While the concept of emotional intelligence isn’t new, it’s been gaining traction in today’s business world. When employers talk about the importance of “soft skills” and traits such as resilience and empathy, they’re actually describing components of emotional intelligence.
Although the word “intelligence” is part of emotional intelligence, the concept isn’t really connected to intelligence as measured by IQ scores. Your IQ (intelligence quotient) score is essentially a measure of your brain’s intellectual capacity. In theory, the higher your IQ, the more easily you can grasp complex subjects. As such, we assume that people such as nuclear physicists, neuroscientists, and mathematicians have much higher IQs than most of us.
In contrast, emotional intelligence (what some refer to as EQ) involves an assessment of your emotional capacity. It describes your awareness of your own emotions and your ability to control and manage them. Even more important, emotional intelligence provides a sense of how well you interact with other people — not just on a social level, but your ability to perceive their emotions and respond with emotional balance. Emotional balance is central to our well-being.
What I like about emotional intelligence is that it can take you beyond the limits of your IQ. You may not have the brainpower of a neuroscientist, but if your emotional intelligence is high, you may be better able to handle the challenges of daily life and far exceed the limits of your intellectual knowledge. Conversely, if a nuclear physicist has a low EQ, she may have a difficult time interacting with staff and earning their confidence.
Emotional intelligence is part of the puzzle that makes up your personality and your default style. You’re the product of your IQ and your EQ. Your ability to leverage both of those is enhanced by a strong sense of curiosity. People who are curious tend to look beyond the obvious, thinking things through to solve problems.
Why is it important to understand our emotional intelligence? By having a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, particularly as they relate to our interactions with others, we become more effective in a wide range of activities. When we have an awareness of our strengths and learn to leverage them, we accomplish more and get “stuck” less. That boosts our confidence, so we continue to grow our emotional intelligence and our success.
So how can learn about your emotional intelligence strengths and potential challenges? We like the robust and valid EQ inventory called “EQ-i.” Keep in mind, though, that emotional intelligence testing is a snapshot in time of your emotional balance. It gives you an assessment of your EQ at this moment in your life. Take the same assessment again in a decade, and you’ll probably see shifts that reflect the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Or, if you’re going through challenging events such as a divorce or the death of a loved one, those events will have an impact on your score. An employee just beginning her career is likely to have lower scores than a veteran counterpart, simply because he’s experienced more. This is a good reason to have your results analyzed by a trained professional.
Emotional intelligence testing can be beneficial for both teams and their managers. Team members will come away with a better understanding of their own strengths, as well as those of their co-workers. If your problem-solving skills aren’t particularly strong, you may want to draw upon help from a colleague who rates more highly in that area. Or, if there’s a situation in which someone needs to listen carefully to a frustrated customer, an employee whose empathy ranks highly would be the best choice. Managers can use that knowledge to assemble teams with a good mix of skills.
We worked with a company that had a 20-person HR department. The leadership wanted to improve the HR professionals’ alignment with the business units to whom they were assigned. Through emotional intelligence assessments and then training in leveraging strengths, we were able to help individuals be credible within the business units. Additionally, we were able to help the leaders realign the department in ways that strengthened collaboration and improved operations.
The value of emotional intelligence awareness became particularly clear when the department was forced to reduce headcount after an acquisition. Knowing each individual’s strengths and weaknesses allowed management to shrink the team to nearly half its size without adversely affecting day-to-day operations.
Are you aware of your emotional intelligence and how it impacts your relationships with co-workers, managers, customers, friends, and family? Do you have skills at adapting to the emotional intelligence of others? Taking an emotional intelligence test and having a trained professional explain the results may be surprisingly enlightening, and may be your first step toward a new level of personal satisfaction and success.