emotional man listening to his inner voice Emotional intelligence (EQ) first hit the corporate scene in the mid 90s, as we entered the post industrial era, and corporates began looking for more gentile and sophisticated ways to relate to employees. EQ, as many of you know, is an indicator of a person’s ability to manage their emotions effectively within the stresses and strains of life in order to remain effective in both their behavior and decision making. It covers the following four areas:

  1. Being self aware so you understand your own emotions and their impact on your behavior
  2. Being able to manage your emotions and keep disruptive impulses under control and being able to embrace new ideas, being flexible and adaptable.
  3. Being socially aware so you can listen, persuade and work with others and nurture relationships
  4. Having relationship management skills so you can influence others, manage conflict and collaborate with others.

Even though EQ came on to the scene with a bang – the maiden article in the Harvard Business Review  became the most read article in the previous 40 years – EQ seems to be paid mere lip service in today’s hiring circles. People talk about EQ, but it’s still seen as a little intangible; it doesn’t have mainstream acceptance as a key performance differentiator. EQ is not really a fundamental part of the hiring and assessment process; in short, organizations don’t really hire and fire based on EQ, but should they?

Well, there are many studies that strongly suggest that talent management teams should be incorporating EQ into hiring, promotion and development processesand I have outlined a few of them below.

Managers and Senior Executives

A study by Spencer in 1997 of over 300 C-Suite executives from 15 multinationals revealed that six qualities differentiated stars from average performers and these qualities were: Influence, Team Leadership, Organizational Awareness, self-confidence, Achievement Drive, and Leadership.

Another study of 515 senior executives by Egon Zehdner found that those with strong EQ were more likely to succeed than those with high IQ or more relevant work experience. The study included participants from America, Germany and Japan and results were consistent throughout cultures.

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership shows that the main reasons for executive failure is due to defects in EQ, especially in the following areas: struggling to handle change, failure to work well in a team, and weak interpersonal relations.

EQ seems to also be a performance differentiator at supervisor level too. Take these two studies by (Pesuric & Byham, 1996) and (Porras & Anderson, 1981), which showed that teams in a manufacturing plant, with supervisors who received EQ training had significant increases in productivity relative to those teams whose leaders had not received EQ training.

All staff

But, in fact, EQ is a key performance differentiator in many levels and areas of work. Studies have shown that EQ is a key performance differentiator in jobs of both medium complexity (sales clerks and mechanics), and high complexity (insurance salespeople and account managers). Software developers with high EQ have been shown to be able to create effective software, three times as fast as those with low EQ.

So, in summary, there is plenty of evidence to show that EQ deserves a much higher status in the hiring and promotion process. A study by Goleman 11998) of 200 companies worldwide found that a third of the difference in employee performance is down to technical ability and IQ and two-thirds is down to EQ, which suggests that EQ should not just be one of many assessment factors in your hiring process, it should actually be the key assessment factor.

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