EQ over IQ: Addressing the Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Ever wonder what the valedictorian of your high school is up to? Or the classmate who scored the highest on his or her SATs – if the two weren’t one in the same! Chances are they are successfully skyrocketing through their careers at reputable organizations all over, as one could easily say was expected due to their exhibited intelligence and other scholastic indicators. 

Now, what’s everyone else up to? Turns out, your classmates with the highest IQs aren’t the only ones seeing success.

This is where Emotional Intelligence (EI), also referred to as Emotional Quotient (EQ), comes into play. Leader and expert in psychology and neuroscience, Daniel Goleman, notably polled a room of up to 300 CEOs in which only two to threeraised their hand when prompted with the inquiry of whether they graduated first in their high school class. This shocking stat shows that a plethora of high performers emerged from that “everyone else” pool, which led to Goleman’s groundbreaking research that concluded EQ is more important than IQ. 

In a conversation with Oprah,Goleman addresses this emphasis of emotional intelligence in the forefront by introducing the framework that, “your cognitive abilities are a threshold. They get you in the game.” Once you’re in the game, though, a more accurate indicator of success is how you manage the relationships you have with yourself and others in your environment. Emotional intelligence is essentially, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

In the consulting world, demonstrating emotional intelligence is essential. In our line of business, and many other similarly focused strategic management consulting firms, the products we are selling are our people.Our clients don’t want to work with a project manager who cannot clearly understand their needs and articulate them to the project team. Timelines transform, funding fluctuates, and staffing may not be static (cue the headache!), so the ability to adapt and be empathetic about the situation at hand is important. Consultants must be able to read the room, effectively engage others, and ultimately control crucial conversations. 

Stephen Covey’s “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” describes a crucial conversation as one in which stakes are high, differing opinions exist, and emotions are running strong between two or more people – a situation we’ve all found ourselves in (maybe even daily)! Covey’s research was compiled over the course of 25 years and is a representation of 20,000 people. His findings highlight techniques on how to engage in emotionally charged situations that can be applied to both professional and personal pivotal interactions. By nature, we are designed to handle dialogue in difficult discussions poorly – by fight and flight – because we are under stress. To guide us through successful conversations, Covey sheds light on seven principles to abide by, skills associated with each principle, and accompanying questions to ask yourself.

  • Start with Heart 
    • Focus on what you really want.
    • What do I really want? What do I not want?
  • Learn to Look 
    • Look for your own style under stress
    • Am I and others going to silence or violence?
  • Make it Safe 
    • Apologize when appropriate. Contrast to fix misunderstanding.
    • Have I established mutual purpose? Am I maintaining mutual respect?
  • Master My Stories
    • Separate fact from story
    • What is my story? What am I pretending not to know about my role in problem?
  • STATE My Path 
    • Share your facts. Tell your story. Ask for others’ paths. Talk tentatively. Encourage testing. 
    • Am I really open to others’ views? Am I talking about the real issue?
  • Explore Others’ Paths 
    • Ask. Mirror. Paraphrase. Prime. Agree. Build. Compare.
    • Am I actively exploring others’ views? Am I avoiding unnecessary disagreement?
  • Move to Action
    • Decide how you’ll decide
    • How will we make decisions? Who will do what by when?

When you picture a “perfect leader,” do you envision that individual acting in ways that play out the identified principles? Do they possess certain skills? Do youpossess these skills? By increasing your awareness of the listed items, you can act in ways that encourage open conversation, offer space for others’ opinions, further understand individuals’ motives, and exert calm control of the most complex conversations. Being the boss, colleague, or friend that keeps calm during discourse will be a breath of fresh air compared to those who lose their tolerance or let their tempers flare. Be the one who is easy to talk to, fast to listen, and first to gain trust. 

Throughout the month, a variety of our consultants will touch on other elements of emotional intelligence, narrowing in on the truism, “Do unto others,” by highlighting additional insights!