John Hancock, the lionised American revolutionary, once said, “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and influence their actions.”
The soft skills that define one’s emotional intelligence are often swept aside, especially in a small city-state like Singapore where academic excellence and technical expertise are prioritised over all else. For a long time, the rest of the world also believed a high IQ score leads to definite success in work and life. But studies have shown otherwise.
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As Travis Bradberry wrote in Emotional Intelligence 2.0, research that involved over half a million folks all over the world revealed that a whopping 90 percent of top performers have high EQ. What’s more, those with average IQs perform better than those with outstanding IQs about 70 percent of the time. In terms of the workplace, Daniel Goleman, an expert on the subject, discovered that EQ is twice as important as cognitive abilities in predicting employee excellence.
Evidently, what we’ve long thought about intelligence is wrong. Simply being smart doesn’t cut it anymore. To see real success, one has to combine both the head and the heart, paying particular attention to the latter – a less conventional measure of intelligence that, in fact, trumps the other. Of course, hard skills still hold a considerable amount of value in the workplace, but emotional intelligence is the catapult that ultimately pushes one’s job performance through the roof.
The value of EQ also goes beyond performing well at work. It can be the mark of a good leader as well. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, agrees. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, he said, “No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”
Expert technical know-how, a glowing portfolio of qualifications, and a critical yet creative mind that is chock-full of great ideas form the fundamentals of being a gifted worker. But without the social and emotional skills intrinsic to building and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, there’s no way any individual would succeed in leading people.
How to Identify Emotionally Intelligent Individuals
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Many industry giants, such as AT&T and L’Oréal – are slowly altering their hiring process to focus more on emotional intelligence, as opposed to GPA scores and academic awards. Google has even ditched the brainteasers in job interviews, and switched to a more behavioural-based method that susses out a person’s level of humility, ownership, learning ability, and leadership potential. If you’re looking to make better hiring decisions, you need to know what emotional intelligence is first.
Goleman breaks it down into four elements: Self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills. Essentially, one has to be in tune with their emotions first – that is, being conscious of what’s going on within them and why. Those who are able to do this are often good at expressing themselves as well in a way that isn’t destructive.
This points to their ability to manage their own emotions productively, whether it’s detaching themselves from a stressful situation, or channelling negative energy into positive outlets. In a professional scenario, this means handling criticism well and having the humility to apologise when necessary, instead of blowing up and taking everything personally.
Conversely, people with high EQ are skilled in recognising and handling the emotions of others as well. Empathy (often characterised by one’s inclination to serve others, listen closely, and react gently without judgment or prejudice) allows individuals to relate to each other. This creates a foundation of mutual understanding, respect and trust – key ingredients to the building and maintaining of strong interpersonal relationships, thus reducing office politics and customer conflicts.
In customer-centric occupations such as sales and public relations, EQ is obviously more effective than IQ. People are just naturally attracted to likeable and trustworthy individuals, and in such sectors, it means big bucks in garnering customer loyalty, satisfaction and engagement. Even so, no man is an island. You are bound to interact with people (colleagues, clients, chiefs), regardless of your job. As superb team players, emotionally intelligent employees can even contribute to boosting the productivity and morale of the office.
How to Cultivate More EQ in Current Employees
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If your company hasn’t been paying attention to the EQ of its hires, fret not. Despite its hard-to-quantify nature, it is a trait that can be taught and developed over time. One of the most prominent examples is Google – a story that involves a homegrown hero. His name is Tan Chade-Meng, and he was among the few Singaporeans who worked at Google. He was, in fact, the tech giant’s 107th hire.
More than being a Google pioneer and an award-winning engineer, he was keen on promoting the virtues of mindfulness – a passion that led to the creation of the “Search Inside Yourself” course, which earned him the title and designation of Jolly Good Fellow. The course started out in 2007 as a two-day training programme that focused on developing compassion and emotional intelligence, with the ultimate goal of world (or workplace) peace.
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In 2012, Peter Bostelmann, an engineer at SAP, took part in “Search Inside Yourself”, and decided to offer the same programme to the employees of his company. According to him, those who participated in the course left changed in a profound and permanent way. Not only were they more productive and less stressed out in the office, they carried their new social-emotional skills into their personal lives as well, with one employee sharing about the programme’s “deep impact on his marriage”.
Emotional intelligence is all about understanding yourself first, so a good step to cultivate EQ in employees is to encourage self-reflection. Can they detail their strengths and flaws? How do they tend to react (both internally and externally) in certain scenarios, and why? When they’re able to recognise their feelings and analyse their thought processes, the next step is control.
A practical technique of mindfulness you can adopt (and impart) whenever you’re in a high-pressure, emotionally charged situation is to STOP: Stop yourself before you react; Take a deep breath or two to calm down; Observe yourself, your emotions and your thoughts to understand where they are really coming from objectively; and Proceed with the situation in a healthier way.
High EQ people make for better employees. With an office of individuals who are emotionally adept, and thus, high performing, you will no doubt see a significant change in the output of the business. And like a chain reaction, quality work will lead to increased turnovers and company success. After all, our strengths lie in being human, and it’s high time we invest in the person, rather than the profession.