The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in your Work and Personal Life
Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is essential for personal and professional success. There is plenty of research and evidence readily available to support that. My guess is you have read articles, books, and blogs, and possibly attended an EQ training course. So why do we as leaders focus on our intellectual quotient or IQ (What we know)?
I grew up hearing the value of hard work, education, commitment, and independence. My dad would say things like “you can’t take away the value of an education”, “work hard and do what you say you will do”, and “figure out what you want to do and don’t make career changes after (a certain age)”. My parents encouraged me to read, learn, explore, and work hard. I learned that being really good at something meant “doing” it better than others. In high school, I tried to excel at band, track, cheerleading, and grades. I learned how to be competitive, smart, driven, and tenacious. What I didn’t learn so well when I was young was understanding my emotions, or the impact I had on others. I look back and see lost opportunities because of my focus on IQ over EQ.
Some career perspective
I also look back on my career. In my earlier career, the important thing to me was perfection in my work product. I remember times when I didn’t share ideas with my boss because the PowerPoint wasn’t perfect yet. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. It’s another blog, but I remember the week I lost my perfectionism. I woke up to what was more important…people. The “how” and “why” became more important than the “what”.
Do you know the formula Q x A = E? It stands for Quality x Acceptance = Excellence. I love it because it illustrates effective change. You can have the perfect solution or product but without people knowing about it and accepting it, it becomes exponentially less effective! I used to focus on the “Q” and creating the perfect solution, innovative and intelligent. I lacked time on the “A” sharing the vision, getting buy-in, bringing people along, etc. Well, guess what? 100*0=0. That’s an exaggeration but you get the point!
A personal story
I love mountains. Literally and figuratively.
In 2021, my teenage daughter and I planned to climb our second mountain. We successfully made it to the top of the highest mountain in Colorado together in 2020 and were looking forward to another one. We were training to also climb our first glacier in Fall 2021. The morning of the ascent we made it about an hour up the trail (it was about 7 hours to get to the top) when she began to slow down. We stopped and talked about how she was feeling. She didn’t feel right. Here’s where EQ stepped in. Rather than push her to go on, we decided to turn back. It was disappointing but the right thing to do. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it took EQ. Physically she was prepared, but emotionally she had been through a challenging year. I could envision the old me encouraging her to go on, reminding her she could do it, and encouraging grit and perseverance. I reflected on what she was going through in her life, and how mentally demanding climbing a mountain is. The make-or-break moments often come down to non-physical things like mindset. I supported her and acknowledged her needs. We turned back. The mountain will be there later.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
- EQ is how you handle yourself, get along with people, work in teams, leadership
- 5 key elements of EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill
- It’s another way of being smart
- EQ is not new…it’s classic management theory: how we manage ourselves and relate to those around us. What is new is the data and it’s grounded in neuroscience
- It’s not about “letting it all hang out”. It means managing feelings so they are expressed appropriately and effectively
- Someone may be highly empathetic but lack some abilities to handle their own distress; others may be aware of the subtlest shift in their own moods, yet be inept socially
6 Emotional Intelligence Tips for your Work and Personal Life
- Expand your emotional vocabulary so you can describe how you are feeling.
- Decide what to do with your emotion. Honor yourself by confronting situations appropriately.
- Look for the lesson in challenging situations.
- Create space before responding so you can respond without reacting.
- Where are you spending your time at work or when leading change? Think about Q*A=E.
- Remember, all the knowledge in your head matters little if no one knows or cares!
There’s a lot more territory to explore on EQ, but those are some of my learnings from my personal and professional journey with EQ!
Want More? Resources:
The Power of Vulnerability – Brené Brown
Resilience in Turbulent Times – Dr. Roz Tsai
You can also find many podcasts, blogs, and articles on managing up with varying perspectives and personal stories of success and failure to learn from.