Over the nearly three decades of emotional intelligence (EQ) research, we’ve learned that EQ drives healthy, engaged cultures. In this respect EQ and engagement go hand in hand. People who feel safe, respected and supported at work, also tend to be more committed and more invested in the success of their organizations. Reflecting this point, recent findings from Gallup’s employee engagement studies, indicate that the old “command and control” model of organizational culture actively demotivates employees, dampens moral and stifles engagement to the tune of approx. $450 to $550 billion per year in the U.S. alone. Numbers like these bring the value of emotional intelligence into very specific focus.
Engagement is the lifeblood of the world’s most innovative, growth-focussed companies. Of course you can run an organization without it. Clearly, many do. But you cannot generate enthusiasm, you cannot force passion, and you will not engage your people. Yet even with the almost 30 years of research detailing both the personal and professional power of emotional intelligence, we still rarely find organizations actively pursuing it at a systems level. It’s difficult to understand. I think there are 3 main reasons.
Firstly, EQ is still seen by most as a “nice to have” soft skill, while raw intelligence (IQ) and technical ability are framed as the main threshold competencies that underpin organizational success. The result is that cultural pathogens like turnover, disengagement, mismanagement and micro-management, all continue to be seen as unavoidable parts of organizational life that need to be managed rather than minimized or eliminated. These are critical workplace stressors that could be addressed at a systems level by embedding EQ into recruitment, hiring, promotions and team composition, but too few see it that way.
Secondly, those who recognize the value of emotional intelligence tend to stop implementing at the leadership level. Traditionally, survey tools had been too expensive to make universally available, and too complex to understand without “qualified” support and coaching. This resulted in HR and OD departments tending to eschew any serious attempt at implementing EQ at an organizational level. This is an important point. If its vital for leaders, we should also recognize its importance for team dynamics and culture on the whole. There’s your choice. Who wouldn’t opt to have emotionally intelligent leaders managing an emotionally intelligent workforce?
And finally, in spite of its 30 years on the scene, EQ is still relatively unknown and untried in the corporate world. Psychometric testing and personality based self-surveys remain the most widely and actively employed tools for organizational assessments and professional growth. It’s that simple. When the very notion of growing your company culture can be daunting to say the least, why would you try something new? The answer: Because EQ and Personality are not the same thing and they shouldn’t be approached as such. Psychometric tests tend to measure behavioural styles (what you are), whereas EQ tests tend to measure behaviour (what you do) — and the best EQ assessment take a 360 approach to really highlight the gaps between one’s intent and impact. Rather than being predictive, 360 EQ measures tend to “tell it like it is.”
On the whole, I think the entire world owes Daniel Goleman a deep and heartfelt thank you for popularizing EQ back in 1995 with the publication of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Today, EQ may still be the new kid in school that eats lunch alone in the cafeteria, but give it a few more years. The early adopters are piling up, as is the evidence. So whether it’s as the captain of the football team, the spirit squad or as the school valedictorian, one thing is for certain, this kid won’t be sitting alone for long.