EQ: emotional intelligence, the business 'must have'

Emotional intelligence has moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ for leading businesses. Psychologist Dr Margareta Sjölund of Kandidata Asia tells us why

Focus Asean editorial
August 10, 2015
EQ: emotional intelligence, the business 'must have'

Emotional intelligence has moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ for leading businesses. Psychologist Dr Margareta Sjölund of Kandidata Asia tells us why

In today’s fast-growing, dynamic global business culture, new methods to implement strategies are needed in order to stay ahead of competitors. The challenge, from a traditional business perspective, is that most of a company’s value consists of relationships – internal and external – and that the frequency and speed of change, along with the pressure to always improve, call for leadership skills beyond the technical or ‘good enough’ business acumen.EQ

Modern companies need leaders who understand how their own actions and decisions can either enable or block the goals and success of others.  We call this having emotional intelligence – or EQ for short.

Successful companies today are not those shaped by the ambition and drive of an elite of leaders, but those that can unleash the creative potential of all of their employees, partners and customers. With these different demands a new kind of leadership is needed – more focused on communication, relationships and interpersonal skills.

What is EQ?
Emotional intelligence is a powerful foundation for the dynamic and value-driven leadership that is key for modern and successful organisations.  For many years, we believed that emotions did not belong in the workplace.  Today, humans are acknowledged as innately emotional beings and it is imperative for leaders to understand and effectively manage emotions to ensure maximum results from themselves and their teams. EQ is a strong predictor of success and describes the ability or capacity to understand and manage emotional reactions – your own and others. Self-awareness, assertiveness, independence, interpersonal relations, flexibility and impulse control are some of the abilities that contribute to EQ.

As emotions are part of our physiological makeup we cannot help but react when we are faced with different situations: criticism from a manager, fierce competition with another, organisational change, etc. How leaders handle these daily business challenges impact their teams’ performance.

EQ, or emotional quotient, is how one measures emotional intelligence, creating a profile that points out an individual or a team’s strong sides and challenges.

Why is EQ important for Businesses?
People are often hired for intelligence (IQ) and experience, and fired for failing to manage themselves and others well. A study by Harvard Business Review in the late 1990s found that when employees excelled in experience and IQ, but had low emotional intelligence, their failure rate was as high as 25%. However, those people with high emotional intelligence combined with at least one of the other two factors (experience or IQ) failed in only 3 to 4% of cases.

Global research tracking over 160 high-performing individuals in a variety of industries and job levels showed that emotional intelligence was twice as important in contributing to excellence, compared to intellect and expertise alone. While a combination of factors including IQ, education, personality, experience and cultural background determine an individual’s professional and personal success, EQ remains the most dynamic and variable of all.

The good news is that while IQ is static and does not change much over the life span, EQ can be developed and improved. Most agree that personal skills are important but don’t realize that we can measure and develop these skills. The majority of EQ skills are within our control and can – with correct assessment and the right support – be improved upon.

How do larger businesses use it?
Professional assessments to track or measure emotional intelligence along with the right guidance and coaching result in measurable achievement, success in leadership development, and ultimately enhanced financial performance – a key for all businesses.

Google runs an ‘insanely popular’ emotional intelligence course with an estimated 1,500 employees expected to complete training this year, with thousands on the waiting list. The training is so popular because Google has found that by improving social emotional skills it supports collaboration, more open communication, transparency and less posturing.

The Coca-Cola Leadership Development Institute provides eight hours of experiential learning focused on empathy, self-awareness and inspiration. They use the EQ-i (the test that Kandidata Asia distributes) to measure participants’ emotional intelligence before and after training, and then once a year to ensure that skills are maintained.

Egon Zehnder, one of the largest global recruitment firms, states that EQ combined with the right background is the absolute best predictor for professional success.

The list is long and the evidence undisputed, which is why more and more companies are incorporating EQ into their business practices and leadership development.

Why should Southeast Asian companies be aware of EQ?
By identifying and developing EQ skills, it is possible for companies and organisations to create a competitive advantage that is not easily duplicated. Management competence is already very high in many Asian countries – especially in a technical sense – yet taking it to the next level means developing ‘star’ characteristics. The stronger the managers are in these areas, the better the odds for organisational success. We have measured EQ for thousands of leaders and managers in Asia and the results are used in recruitments and team and leadership development.

Many of the world’s leading companies, and increasingly more Asian companies and organisations, are finding ways of applying these personal EQ competencies to achieve better performance. It’s not easy but it can be done – and those who don’t will simply be left behind.

Dr Margareta Sjölund is the founder and chief psychologist of Kandidata Asia, which assists companies with innovative and strategic human resource interventions

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