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Leading with Emotional Intelligence

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The concept of EQ became popularized by Daniel Goleman’s  book “Emotional Intelligence” published in 1995.  However, it has more historical roots dating back to Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  These authors have challenged our views on leadership and helped us to think differently about influencing and leading people – transcending the basic notion of what leadership truly is and what it takes to inspire followership. Yes, technical skills and intellectual abilities still matter. But most are now appreciating the notion that if you want people to work hard, deliver results and perform their best, you have to be smarter about relating to them. 

How important is EQ really?  According to research, as much as 75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to EQ, including inability to handle interpersonal problems, adapt to change, or elicit trust, as well as unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict.  Another study which examined 44 Fortune 500 companies found that salespeople with high EQ produced twice the revenue of those with average or below average scores.  So yes…it’s important; so important that many HR managers consider one’s EQ measure equal to one’s intellectual ability when making a hiring decision.  This has spawned a growing demand for tools and strategies that yield a valid and reliable assessment of one’s EQ.

There are many widely used objective tools that can accurately measure EQ, many of which are on-line based and are very useful.  However, one can also get a good assessment of a candidate’s EQ “rating” through a robust behavioral-based interview which targets some of the common domains of EQ, such as  Self Awareness, Empathy, and  Personal Influence.  For example, a hiring manager may ask a candidate “Give me an example of a time you struggled to get support for an idea you really believed in- how did you respond, why was this idea important to you?”  One can imagine how quickly  EQ can be revealed as the person describes how well they displayed patience, understanding, and flexibility in this situation.

Companies that don’t appreciate the importance of evaluating a candidate’s EQ run the risk of making regrettable hiring decisions and wasting recruitment dollars.  To avoid this, we suggest HR leaders take a close look at their talent strategy to determine to what degree EQ is understood and valued in their organization.  This may expose opportunities for EQ to play a more relevant and critical role in the organization’s talent strategy and the need to implement processes and tools to support it.

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