What Does Emotional Intelligence Mean For You?

Do you feel like your boss has no emotional intelligence? If we are high in Emotional Intelligence (EI) we may decide to give them a break, since they are low on EI, but it also means we have work to do to help them improve, and that we should try to avoid criticism to try and effect change..

Man, that’s hard to do. And this is why emotional intelligence is everything to business and home success. The great news is that unlike IQ, we have the capability to improve our capacity for EI.

Dr. Angus McLeod of Wharton recently theorized that Emotional Intelligence was first coined by Leuner in 1966, and the EI buzz came thirty years later with Goleman’s business EI book (Emotional Intelligence at Work, 1998). Now twenty years later after that point, is EI still relevant? Recent research definitely says yes. Management Professor, Massimiliano Ghini, presenting at the NexusEQ Conference at Harvard in 2013, showed a link between a leader’s Emotional Intelligence, the impact on organizational climate, and how that drives performance. His research showed that Emotional Intelligence predicts 76 percent of the variation in organizational engagement – that factories with higher organizational engagement achieved higher bottom-line results and that, during the three-year project, employee-turnover dropped by 63 percent.

Why Emotional Intelligence Remains Significant
Where people have poor EI, we observe poor interactions, slow bonding between staff and sometimes openly hostile, passive-aggressive behaviors and lack of trust. When EI came on the business radar, it was seen as a fix for so many ailments in organizations. Harvard Business Review (2001) described Emotional Intelligence as a ‘paradigm-shattering idea.’ The premise for that can be stated in one simple equation:  (Intelligence Quotient) + (Emotional Intelligence) = (Success)

Fastest Way to Develop EI
To improve EI we can use facilitative coaching – where the benefits stack up, for example, for new VPs (who start off slowly learning how to navigate the corporate culture). Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence.

“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.” – Jack Welch

Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.  As we try to help our boss, let’s look at low EI behaviors. Travis Bradberry, author and founder of TalentSmart, has tracked key behaviors to check a person’s EI.

They get stressed too easily. When they stifle their feelings, they quickly build into the uncomfortable sensations of tension, stress, and anxiety. Unaddressed emotions strain the mind and body. By improving emotional intelligence skills we will help make stress more manageable through enabling people to spot and tackle tough situations before things escalate.

They have a limited emotional vocabulary. All people experience emotions, and it is a select few who can accurately identify them as they occur. Talentsmart research shows that only 36% of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions. People with high EIs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so.

They make assumptions quickly and defend them vehemently. People who lack EI form an opinion quickly and then succumb to confirmation biases, meaning they gather evidence that supports their opinion and ignore any evidence to the contrary. More often than not, they argue ad nauseam, to support it. This is especially dangerous for leaders, as their under-thought-out ideas become the entire team’s strategy. Emotionally intelligent people let their thoughts marinate, because they know that initial reactions are driven by emotions. They give their thoughts time to develop and consider the possible consequences and counter-arguments. Then, they communicate their developed idea in the most effective way possible, taking into account the needs and opinions of their audience.

They hold grudges. The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends the body into fight-or-flight mode, a survival mechanism that forces them to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to their survival, and when a threat is ancient history, holding on to that stress wreaks havoc on their body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding on to stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means we’re holding on to stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Letting go of a grudge not only makes them feel better now and can also improve their health.

They often feel misunderstood. When they lack emotional intelligence, it’s hard to understand how they come across to others. They feel misunderstood because they don’t deliver their message in a way that people can understand. Even with practice, emotionally intelligent people know that they don’t communicate every idea perfectly. They catch on when people don’t understand what they are saying, adjust their approach, and re-communicate their idea in a way that can be understood.

They don’t know their triggers. Everyone has triggers – pet peeves – situations and people that push their buttons and cause them to act impulsively. Emotionally intelligent people study their triggers and use this knowledge to sidestep situations and people before they get the best of them.

They blame other people for how they make them feel. Emotions come from within. It’s tempting to attribute how they feel to the actions of others, and they must take responsibility for their emotions. No one can make them feel anything that they don’t want to feel.  

They’re easily offended. If they have a firm grasp of who they are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets their goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. They may even poke fun at themselves or let other people make jokes about them because they are able to mentally draw the line between humor and degradation.

EI – the root of all engagement – at home and work


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