“Emotional Intelligence: The ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgements and to avoid or solve problems.”
The Cambridge Dictionary
What is Emotional Intelligence?
The concept of emotional intelligence (EI) started gaining ground in 1995 with a book called Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman. During the past 24 years, various studies and business journals have linked higher EI with higher levels of professional success. Check out this excerpt from an article released by the Harvard Extension School for Professional Development, “Emotional Intelligence is No Soft Skill:”
“Research has also demonstrated that emotional intelligence has a strong impact on organizational performance. Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, focused on the emotional intelligence skills of its sales force, which boosted annual performance by 12 percent (see the research by S. Jennings and B.R. Palmer in ‘Sales Performance Through Emotional Intelligence Development,’ Organizations and People, 2007). After Motorola provided EI training for staff in a manufacturing plant, the productivity of more than 90 percent of those trained went up (Bruce Cryer, Rollin McCraty, and Doc Childre: ‘Pull the Plug on Stress,’ Harvard Business Review, July 2003).
Emotional intelligence increases corporate performance for a number of reasons. But perhaps the most important is the ability of managers and leaders to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.”
Though not the easiest concept to define, emotional intelligence is one of those attributes you recognize quickly when you’re with someone who has it. These people make you feel understood so you want to be around them. In the professional world, this translates into wanting to work with them.
Recognizing Emotional Intelligence
So, what are some characteristics of those with high EI? This article from Ohio University outlines a few, including:
- Self-Awareness. They know where they’re strong, where they’re weak, and they can sense the impression that they’re leaving on the people around them. By having a firm grasp of who they are, they can remain self-assured even in difficult circumstances, so others often look to them as rational and reliable.
- Self-Regulation. They’re in control of their commitments, their priorities and their temper. If you’ve met someone who consistently overpromises then under-delivers and/or flies off the handle at the slightest provocation, then that person likely needs to work on their EI.
- Empathy. This is a cornerstone of EI because those with empathy have the ability to not only understand their own emotions, but to understand the emotions of others. It’s the proverbial ability to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and can make all the difference when dealing with clients, coworkers and relationships outside the office.
Emotional Intelligence in the Real World
Here are three examples of EI in action that I’ve witnessed recently, and because of the sensitivity displayed by the people leading the charge, they left a noticeable impression on everyone involved.
- “This sucks.” One of our clients was going through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process that required a committee of their marketing and procurement folks to hunker down and review multiple responses. And anyone who has been involved in an RFP knows they can be among the most draining experiences in the corporate world, so the person heading up our group decided to develop “care kits” for each person on the committee. “I know RFPs suck,” she said. “So I wanted to make this one suck a little less by giving the reviewers everything they might need to survive 12 hours in a boardroom evaluating responses.”
- “I know things are crazy for you right now.” In the midst of an acquisition, one of our clients was committed to honoring our scheduled review meeting. However, the Proforma office servicing the account – which happens to be led by an Owner with high EI – noticed that their contact seemed overwhelmed. She clearly had a lot on her plate and we weren’t convinced that print and promotional initiatives were her top priority. So the Owner sent her a note suggesting we push the meeting back to a time that worked better for the client. She also drafted a rough agenda and outline for the meeting, which the client ultimately used to organize her thoughts. The end result was a thorough, well-thought out meeting that wasn’t rushed or disorganized. Most importantly, the client said she was “grateful that we took into consideration the situation that she was in due to the acquisition.”
- “What is going on?” Sales were down for one of our national account programs, and our formerly reliable client suddenly started lagging on communication. While that’s never a good thing, the Proforma Owner who managed the account sensed something must be
really wrong and was concerned, so he reached out and asked how he could help. It turned out that company leadership had asked all department heads to cut down on discretionary spending, but it was only temporary. In this case, the Owner’s concern for his contact served to cement the relationship.
Enhance Your Emotional Intelligence
The good news about EI is that it’s a skill set you can develop and improve during the course of your life. In this post, we covered what it is and a few real-life examples in action. Stay tuned for next time when we’ll review some strategies for incorporating EI into the way we operate.