28 June 2017

Are you smart enough to bring a horse to water and drink it?

Can you solve any problem quicker than a starving baby guzzling on a bottle of milk?

Are you clever enough to talk your boss into that much sought after pay raise?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then it could be that you possess a high IQ that will serve you well in life and propel you into a world of both opportunity and success. You’re probably miles ahead of the average Mr Joe and Mrs Jolene who both sit next to you in the office punching in and out like a tired second hand yo-yo. You likely consider yourself a go-getter and rely on your smarts to get you ahead in the game. After all, IQ trumps all when it comes to success, right? Or does it? Have you ever heard of a little thing called EQ?

There’s a new player on the pitch – emotional intelligence or EQ for short. EQ is IQ’s long-neglected sibling that is finally coming out of the shadows as a key factor when it comes to intelligence. IQ is no longer considered enough to get you to the top in life’s journey; EQ is now being recognised as the real differentiator when it comes to success. In fact studies show that 90% of top performers possess high degrees of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence basics

So, what exactly is EQ? In a nutshell, EQ is having the intelligence to recognise and understand both your own emotions and those of others around you. EQ is a term created by two researchers – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer – and popularised by Dan Goleman in 1996.

Possessing a high EQ basically means:

  • being aware that emotions can drive our behaviour and impact people (positively and negatively)
  • learning how to manage emotions – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure

Depending on your current level of EQ, that may seem like an easy thing to do or it may seem like a mountain to climb but let me tell you that whoever you are, it’s no easy feat mastering the EQ game.

Understanding EQ 

Your IQ is your IQ – of course you can enhance it and massage it but essentially you are or you aren’t smart. It’s inside of you whether or not you recognise it and choose to do something with it.

EQ on the other hand is a lifetime challenge because it doesn’t only involve dealing with your own emotions but understanding and adapting to the emotions of others. You have to constantly be aware of how you come across in different scenarios and understand who your audience is in order to elicit the best response from them. Reading other people’s emotions and being socially aware enough to tailor your communications accordingly is a huge thing to do and a skill like no other.

Another way to look at EQ is as relationship management.  If you can master how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict, then your personal and professional relationships will flourish.

The first step to improving EQ is being conscious of your own emotions, so that you can identify them and pinpoint their root cause. Once you’re cognizant of how you arrived at a specific emotion, you can work your way to the required emotional state and take your stakeholders along with you. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships.

My journey to higher EQ

I will openly admit that I have worked on EQ for years and I still do to this day. It’s essential to anyone in leadership and keeping EQ top of mind helps me be a better leader. At the start of my career, I would get really riled up when things didn’t go my way. I’m a naturally competitive and success-hungry person, and I have always been opinionated and principled. I’ve never suffered fools gladly and I used to let my impatience and quest for perfection get the best of me, resulting in some emotional episodes.

Looking back at those incidents I was not keeping my emotions in check because I didn’t have the self-awareness to recognise how I was feeling or where those emotions were coming from. I wasn’t stopping to think about how I could transform those emotions into a positive outcome for all. Nor was I giving a second thought to how those around me were feeling or where they were coming from, so my ability to manage my relationships suffered somewhat.

Fast-forward a few decades and I can genuinely say that I score highly when it comes to my EQ. As GM of Marketing at one of the fastest growing companies in Australia, I lead a team of diverse marketers and juggle relationships with both internal and external stakeholders on a daily basis. I constantly check myself in meetings and ensure I manage myself in accordance with my audience so that the emotional communication is as best as it can be. Being able to connect the emotional dots and have insight into my changing emotional experience is the key to understanding how my emotions influence my thoughts and actions, and affect people around me.

I certainly am a better person, daughter, wife, mother, staff member and leader for recognising EQ as a beast to master. Don’t get me wrong, it truly is a lifelong pursuit and I still have to bite my tongue sometimes but that’s ok – it’s ok to feel a certain way – don’t deny your emotions. The key is to acknowledge, digest and then consciously decide how to massage and mould those emotions in a productive way.

Spreading the word on EQ

You can make your emotional intelligence journey a lot easier by helping those around you be more aware of their EQ. I ran an away day on EQ with my team a few months back and the conversations we had were truly eye-opening. We all went into the day committed to being honest and open and the results were amazing. It took a lot of guts, but we drilled down to the root cause of a lot of behaviours and began to understand why some people act a certain way in certain scenarios. It involved a lot of self-reflection and questioning to really get down to the bottom of it and pinpoint the causes. This gave my team a kick-start on their EQ journeys and I’ve already noticed a marked difference in the way they are processing their own emotions and communicating with others.

Your building blocks for higher EQ

In a nutshell, the key skills for building your EQ and improving your ability to manage emotions and connect with others are:

  • self-awareness
  • self-management
  • social awareness
  • relationship management

My parting words to you are think about what I have said and ask yourself a couple of questions to get you started:

1)     Do you pay any attention to your emotions?

2)     What kind of a relationship do you have with them?

If you can’t answer with a resounding ‘yes’ and ‘bloody brilliant’ to the above, then you need to start looking in the mirror and making a change.

Having a high IQ is no longer enough. EQ plays a much more important role today. Of course, if you have both that’s a gift, but at any rate, I encourage you to think about your EQ and how you can make it a priority every single day. It will serve you well in life, I promise. Do however appreciate it’s like a tennis game – it will forever be a toing and froing between you, yourself and your stakeholders who will themselves forever be changing. It’s never-ending and needs constant care and maintenance, no matter who you are.


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