Emotional Intelligence For Greater Success

December 30, 2023

By Charles A. Breeding

Recall the opening scene in the blockbuster movie, Forrest Gump – a feather floating in the wind, up and down and all around with no control or sense of direction whatsoever. I would argue that many business people feel that awful feeling of being powerless, being blown around by the latest change of which they have no power, influence or sense of control. Helpless. It is not a good feeling.

Later in the movie, as Forrest’s son is about to leave for his first day of school, he asks his father a thought-provoking question: “Is life like a feather (I’m powerless over many events which affect me) or do I have destiny (I can set goals, and purposefully move toward them)?” Forrest’s answer: “ I guess it’s just a little bit of both, son.” Isn’t it?

Stuff Happens, says the cleaned-up version of the famous bumper sticker. Yet, 10% of success is what happens to you -90% of success is what you DO with what happens to you. In other words, do you respond or react? Do you quit, or get up and try again? Are you a golf club thrower, or do you recoup quickly? Do you let your feelings of resentment or anger get the best of you, or are you as cool as a cucumber in a crisis? Do you say things that you later regret? Or, when attacked, respond with calmly spoken, kind words, and perhaps make the other person regret their attack?

IQ or EQ?
Emotional Intelligence, sometimes abbreviated EI or EQ, in a takeoff of IQ, has become a hot management leadership consulting area in the last two years. Emotional skills have replaced experience and IQ or intelligence as the most important markers of personal success. EI is rooted in the belief that success is only partly explained by IQ, or one’s intellect. More important is how one behaves in response to events, and how well they interact with people.

Credit for popularizing EI concepts generally goes to Daniel Goleman, chief executive of Emotional Intelligence Services in Massachusetts and a former Harvard educator. Goleman reached the best seller list in 1995 with “Emotional Intelligence.”
The foundation of EI, says Goleman, is that “we are being judged by a different yardstick – not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.”

And I would argue that the tests are how well we handle ourselves in a crisis, in conflict, in disagreement, and in dealing with problems. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Kinder and Gentler
Goleman describes the results of a U.S. Navy study of its best commanding officers: “…the greatest difference between average and superior leaders was in their emotional style. The more effective leaders were more positive and outgoing, more emotionally expressive and dramatic, warmer and more sociable (including smiling more), friendlier and more democratic, more cooperative, more likable and ‘fun to be with,’ more appreciative and trustful, and even gentler than those who were merely average.” I guess that Dale Carnegie had much of it right over sixty years ago.

Improving EI is all about improving our relationships with others. Unlike IQ, however, emotional intelligence is a learned competence. Corporations, which spend small fortunes identifying, nurturing, and training their future leaders, have begun to zero in on emotional intelligence as a key component of management success.

So what else comprises EI? Goleman’s research shows that emotional intelligence — which includes such things as self-awareness, motivation, empathy/sensitivity, listening, self-regulation, accepting responsibility and accountability, and adeptness in relationships — may be up to 25 times as potent as IQ in determining workplace success.

An Example
John is a rising executive, who at 42 years old, has punched his ticket all the way to Executive Vice President at a utility. He’s extremely bright having graduated from one of the best graduate schools for MBA’s, and is a well above-average presenter and public speaker.

Recently, he was provided data about how his peers, subordinates and colleagues viewed him from an assessment instrument called “360 Feedback.” The results: John is seen as not a good listener; he takes delegated or empowered authority back in meetings when things aren’t going his way; he is seen as somewhat unapproachable because of his quick temper and growing reputation for shooting messengers; he is viewed as having problems giving feedback other than criticism of which he excels.

John’s first reaction to the feedback data is disbelief, followed by the same stages as facing pending, imminent death: denial, blaming, anger, and more. Yet, as the expert coaching intervention proceeds over time, he comes to give some credit of how he is perceived by others. “Perception IS reality,” he grudgingly admits.

Because of John’s eventual acceptance of this information, he has won 25% of the battle: awareness. He also has the desire to improve, the next 25% of the eventual victory. Many business leaders aren’t even aware of the impact that their style has on the respect, trust, commitment-level and motivation of their direct reports.

What to Do
One of the most critically important ways to begin to strengthen your emotional intelligence is to learn to accept full and complete responsibility — offering no excuses. This trait is not age-dependent or experience-driven, unfortunately. No passing the buck. Full accountability regardless of “extenuating circumstances.” Perhaps this is one reason that managers command the salaries that they do – they are responsible for what their team does, or fails to do, period.

Make a New Year resolution TODAY to work on your emotional intelligence. Leadership development, executive coaching, and even some classroom training (beyond the one-day seminar wonder) can and will have an effect on the critical interpersonal skills so important to emotional intelligence. If you are in the “fast-track” and want to stay there, success requires a solid emotional intelligence that often requires coaching to fully realize and achieve.

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One Response to “Emotional Intelligence For Greater Success”

  1. jen_chan, writer surefirewealth.com on December 30th, 2007 5:42 am

    Learning to accept full and complete responsibility may not seem as easy as it sounds, though. Especially for those who are naturally irresponsible. It would be helpful if we get an idea as to how we can accept full and complete responsibility. Still, I think your post was great.

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