Having set up EQ+iQ three years ago, I have written much more about “what” I do (mobility & autonomous vehicle consultancy) more than “the way” I do it. Whilst studying for my MBA at Cranfield, I came to the conclusion that intelligence and emotion play an equally important part in decision making and team working – and that’s how I came to name my business EQ+iQ.

So in this article I am revisiting the topic which underpins my values and the way I aim to operate: using both EQ plus iQ – but always putting EQ first.

Society has focussed on IQ, the intelligence quotient, for many years. We’re familiar with IQ tests for academic and career progression, the media revere child prodigies who demonstrate an IQ above 130 and certain global leaders even suggest a high IQ is a measure of a person’s worth. But what about EQ, the emotional quotient?

What is EQ?

EQ is about having the skills to recognise, understand and manage our own feelings, as well as the feelings of other people. How good are we, as a society, at EQ? What role does this skill play in the workplace? And are we doing enough to achieve our full potential – personally, professionally and at a corporate level?

In 1996 a science journalist named Daniel Goleman put forward the proposition that there was something possibly more important in the workplace than IQ. That ‘something’ is emotional intelligence, now better known as EQ.

What impact does EQ have on the world?

Goleman’s starting point was the premise that IQ development has taken us from cave dwelling to modern day sophistication, to the point where we can even build driverless cars. Yet our collective neglect for nurturing social skills, EQ, is evidenced by the fact we live in a world where wars, mass murders and terrorism are the norm. If this notion is correct, imagine what the world would be like if our EQ matched our IQ?

What about EQ in the workplace?

Starting out in the world of work, we first put our IQ to the test, through exams, job interviews and the like. We need to have a certain level of IQ in order to be able to carry out tasks and prove that we can ‘do the job’. But as our career progresses, there is more to it than simply being able to carry out the tasks we have been assigned. To develop in the working world, to thrive in teams and in companies, we have to learn to work with others. To do that successfully, we need to understand EQ.

Yet how many of us apply the same level of effort, or even recognise the need to develop this skill, as we do with IQ?

Going back to the earlier thought about society’s focus on IQ over EQ, imagine what the workplace would be like if there was a greater emphasis on EQ. Would the misunderstandings and miscommunication subside? Would endless employee engagement surveys be a thing of the past because people naturally understood one another? And would employee retention increase as a result of a happier workforce?

I believe, now more than ever, there is a need for EQ in the workplace. According to cognitive neuroscientists and business psychologists, the much talked about ‘millenials’ generally have a higher level of EQ in the workplace than previous generations. This means that in order to be managed effectively and feel engaged, they need to be led in a different way. Gone are the days of ‘command and control’. The workforce of today and tomorrow will expect to be listened to and responded to appropriately. Otherwise, they will simply leave.

So how do we develop EQ?

The good news is that EQ can be developed. The brain learns and grows through repetition, just like any other part of the body. Any athlete or musician will tell you ‘practice makes perfect’, as would anyone who has studied for an IQ test, and it’s the same with EQ. If we consciously practice EQ, we will get better at it.

Daniel Goleman helpfully created a matrix to explain the four components of EQ (and I will be writing more fully about each of these in my next four articles):

The first element to master is self-awareness – being able to recognise our own emotions, understand our own strengths and weaknesses and be self-confident. A useful tool to develop self-awareness is the Johari window, which explores how well we know ourselves, as well as how closely that knowledge is aligned with how others perceive us. I will explain more about the Johari window in a later article.

Secondly, Goleman focuses on self-management – the ability to appropriately handle the emotions we have recognised. In this instance, it’s particularly important to be aware of the things that can trigger an emotional response. That could be caused by a sense of unfairness, or suppression, or a lack of autonomy. Whatever our emotional triggers are, it’s important to be able to understand and manage them, especially in a work setting. In extreme cases, we can suffer from an ‘amygdala hijack’, which I will explore in more detail in another article.

The third element of the matrix focuses on our social awareness – the ability to recognise and understand other people’s emotions. Empathy is particularly important here, as it requires us to understand a situation from another person’s perspective. In order to do this, strong listening skills are required. Literature often refers to five levels of listening, ranging from ‘ignoring’ to ‘empathetic listening’. I will elaborate on this in another article, but for now, it is important to note that it’s not only how well we listen that is important, but also how well other people perceive us as listeners.

Finally, relationship management – the ability to build a strong bond with others and have a positive influence on their behaviour. For this element of EQ, trust is paramount. Whether it’s a personal or professional relationship, trust is the foundation on which strong relationships are built. Only when there is a high level of trust in the workplace can high-performing teams emerge. The same is true of strong buyer-supplier relationships I will go into more detail on this topic in a later article.

Where is EQ evident today?

When all four areas are developed, true EQ shines through and the impact is significant. Many of the top performing companies are led by individuals who demonstrate high levels of EQ.

Elon Musk is often cited as a shining example. Here’s a taste of EQ at work:  the accident rate in one of his Tesla factories was 30% higher than the norm; Elon Musk said it ‘broke his heart’ every time someone was injured and he set out to investigate. He met the people affected and even did their jobs for a day to better understand what had gone wrong. Showing empathy, compassion and, above all, a willingness to improve his employees’ lives, is a hallmark of a great leader. Richard Branson, Jeff Besos and Jack Welch are just a few other familiar names often associated with high EQ, and I think we can all agree their professional achievements reflect that.

So, to answer my own question, yes, we most certainly should care about EQ and I believe young professionals are going to demand more and more EQ from their leaders. I’m going to talk more about how we could all benefit from a better understanding of how the brain works in 2020.

In the meantime, I hope you had a wonderful festive season and I wish you all a Happy New Year!