Beyond the Hype
EQ vs. IQ? All of the above? With Tech focusing more and more on the elusive qualities that define EQ, we drill down into what’s important, what’s real, and how to build that muscle for maximum benefit.
It all started far earlier than you may know. The term emotional intelligence entered the vernacular in 1995 with a book 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 noncognitive 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 explored in what many consider a seminal book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0, whose co-author, Travis Bradberry, suggested that EQ (known also 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. As far as IQ, people with average IQ scores outperform those 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. EQ relates to an awareness of and responses to ourselves and those around us as we make decisions or interact with colleagues where emotions factor in. 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, as well as an understanding of the behaviors and motivations of ourselves and our colleagues — the people around us. 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. EQ has been proven to be the critical component in leadership success.
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 now plays a more influential and important role in technology-based career success.
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 is the driving force. It stands to reason that the technology team be equipped to fluidly collaborate in order to facilitate progress. Yes, with the current shortage of skilled technologists, the job market is ripe. But there is a limit to that attraction that rests solidly on your ability to project your emotional intelligence in interviews, and along your career journey. The factors to look for?
- Self-awareness. It’s the foundation of emotional intelligence; the solid understanding of your own emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Those who are self-aware realize not only how their feelings impact their decisions, but those of their colleagues.
- Emotional control. You may recognize your emotions, but if you can’t set them into perspective and regulate them they can affect — could be seen to infect — a corporate culture or department. It is easy to conclude that impulsive behavior takes down teams and impedes objectives.
- Empathy. It’s critical to set context for any discussion. Empathy is defined as the awareness of the feelings and needs of those around you. It’s essential to have empathy as a leader who interacts with colleagues and managers. Perspective and understanding are both words that can be substituted for empathy. It doesn’t mean that you won’t confront a tough decision or a challenging conversation; rather it means you try to take into account your audience, accounting for the unspoken factors that impact them.
- Social skills. Yes, there is a somewhat quaint mythology around technologists that exists – that somehow you can be socially ‘awkward’ and still make your way up the corporate chain. There’s little truth to that myth anymore, if there ever was. Tech companies demand employees who are socially aware and have the ability to find common ground with a range of people beyond his or her team to advance in their role. 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 are a limited number 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, “says Yochem.
One problem, Yochem explains, that regularly challenges institutions wanting to incorporate the EQ methodology, surprisingly, is cultural differences. “We have no broad measurement capacity as of yet — an aspiration made challenging by the diversity of cultures we have in our 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.”