Grow your EQ to grow your career

Jan 08, 2018
These days, employers are looking more towards EQ than IQ when hiring. In this series, Paul Price, Executive Coach at Dynamic Connections, outlines the who, what, why and how of emotional intelligence. 
Sometimes we let ourselves down without ever being aware of it. Other times we over-think our behaviours, persecuting ourselves unnecessarily, while our colleagues appear to be unfazed. Why? Because of emotions. Everything we do, or decide not to do, is in some way affected by our emotions and the desires fuelled by them. Our emotions and desires are not always rational, and so, for many of us, other people’s emotions are hard to read.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a set of emotional competences consisting of self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy and interpersonal skills. The past two decades have seen EI become increasingly important as a determinant of career progress and success. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence popularised the idea of EI and since then, it has become part of standard human resource management nomenclature. Most best-practice employers have incorporated some form of EI assessment into their hiring practices and, many more, recognizing that EI can only be truly assessed in vivo. There is a drive towards replacing standard ability testing and interviews with ‘assessment centres’, which often include presentations, team work exercises and social events, so that the full breadth of candidates’ social skills can be assessed. 

The good news is that, unlike IQ which remains relatively static throughout adult life, EQ can be improved though awareness-building and practicing new behaviours. The younger you are, the more amenable you are to change. So, if there is work to be done, better to start early.

Emotional quotient

The best place to start when trying to improve your emotional quotient (EQ) is to know where you currently stand. Here are a few simple questions to get the ball rolling:
  • Can I listen to others without springing to judgement? 
  • How easily do I take criticism?
  • When working under pressure, do I stay positive? 
  • Can I handle setbacks, stress, anxiety, anger, fear? 
  • Do I react or proact? 
  • Can I tactfully air grievances? 
  • Can I admit to my mistakes?
  • Can I see things from another’s perspective?
There are only three scientifically-validated EI assessment tools, all of which are licensed and expensive. The better tools use 360-feedback to reduce the inherent bias of self-assessment. There are many EQ tests freely available online. For example, visit the Global Leadership Foundation. When answering the questions, be as earnest as possible.

What, when, why and how

Over the course of the next five issues, I will share my perspective on the five constituent elements of EI, and will put them into a useful context. 

First up for exploration will be the issue of self-awareness, which is essentially the bedrock on which the management of our social selves depends.

While we can never fully know ourselves, and most certainly can never ‘dominate’ our emotions, we should not be at the mercy of them either. Our social success depends on the level of our awareness and the self-regulation that derives from that awareness. This applies equally to personal relationships and to work, which is inherently a social activity.

Under this caption, the use of mindfulness will be covered. An observational exercise will be offered that is designed to help you develop a ‘binocular perspective’, i.e. the ability to view any context not only through the outer senses but also through feelings and inner associations. The issue of personal strengths and weaknesses will also be considered.

Next, we will look at the issue of self-regulation. Maintaining our emotional well-being is paramount. By now you will be well into the busy quarter at work, so, some tested routines for handling stress might be worth considering. The emotional trap of procrastination will be addressed, as will exam panic. That variety of emotional hijacking will be given some timely attention as will podium panic, something many of us experience while giving presentations or when speaking in public.

Third, motivation will be discussed. Motivation is the confluence of feelings and cognition, and is the seat of our every action and of our ability to influence ourselves and others. Without the right attitude, we cannot begin to change our dysfunctional behaviours. Here, some well-validated positive psychology techniques for mood-management will be introduced. Also, an exercise will be offered to help you to better identify your core values and to consider life-balance when planning your career.

The final two articles will deal with the social aspects of EI, including empathy and interpersonal skills.

EI is best assessed, learned and developed experientially in a dynamic group setting through action-learning. While this cannot be achieved through these articles, I do hope that by adding a mix of anecdotal experience and practical exercises, I can help you on your own earnest journey towards a fuller self-awareness.