By Prabath P
Intelligence alone may not be your ticket to success. It’s time to give your emotions a break
Emotional Intelligence became a catch phrase after the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book with the same title in 1995. But Gary Cherniss of Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology points out that, contrary to general belief, it was not Goleman who first introduced the idea. Though psychologists have largely focused on non-cognitive aspects such as memory and problem-solving when studying intelligence, researcher David Wechsler referred to ‘non-intellective’ elements as early as 1940. Peter Salovey and John Mayer, both eminent psychologists, coined the term ‘emotional intelligence’ in 1990. Goleman, a psychologist and science writer with the New York Times, followed up their work with his epoch-making book. Now EI (also EQ—Emotional Quotient) has acquired a scientific foundation and increasing importance in the emerging work culture.
Salovey and Mayer described EI as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”.
They found that when a group of people saw an upsetting film, those who scored high on emotional clarity (the ability to identify and name a mood that is being experienced) recovered faster. In another study, individuals who scored higher in the ability to perceive accurately, understand and appraise others’ emotions, were better able to respond flexibly to changes in their social environments and build supportive social networks.
These studies have led to the belief that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) may not be a good indicator of job performance or success. Studies show that IQ accounts for only four per cent of variance regarding work performance. Most studies also prove that social and emotional abilities are four times more important than IQ in determining professional success. Martin Seligman, who conducts research on positive psychology, has developed the concept of ‘learned optimism’. It refers to the causal attributions people make when faced with setbacks. Optimists tend to make specific, temporary, external causal attributions while pessimists make global, permanent and internal attributions.
Seligman’s research showed that salesmen who were optimists sold 37 per cent more insurance in their first two years than pessimists. The ability to manage feelings and handle stress is another aspect of EI that ensures success. It has a lot to do with knowing when and how to express emotions and controlling them. Empathy is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. People who are good at identifying others’ emotions and persuading others to respond in a desirable manner are more successful in their work and social lives.
Amit and Rohan, both software programmers, were explaining to a researcher how they design programmers to meet their clients’ needs. “They needed all the data in a simple format that could fit on one page,” says Amit who followed through to deliver just that. Rohan fails to see the customer’s needs and indulges in technical talk like “the machine’s Basic compiler was too slow, so I went directly to a machine language routine”. The clients reported that they wanted people who could listen well and understand what they wanted and what their concerns were. Rohan was assessed mediocre since he tunes out his customers. Amit, who displays high EI, was identified as outstanding and people-friendly at work.
People who can identify others’ emotions and respond accordingly, tend to be more successful
Goleman, Mayer and Salovey, however, argue that EI in itself is not a good predictor of job performance. Instead, it acts as the bedrock for competencies that predict success at work. Goleman emphasizes the distinction between EI and emotional competence. A certain level of EI is necessary to understand emotional competencies. For example, people who are better at self-regulation of emotions and have the ability to read others’ emotions accurately can develop the capability of influence and initiative easily. Both EI and emotional competencies are needed for the basic flair for living, which enables one to rein in emotional impulses, sense another’s feelings and handle personal and professional relationships. At the heart of this is self-awareness, defined by Mayer as being, “aware of both our mood and our thoughts about that mood”. It is from self-awareness that empathy flows. This also intensifies the ability to take quick decisions based on intuition even when enough data is not available.
Optimism and strong emotional ties, both characteristics of emotionally competent people, also offer considerable medical benefits that increase productivity. Studies indicate that socially isolated people, who lack intimate relationships with a spouse or friends with whom they can express their feelings, are prone to sickness and increased risk of mortality. Isolation appears to be harder on men than women.
According to Goleman, emotional competence is necessary, more so because of the advent of knowledge workers who must fit as a team and interact collaboratively. This means that the way workers maintain and ‘work’ a network of people and create a ‘group intelligence’ decides their professional success. The characteristics that induce ‘group flow’ include a sense of challenge, intense group loyalty, multifarious talents, collaboration, focus and a passion for work that is intrinsically fun and rewarding. Goleman concludes that superior leaders at work manage to balance a people-oriented personal style with a decisive command role.
Several tests have been developed to measure EI, including Bar On Emotional Quotient Inventory, Emotional Competence Inventory 360, Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-EI Test and Work Profile Questionnaire—EI version (WPQei). WPQei measures the personal qualities and competencies that employees need to develop to manage emotions at work, based on the seven basic components of innovation, self-awareness, intuition, emotions, motivation, empathy as well as social skills.
Companies are focusing on the human resources strategy of hiring for attitude, training for competence, coaching to evolve and managing to retain
EI is most effective when we find work that is in tune with our values. In fact, the term EI encloses a series of skills that one learns intuitively. The star performers of all fields have developed these skills and use them unconsciously. Latest research has now gone beyond Goleman’s views and is currently drawing on fields such as neurolinguistics to enhance EI. Companies such as British Telecom and Volkswagen are now turning to neurolinguistic methods such as ‘7 Steps to Emotional Intelligence’ developed by Patrick E. Merlevede.
In the new work culture, companies that want to create value are focusing on the human resources strategy of hiring for attitude, training for competence, coaching to evolve and managing to retain.
Egon Zehnder, Head of Egon Zehnder International, a global executive search firm, puts it bluntly, describing what constitutes the heart of performance in the 21st century: “I don’t want stars—I want everyone to help everyone else be a star… I want to have fun doing my work… I want people I like in my heart—people I can still like when I am exhausted at three in the morning.”
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