What is Emotional Intelligence and why is it important?

emotional intelligence is key to leading a successful team

Emotional Intelligence (or EQ as it is commonly known) has risen to prominence in recent years as an influential factor in determining the success of managers and leaders in the workplace. The idea that success can be solely predicted by one’s intelligence quotient (IQ) has waned as EQ has surfaced into prominence and permeated into HR departments worldwide. If you’ve been for a job interview in the last 5-10 years, you may not be surprised. But why is it important and how can you increase your EQ?

When I was job searching I had to complete an inordinate amount of self-assessment questionnaires. The NEO-PI-R to measure the ‘Big Five Personality Traits’, Myer-Briggs Type Indicator, The 16PF and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Rorshach Inkblot Test in there somewhere as well! The one that stuck out most was the DISC profile questionnaire as it was used by a number of different recruitment agencies to assess my leadership and management potential in the workplace. Was I dominant, influential, steady or conscientious? Who knows! But, it does illustrate that there is an increasing reliance on these types of tests to determine someone’s EQ and suitability for employment and fit into a company’s team.

But what is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is comprised of a number of different factors.

  • Self awareness: the ability to understand your own emotions, strengths and weaknesses and how they change in various situations.
  • Self management: being able to manage, adapt and control your emotions to remain flexible to changes.
  • Social awareness: understanding the moods, emotions and feelings of those around you.
  • Relationship management: being able to manage your interactions with those around you successfully, utilising empathy and social skills.

The combination of all these traits, give rise to how you interact and deal with those around you and also how you understand your own emotions, the varying moods and the consequences of them on others.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Why does it matter?

EQ isn’t a new theory or phenomenon. There have been numerous studies showing the importance of EQ in the workplace and society in general. Studies have shown that:

  • Those with higher EQ are more satisfied in their jobs. ((Ealias, A, George, J, Emotional Intelligence and Job Satisfaction: A Correlational Study Research Journal of Commerce and Behavioral Science, February, Vol. 1, No. 4))
  • In many different fields, EQ has been found to be highly related to a person’s mental health, relationship satisfaction and work performance. The results also indicate that you can train yourself to increase your EQ with the potential to lead to positive outcomes. ((John M. Malouffa, Nicola S. Schuttea & Einar B. Thorsteinssona, ‘Trait Emotional Intelligence and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis’, The American Journal of Family Therapy Volume 42, Issue 1, 2014, pages 53-66 ))
  • An Australia wide study of police showed that EQ leads to job satisfaction, positive relationships, employee engagement and organisational commitment and therefore lower turnover rates. ((Nicola S. Schutte, John M. Malouff and Einar B. Thorsteinsson, ‘Increasing Emotional Intelligence through Training: Current Status and Future Directions’, The International Journal of Emotional Education, Volume 5, Number 1, April 2013 pp 56-72 ))
  • And finally, those with higher EQ reported higher romantic relationship satisfaction. ((Yvonne Brunetto, Stephen T.T. Teo, Kate Shacklock and Rod Farr-Wharton, ‘Emotional intelligence, job satisfaction, well-being and engagement: explaining organisational commitment and turnover intentions in policing’, Human Resource Management Journal Volume 22, Issue 4, November 2012, pages 428–441))

Can you improve your Emotional Intelligence?

Absolutely! There have been a number of studies which have shown that you can. One particular study found that those that participated in a 15 hour training course aimed at targeting the core emotional intelligence competencies reported:

  • Increased EI scores along with lower stress hormones.
  • Better subjective and physical well-being.
  • Improved quality of social and marital relationships than those that did not participate in the training. ((Kotsou, Ilios; Nelis, Delphine; Grégoire, Jacques; Mikolajczak, Moïra, ‘Emotional plasticity: Conditions and effects of improving emotional competence in adulthood’, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 96(4), Jul 2011, 827-839))

So it is definitely possible to increase your EQ and there are a number of exercises, books and training courses out there which can help you in achieving this. Unlike IQ which has been shown to stay relatively steady throughout your life, EQ is like a trainable muscle. The more time you spend training and being conscious of the relationships and interactions you encounter daily, the more you can look to improve yourself and the positive outcomes associated with it.

Impact in the workplace

So as you can see from the number of studies conducted on EQ, it is a crucial element in today’s work environments. Not only for individual employees but also for those in managerial and leadership positions who are responsible for the welfare and well-being within these companies. How can you be expected to productively lead your team to success, time and time again if you can’t understand what drives and motivates them? Or how do you solve issues between members of your team so that everyone is happy? Those managers and leaders with higher EQ’s will be able to relate to their employees and customers easier and with more success than those that wouldn’t know what EQ is!

How to improve your Emotional Intelligence

Released in March 2015, the national regulator for vocational education and training introduced their new qualification, the Diploma of Leadership and Management. One of the bigger inclusions in this new qualification, which now supersedes the Diploma of Management, is an entire unit on how to develop and use emotional intelligence. This new unit delves into the intricacies of EQ and how you can improve yours and apply it in your work. For the modern manager, it is now an essential skill required! Talk to one of our learning consultants today to learn more.