beyond the added stressors of the pandemic, think about the ways in which your work has changed. You are so focused on getting through the day that you aren’t taking the time to identify the specific triggers you are experiencing (self-awareness). If you are working from home, you likely are seeing your colleagues less. If you are an essential worker, you might be busier than normal, which prevents typical socializing. With that decreased interaction, you potentially are less aware of what your colleagues are experiencing (social awareness). If we are less aware of our triggers and less aware of what we are experiencing or why we are experiencing it, it’s more difficult to successfully regulate ourselves and others.
High EQ has always been an integral part of superior performance; with the stress of today’s environment, it is even more important. Assessing and developing your EQ unlocks greater awareness and regulation, allowing you to build deeper relationships and resolve challenges with greater collaboration despite the increased stressors you face. More than ever, leaders can and should rely on their EQ, above many other leadership skills they possess.