The reason EQ is so powerful and can override good skills and judgment
is that we are inherently designed to be self-preservationists.
When someone throws something at you, you instinctively raise your
hand to block it … without thinking about it … in an
effort to protect yourself physically. The same is true of all the
other dimensions that we protect especially in the workplace –
we protect our egos, our titles, our relationships, the status quo
… and anytime these get threatened (much the same as when
someone is throwing something at you), then we instinctively respond
in the classical Freudian mode of fight or flight.
HRM : Why do you think that most corporate
training programmes tend to focus on the hard skills and the technical
training, preferring to leave what some would label the softer stuff,
to the wayside as unimportant?
Dr Justice : Many training programmes focus on
hard skills and technical training because they are important for
doing one’s job correctly. They are the essentials of the
job function. After employees have established a baseline level
of these skills, anyone can do the job – but only those with
a high level of EQ can do the job well.
is also a fundamental flaw in adult learning models – they
tend to be event-based testing memory more than anything else. I
recently was with a client who during our talk regarding this subject,
turned around and opened a cabinet where he had kept all the materials
from all the workshops and seminars (events) that he had been to,
over the years. He randomly pulled out one folder and begun to read
it. He paused and said, "I could have used this last week.”
problem was not with the content, or the instructor or the learner
or the mode – the problem is that from the time something
is learned to the time it is applied (which is inherently based
on some business need) is unpredictable – and the longer the
time, the less relevant the knowledge irrespective of how good the
knowledge or instructor or learner or mode is. Training programmes
fail first and foremost because they rely on a memory-based model
which does not match with how working adults function. Think about
it – if you’re at home and you decide to paint a room,
then at that point, you go to the store, get the paint and materials
and paint the room. The need and point of applications are instant.
Yet at work, a place that supposedly pays us to be efficient, teaches
us something at one point and expects us to remember whenever it
may be needed.
HRM : Could it be related to the fact that
EQ is subjective and the measures and success factors are that much
harder to assess and train on?
Justice : Not necessarily. Though EQ is subjective, reliable
and valid measures of emotionally intelligent behavioral patterns
do exist in the form of self-assessments and even 360-feedback.
The difficult part is that EQ is learned over time. A company may
realise the importance of EQ and want to build those skills in their
workforce, but then they send their associates to a 2-day workshop
(the event!). They learn a few techniques, perhaps, but by the time
they need to apply their new skills – they cannot make the
connection because they have not developed new habits – a
flaw of the memory based models mostly being used in academia and
: What do you see as the primary components of EQ? Could
you elaborate on it?
Justice : At the highest level, EQ can be broken down into
intrapersonal emotional intelligence and interpersonal emotional
intelligence. Intrapersonal emotional intelligence refers to your
ability to relate to yourself while interpersonal emotional intelligence
refers to your ability to relate to others. Broken down further,
managing your intrapersonal EQ effectively involves the skills of
self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation; relating to others
involves the skills of empathy and social skills.
terms of increasing your EQ, the first step is always self-awareness.
If you do not know your strengths and weaknesses, you cannot set
goals to improve yourself or your personal processes for getting
things done. The second component that has a substantial impact
on your EQ is self-regulation – controlling your reactions
when your emotions have overwhelmed your rational thought process.
This affects everything – from the way you regulate your stress
reactions versus putting unnecessary stress on yourself to whether
you deal with others’ negative energy constructively or destructively.
The ability to keep yourself thinking positive thoughts impacts
whether you feel you are in control. Nothing thwarts your motivation
level as much as when you do not feel you are in control of your
relating to others, empathy is quite important. The desire and ability
to listen and understand where someone is coming from, interpret
their nonverbal cues, show sensitivity, avoid judgment – and
then respond appropriately -- builds the relationship. In many cases,
the component of social skills is the epitome of emotional intelligence;
great social skills are what you think of when someone has a high
EQ. However, all the other skills of EQ work together to contribute
to your social skills. The effect of the five components is synergistic;
a high level of one is great, but excellence in all five has the
: Where do the see that the impact of EQ is most greatly
felt in the workplace?
Justice : In times of change, stress, and conflict. When
difficulties arise, there are several paths that one can take –
and this is where those with high EQ are able to differentiate themselves
and excel. Consider a leader who needs to make a difficult decision.
When the outcome is challenged by a peer, his automatic thought
may be “I have thought this through, I trust my judgment,
and I know this is what I need to do – but that was a fair
suggestion and I am glad it was brought to my attention” or,
“This is none of her concern, I am in charge of this project
and she is disrespecting my authority by questioning me.”
truth is, events do not cause reactions. An automatic, subconscious
interpretation of the event is the immediate precursor to an emotion
and THEN one visibly reacts. In a stressful situation, there is
a physiological change in your body because of the power of your
emotions. The thalamus sends a signal to both the amygdala (emotional
part) and the neocortex (rational part) within the brain. The signal
to the amygdala, however, travels much faster than the signal to
the neocortex, activating a ‘fight-or-flight’ emotional
response before the neocortex has an opportunity to analytically
process the situation. In essence, the rational mind is taken over
by the emotional. While this once served an evolutionary purpose
to trigger survival instincts, today this dis-regulation of emotion
usually causes adverse effects. Managing this process is the key
to a situation-appropriate reaction.
the example given above, the resulting conversation between the
two co-workers, as well as the trust and ability to collaborate
in the future will undoubtedly be more productive when the leader’s
thoughts resemble the former rather than the latter statement.
: If there was one thing that we could do to immediately
take cognisance of the impact of EQ, what would this be?
Justice : We are first and foremost inherently emotional
creatures. Stimuli causes first emotions to be exhibited BEFORE
behaviors and competencies – yet most of us do not even know
that there are only 7 basic emotions and they have not changed in
over 8000 years. The person who can relate emotionally to others
will be by far the most successful person in any organisation. Imagine
how successful you could be if you could emotionally manage everything
that happens to you. While that is not the reality, every single
person does have the ability to control their reactions to events.
You can let adverse events overwhelm you and bring you down or you
can keep a clear head, view it as a challenge, and focus on solving
the problem. Just keep in mind that your emotions are determined
by what you think and by what you have experienced before. By learning
from your experiences, you can increase your EQ.
Editor's Note : This is particularly
interesting to those of us involved in training and learning &
development. While we can agree that there is a gap between the
goals and mode of training we use versus how its being applied,
the test lies in our ability to transcend this gap. What do you
say to the idea that unless there is an almost immediate application
of the principles learnt, the less likely the principles will be
applied? I certainly have found that you need to start using something,
putting it in action for it to be real to you. It makes the learning
that much more tangible and the results you see keep you on track.
Positive results further solidify your approach.
Dr. Izzy Justice, CEO and
Founder of EQmentor, Inc.,is considered a thought leader in the
space of Emotional Intelligence and professional development.