Emotional Intelligence: Why You’ll Lose Out Without It (& How To Cultivate It)

Back in 1995, science journalist and psychologist Daniel Goleman sparked a cultural revolution with his groundbreaking book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.”

Since then, the popularity of EQ as a concept has skyrocketed. It’s safe to say that it’s now enjoying a cultural renaissance.


From Brene Brown’s viral TED talk on the power of vulnerability to Daniel Kahneman’s book on how to use emotions to make better decisions, public interest in the subject has never been higher. And while the corporate world may still be lacking in its approach and incorporation of EQ into best practices, it’s generally made great strides towards leveraging EQ for higher performance.

If you haven’t gotten on board the emotional intelligence train at work, you’re choosing irrelevance over adaptation. Here’s why, and how to sharpen your EQ skills.

Don’t stop there, though: sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage yourself and others at work!

What It Is: 4 Elements of EQ

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence consists of four core competencies:

  • Self-awareness: knowing your emotional states, triggers, and their effects
  • Self-management: controlling your emotional states and reactivity
  • Empathy: understanding others’ perspectives
  • Relationship management: inspiring positive emotions and actions in others


Why It’s Essential: The Benefits of EQ

Emotional intelligence is arguably one of the most significant determinants of personal and organisational success. The benefits of EQ go beyond the relatively intangible aspects like greater employee happiness.


When people and companies devote resources to developing higher EQ, they’re also making a substantial investment in themselves and paving the road for better business.

  • Leadership:
    Empathetic leaders engender greater trust, loyalty, and engagement among their people
  • Team performance:
    Emotionally intelligent teams have 37% better collaboration, and almost 50% more motivation and morale, according to a 2018 Forbes article
  • Better business:
    Genuine corporate empathy makes for greater sales volume, higher-quality innovation, more effective branding and marketing campaigns, and better customer service (more on this here.)


EQ & Leadership

Simon Sinek has given two of the most-watched TED Talks of all time; one of them was entitled “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.” In it, he shared about the fact that the greatest leaders amongst us are those who create an atmosphere of psychological safety for their people.


Similarly, everyone from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to Oprah has evangelised about the indispensability of empathy to effective leadership.

For people to be willing to follow you straight into the battlefield and stick it out with you till the end, they need to know that they’re your highest priority. Leaders with high EQ understand this and don’t hesitate to pull out all the stops in making sure they use their position to motivate and serve their people.


EQ & Team Performance

The vast majority of the global workforce today consists of knowledge workers. These are people whose job performance rests heavily not just on what they know, but how well they can collaborate. That, in turn, depends on their EQ levels.


Getting together a team of the most talented people you can find won’t by itself guarantee performance.

As Goleman puts it: “It is [the ability to work well together] that, all other things being equal, will make one group especially talented, productive and successful, and another–with members whose talent and skill are equal in other regards–do poorly.”


EQ & Better Business

Organisations that can leverage the innate human ability for empathy are the ones that continuously gain a competitive edge.


In innovation, for example, empathising with the end user is indispensable in coming up with improved products and processes that create value and fill gaps in the market.

Likewise, in customer service, empathising genuinely with a disgruntled customer is a significantly more effective retention strategy than sticking to the script at all costs.


Cultivating EQ on a personal level

Goleman has made it clear that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be sharpened with time and effort.


He’s written about the following five steps to developing higher emotional intelligence:

  • Know what motivates you; use it to keep feeding your drive
  • Ask for constructive criticism about your emotional skills at work
  • Make a plan for learning specific emotional skills, and practice them regularly
  • Find someone who’s able to support you through the process of growth
  • Practice, practice, practice

Cultivating EQ on an organisational level

While emotional intelligence may be the current intellectual darling of popular culture, businesses are still falling behind in their efforts to leverage this for greater organisational success.

A recent Forbes article reported that EQ is still undervalued in the hiring process. Additionally, PR gaffes by the likes of corporate behemoths like Boeing (in its response to the 747 crashes) and Pepsi (with its tone-deaf 2017 commercial on protests) point to more deep-seated issues with unempathetic corporate cultures.

  • Prioritise emotional intelligence during the hiring process
  • Incorporate empathy into the corporate culture
  • Send employees for empathy training
  • Use the Empathy Index to gauge how empathetic your business is and determine areas for improvement


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