Beyond the Hype
EQ vs. IQ? All of the above? With EQ now at maximum hype, we drill down into what’s important, what’s real, and the EQ basics for tech employees.
It all started far earlier than most people realize. The importance of emotional intelligence in business settings began before the millennium, with a book, written in 1995, by Daniel Goleman called simply Emotional Intelligence. In it, Goleman lays out extensive research suggesting a notion that, in many ways, had been intuited, but was yet unnamed: the notion that non-cognitive skills could be as, or more, important than IQ in business. His additional research confirmed the belief, concluding that people with the highest IQs outperform those with average IQs only 20 percent of the time.
Later this notion was further outlined in what many consider a seminal book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0, whose co-author, Travis Bradberry, suggested that EQ, also known as EI, is the strongest predictor of performance. In Bradberry’s studies, 90 percent of those who are considered top performers are high in EQ and just 20 percent of bottom performers are high in EQ. It found that people with average IQ scores outperform people with higher IQ scores a majority of the time.
As humans, we are emotional at our core. That’s the essence of the thinking behind EQ. We have to be aware that as we make decisions or attempt to influence others’ thinking, those feelings are playing a factor. That said, emotional intelligence is not simply a scientific way of restating what for years had been thought of as common sense. Emotional intelligence takes both effort and empathy, understanding the behaviors of our personnel, our colleagues, and ourselves. There are skills involved that take practice. In fact, that’s the big difference between IQ and EQ — EQ can be learned with experience, training, and practice, whereas IQ cannot. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, lack of EQ has proven to be the primary reason for failure among more than 80 of the Fortune 100 companies.
Why EQ Matters for Tech
Business is still figuring out how to implement EQ evaluation in an effective way. There are tests, sure, but as evaluation tools they are less than adequate when assessing soft skills, experience, and the ability to evaluate one’s feelings and take them into account when making decisions. However, whereas EQ was often thought of as less important in mathematical, research and/or highly technical roles, emotional intelligence could play an important part in bringing more out of what are often under-staffed tech departments, while helping you maintain and retain your human capital investment.
Angela Yochem, CIO of BDP International says, “The great thing about the technology field is that it attracts intelligent, passionate, interesting people, and I believe that, in general, the same openness to new ideas that attracts people to technology brings motivation, integrity, and comfort with change — all elements of high EQ.”
Technology is no longer a small part of any company. Often, it’s the driving force. Employees in technology roles must carry not only the IQ experience and skills required for that role, they must carry the emotional intelligence to work (and play) well with others. The factors to look for?
- Self-awareness. It’s the foundation of emotional intelligence; the solid understanding of one’s own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Those who are self-aware realize not only how their feelings impact their decisions, but of those of their colleagues.
- Emotional control. Someone may recognize their emotions, but that person can’t put emotions into perspective and regulate them they can affect — often infect — a corporate culture or department. Impulsive behavior takes down teams and impedes objectives. Reactive individuals can also do damage to the staff you’ve worked so diligently to build up.
- Empathy. This refers to an awareness of other’s feelings and of their objectives and their roles. Perspective and understanding are both words that can be substituted for empathy. It doesn’t mean that the candidate won’t confront a tough decision or a challenging conversation; rather it means they try to take into account their audience, accounting for the unspoken factors that will impact them.
- Social skills. Yes, as much as the pervasive mythology around anyone involved in technology exists, a tech staff has to be both socially aware and have an ability to find common ground with a range of people beyond his or her team. It’s one part collaboration, but it’s also the capability to move an agenda along while being aware of the ‘emotional climate’ around that agenda and being able to respond to it.
Your role in the EQ/IQ debate
Experts agree that there aren’t a lot of tech companies out there doing a great job of incorporating emotional intelligence into their hiring or promotion process. In fact, Walt Meffert, CIO of Hanger.com, a provider of orthotic and prosthetic services says, “I can’t say I have ever heard it [emotional intelligence] even discussed when making hiring or promotional decisions at any company.”
Yochem emphatically agrees, “Some technology companies — like companies in all industries, frankly — rely on rather narrow criteria for hiring and promoting, and these criteria often don’t include emotional intelligence.”
One problem that regularly challenges organizations hoping to incorporate EQ methodology, Yochem explains, is the cultural differences within those companies. “We have no broad measurement capacity as of yet — an aspiration made challenging by the diversity of cultures in a global company. Actions that set people at ease in one culture may put people from other cultures on edge, for example. The visual and audio cues we get in our interactions with people across cultures vary widely in meaning.”
Tech’s connection with Mindfulness
Soren Gordhamer, who founded the tech/mindfulness conference Wisdom 2.0, attributes the Tech sector’s effusive adaption of the mindfulness movement to technologists’ need to manage the flood of information that is now a part of daily life. “There is a longing for a more spacious, quality existence, both inside and outside of work. The next-generation company and employee are looking for quality of life,” he says. “We are in the middle of a culture shift; we are no longer interested in just getting through our workday and striving toward relief at the end of our careers. It’s about more quality and connection within the work-life continuum.”
Karen May, vice president of people development at Google, says “We want to prepare people for how to deal with the challenges ahead and engage them with solving problems that don’t seem to have solutions. Mindfulness is a powerful tool to develop a stronger capability to handle ambiguity and complexity, and while mindfulness is one way to increase self-awareness and reduce reactivity, it is not the only way.”
May emphasized that one size does not fit all. “I never want to assume that what is relevant or helpful for one person will be relevant or helpful for another... this work is very individual and personal, and I don’t want us to be prescriptive.”
Regardless of the training programs you can put into place right now, you can develop a level of EQ within your organization systems by creating more fluid lines of communication and information sharing that starts to develop emotional connections within the culture.
How will you know you’ve accomplished human being status versus human doing in the workplace? “I see the goal of this work as taking people one step further from where they were before,” May said. “That’s huge. That’s success.”