Emotional intelligence at work: Why IQ isn’t everything

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Daniel Goleman: Since I started writing about and researching emotional intelligence in business, I found that data in support of it has only gotten stronger. I saw recently a study, this surprised me, engineers, software coders and so on were evaluated by their peers, people who work with them day-to-day on how successful they were at what they do. This turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of success in any field. And that was correlated with their IQ in one hand and their emotional intelligence on the other. And when I say emotional intelligence they were evaluated on a 360 that looks at all 12 of the key emotional intelligence competencies that distinguish star performers from average. The surprise was this: IQ correlated zero, zero with their success as rated by peers.Emotional intelligence correlated very, very highly. Well, why would that be? Well consider this, in order to be an engineer you have to have an IQ about a standard deviation or more above average, that's an IQ of about 115 or so. And another recent paper shows that there's no relationship between career success and an IQ above 120.

The reason is this: there is a strong floor effect for IQ in any role. All engineers have an IQ of 115 or more, so the range of variance is very reduced for IQ and success. Emotional intelligence however varies radically. So emotional intelligence means: How well you manage yourself. Can you work toward your goals despite obstacles? Do you give up too soon? Do you have a negative outlook or a positive outlook? These are all emotional intelligence competencies that matter for success.

Then there's the relationship competencies: Can you tune in to other people? Do you notice other people? I remember hearing about two MIT grads who went into a giant tech company, one of them went around to other members of her team and asked, "What are you doing? How can I help? The other stayed in his office and wrote code all day. It's very clear who was going to get ahead; it was the one who wanted to be a team player. You don't write code in isolation anymore; everyone works on projects together. You may write the code but you have to coordinate, you have to influence, you have to persuade, you have to be a good team member. All of those are emotional intelligence competencies that distinguish outstanding from average performers.

So when you think about it that way, it makes sense that even among engineers emotional intelligence will predict who is a star and who's just mediocre. And when you think about this at the organizational level it means you want to be sure to include emotional intelligence when you consider hiring people. I have a friend at an executive recruiting company that specializes in C-level hires, CEOs, CFOs and so on. And they once did a study internally of people they had recommended who turn out to be bad and were so bad they were fired. So these were failures, they were surprised to have failures, but they realized when they looked more carefully that these were people who were hired because of business expertise and IQ and fired because of a deficiency in emotional intelligence, so it's more important than ever these days. And so in hiring it needs to be considered, and in promoting people, of course, it needs to be considered. And it should be part of HR. It should be what you help people develop for their strengths. Because the good news about emotional intelligence is: It's learned and learnable, and you can upgrade it at any point in life if you're motivated.</p>

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