The concept of Emotional Intelligence has been around for a while. In fact, it was nearly a hundred years ago that Thorndike[1] first noted the importance of our ability to understand and manage others. But it took some time for the topic to hit the mainstream. It was 1995 , when psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence, and for one and a half years running, the book was a bestseller at the NY Times. With the rise of Emotional Intelligence, businesses and managers have started looking beyond just pure technical skills and knowledge when it comes to hiring, promoting and retaining talent. Interpersonal skills is what separates us from the pack and makes us stand out in the right light. This is because, the ability to express and control our emotions is essential, but so is our ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others. At the end of the day, productivity of a team is dependent not on the brightest of individuals, but on the well being of a team, willing to work with each other.

Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge. Additionally, Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist, Daniel Kahneman author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust than someone they don’t, even if the likeable person is offering a lower quality product or service at a higher price. This is what made Goleman’s work so powerful. Through his research Goleman discovered that highly effective leaders, have a solid degree of emotional intelligence, and in turn, revealed a direct link between a leader’s emotional intelligence and measurable business results.

Two years ago Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi found himself in a pickle. He had taken the reins after a series of scandals kept Uber in the news for months. The company’s board of directors, then decided that former CEO Travis Kalanick was no longer the man for the job. Looking to bring in a sense of maturity, and newness to Uber, they unanimously voted in Khosrowshahi, who at the time was serving as the CEO of the travel company Expedia, and two weeks into office, London, announced that they would not renew Uber’s licence to operate in the city. New blow. New leader. Same Company. There were various ways to react, but the new leader knew that his competence did not matter, but his emotional intelligence did. In an email he responded remarkably to his employees saying “While the impulse may be to say that this is unfair, one of the lessons I’ve learned over time is that change comes from self-reflection. So it’s worth examining how we got here. The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation. Irrespective of whether we did everything that is being said about us in London today (and to be clear, I don’t think we did), it really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.”In just a few sentences, the new CEO had shown the world that Emotional Intelligence, trump’s every degree known to man, dishing along with him, major lessons to learn about Emotional Intelligence.

What’s Emotional Intelligence Got to do With It?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions (in both yourself and others), to recognize the powerful effects of those emotions, and to use that information to inform and guide behavior. In essence, it’s the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you. The skills born of emotional intelligence create models of preferred behavior and can often be categorized into five components:

Self-Awareness – Are we able to recognize and understand our personal moods, emotions, feelings and drives? As well as their impact on others? Self-Awareness also includes us being cognizant of how our emotions and emotional state impacts our behaviour and performance at work.

Self-Regulation – Are we able to control or redirect disruptive impulses, feelings, emotions and moods? How well are we able to suspend judgement and think before acting? In a work environment, Self-Regulation also includes staying focused and thinking clearly even when experiencing powerful emotions.

Self-Motivation – Do we have a passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status? Do we possess an inner vision of what is important in life, a joy in doing something, curiosity in learning, a flow that comes with being immersed in an activity?  Are we able to continue to take initiative and to persevere in the face of challenges, obstacles and setbacks?

Empathy –  Are we able to sense, understand and respond to what other people are feeling?  Do we treat other people according to their emotional state and reactions? At work this will include responding to people in different ways depending on if they are stressed, excited, anxious, expectant etc. 

Social Skills – How well are we able to manage relationships, build networks, find common ground and build rapport? And do we manage, influence and inspire emotions in others? In a work situation ask yourself how effectively are you engaging and connecting with your team members, direct reports and peers?

So if you are looking to climb the ladder of success in any organization, and you have been arming yourself, with degree after degree, maybe it’s time to look into your Emotional Intelligence closet. Do you overreact to situations? Are you aware of your emotions? To finish on my introduction to Emotional Intelligence, let me share a story . “In London in 2007, during a tube strike, a journalist named Gareth Edwards is standing with other commuters in a long, snaking line for a bus, when a smartly dressed businessman blatantly cuts into the queue line behind him. (Behind him: this detail matters.)  The interloper proves immune to polite remonstration, whereupon Edwards is seized by a magnificent idea.

“He turns to the elderly woman standing behind the queue-jumper, and asks her if she’d like to go ahead of him. She accepts, so he asks the person behind her, and the next person, and the next – until 60 or 70 people have moved ahead, Edwards and the seething queue-jumper shuffling further backwards all the time. The bus finally pulls up, and Edwards hears a shout from the front of the line. It’s the elderly woman, addressing him: ‘Young man! Do you want to go in front of me?’ ” (Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian Weekend, 28 August 2010)

That is what Emotional Intelligence looks like. Not letting situations get the better of you, and instead using the situation to make you better.


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