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Shyamal Majumdar: Are you emotionally intelligent?

Make no mistake, EQ is central to success in leadership and not just a touchy-feely trend

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The All India Council for Technical Education has made a good beginning by deciding to test the (EQ) of aspiring management graduates in the that it conducts every year for 3,700 management institutions (excluding the IIMs) in the country. For, every single reputed (Master of Business Administration) institute all over the world has been testing EQ of candidates for ages.

To understand what testing EQ is about, take a look at some sample questions (taken from one of the past test papers for management trainees in a multinational company):

“Please be honest to yourself and mark in the appropriate box whether the following descriptions about you are true or false: 1) I am not satisfied with my work unless someone praises it; 2) I avoid fights, expressing my opinion, or doing what I want for fear that I will upset others or lose their love/friendship; 3) When I need to do something difficult or unpleasant, I find it hard to motivate myself to get started”.

There are no right or wrong answers; you just have to tick mark whether they are true or false.

It’s easy to dismiss such tests as a gimmick and treat EQ as a touchy-feely trend that doesn’t tell you anything worthwhile. But that would be wrong because (EI) is the structure that supports effective responses to events, people, and change as you go up the professional ladder. The EQ score gives an idea about whether you already have it in you to be in a future leadership role or can be trained to have it. A Time magazine article put it more effectively: IQ (intelligence quotient) gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted.

This could well be true, as many companies are finding out. For example, research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology showed that 85 per cent of your financial success is due to skills in human engineering, your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. And, just 15 per cent is due to technical knowledge. HR consultancy also says EI has a significant impact on performance in many different situations. For example, software developers with high EI levels can develop effective software three times faster than others; sales consultants with high EI generate twice the revenue of colleagues; hiring sales staff with high EI rates halved the first-year dropout rate for a national furniture retailer; experienced partners in a multinational consulting firm who were assessed on their EI levels delivered 139 per cent more profit from their accounts than other partners; and oil refinery managers who participated in the Hay Group EI development programme over two years showed a 20 per cent increase in performance compared to colleagues.

And, Daniel Goleman, who popularised EQ through his book, Emotional Intelligence, has said people with highly developed EQ are usually self-smart — they are able to make sense of what they do and why they do. Goleman also claimed that 20 per cent of success in life is down to IQ and 80 per cent to EQ.

Though many critics have argued that these precise claims have little or no scientific evidence to back them up, no one can argue against the basic premise that EI is central to success in leadership. For example, research has shown two people with the same IQ have had varying results in their career path in almost the same environment. While one became highly successful, the other fell by the wayside unable to cope with the challenges in the senior executive suite.

The good part is unlike one’s level of IQ, which changes very little from childhood, EQ includes skills that can be learnt. That’s precisely why more and more companies are adding emotional competency to their performance benchmarks.

But make no mistake. Harvard Business Review says a team with members does not necessarily make for an emotionally intelligent group. A team, like any social group, takes on its own character. So, creating an upward, self-reinforcing spiral of trust, group identity, and group efficacy requires more than a few members who exhibit emotionally intelligent behaviour. It requires a team atmosphere in which the norms build emotional capacity (the ability to respond constructively in emotionally uncomfortable situations) and influence emotions in constructive ways.

The most important part, experts say, is to have EQ embedded in the DNA of the organisation. For example, you are transferring a person after giving him promotion. While a low EQ-company won’t bother about it as it considers the promotion as a high reward in itself, a high-EQ company will also take into consideration the impact that the transfer would have on the employee’s private life. It doesn’t mean the employee would not be transferred with promotion, but the organisation will make sure he either gets enough opportunity to visit his family or facilitate the shifting of his family.

These are little things, but can have a telling effect on your employer brand value.

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