Demystifying EQ at Work

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Research has shown that many types of intelligence drive organisational success. Traditionally, leaders focused on IQ (intelligence quotient) in determining the performance of staff. While IQ indicated the individual proficiency of staff, it did not calculate the collaborative dynamics integral in organisational function. 

That’s the part where EQ comes in – the emotional intellect enabling employees to communicate effectively in bringing ideas and concepts to life. With the new normal and remote operations, EQ has taken centre stage in organisational development. 

Your workforce needs to keep EQ at the top of mind despite WFH and staggered shift arrangements.  With enhanced EQ comes more robust group dynamics, and with that comes the sustainability and development of your organisation. 

What is EQ Exactly?

The standard definition of EQ refers to a person’s ability to perceive, apply, interpret, and manage their emotions. As with any quotient, some individuals are naturally more inclined than others. However, it is worth noting that the human brain developed in a bottom-up process – meaning that we are essentially emotional before logical. 

When the higher reasoning cortex of our minds takes a break (usually due to stress, burnout, or illness), we regress to our limbic (emotional) states. That’s why it’s common for individuals, especially in highly stressful situations and environments, to act on impulse with little regard for far-reaching consequences. 

Individuals with high EQ have greater control over their emotional health, despite outward challenges and disruptions. For example, a leader with good EQ may form a rational judgment and practical contingency plans in response to VUCA episodes. On the contrary, decision-makers with lower EQ may react emotionally, leading to costly miscalculations and missteps. 

EQ Applied at Work 

EQ may correlate with empathy, agility, and adaptability at the office as critical drivers for positive work culture. And with a positive workplace culture comes job satisfaction, employee engagement, and a growth-focused environment. 

Additionally, a positive workplace culture boosts your organisation’s reputation, improving relationships with customers, partners, and future talents. 

Google is known for its stellar HR practices (exhibiting high EQ standards) that draw over 2.5 million job applicants per year. One of the reasons behind Google’s HR success lies in its interview process. While standard qualification and CV submissions apply, HR managers vet every application and acknowledge/contact candidates with minimal delay. 

The dynamic process makes candidates “feel right at home” even before stepping foot into the company. Specifically, Google spares no compromise (inclusivity) and emphasises the importance of communication – the hallmarks of excellent EQ. 

Essentially, EQ can serve as the building block for employee communications and keep co-workers on the same page. On the other end of the spectrum, toxic workplaces may display low EQ among employees and leaders, resulting in disengagement and turnover across departments. 

Communication Is Multifaceted 

Communication is a complex process, further complicated with indirect, remote channels. Misunderstandings may abound, quickly souring workplace relationships. 

However, with digital considerations aside, regular communication is hardly verbal. According to messaging expert Albert Mehrabian, communication is 7% verbal, 38% tonality, and 55% body language

Leaders with high EQ can interpret employee satisfaction levels from the slightest movements and facial gestures while conveying messages effectively. Many organisations favour face-to-face communication because it leaves little to the imagination, thus avoiding conflict and disagreements. 

While video conferences may be an upgrade from voice calls, they crop off in portrait view and offer no clues to body gestures (i.e., folded arms or clenched fists). 

Technology Isn’t a Replacement

It is easy for leaders to feel lost and overwhelmed with the recent surge of advanced technology. The current workforce benefits from cloud storage, IoT, AR/VR, continuous integration, and the list goes on. However, leaders need to understand that even the most sophisticated technology shouldn’t replace high EQ. 

Technology is leverage, and talents/people should remain the primary force in your company no matter what. That’s why people refer to employees as the most valuable stakeholders or primary internal stakeholders. Organisations are literally non-functional without employee contribution. 

EQ determines how your primary stakeholders work collectively towards organisational goals. With newfound technology, you can empower teams in a location-agnostic manner. However, modern technology is merely a vehicle for success, and employees remain the drivers. EQ is the fuel that propels the proverbial vehicle.  

One prominent example is the widespread use of chatbots. Modern chatbots function with well-research technology such as machine learning and NLP (natural processing language) that mimic live service agents down to the letter. Yet, a staggering 86% of consumers prefer live agents to chatbots

The sentiment is almost unanimous – people are naturally emotion-based creatures, and they would pick EQ over clinically programmed AI nearly every day. Although automated chatbots provide standard answers fast and accurately, people prefer the comfort of troubleshooting an issue with someone else on the other side of their screen.  

Organisational leaders should apply the same concept to workplace management. While it is tempting to schedule and mass blast messages and emails to WFH staff, nothing beats a live check-in call or video conference. 

EQ – Putting it All Together

EQ is a learnable trait that leaders can foster among co-workers via acknowledging their contributions and maintaining healthy open communication. 

Specialised workshops using tools like SoundWave and Lego Serious Play can help teams develop a greater emotional understanding of each other’s thought processes and improve chemistry at the workplace. 

As leadership coach Anne Koopmann Schmidt puts it, “One important competency of emotional intelligence is self-control. And this is important because it lets us manage and control our emotions before, during, and after a conversation.”

Through regular practice and interactions, you will create a conducive environment where individuals can come together to do their best work despite individual differences. 

Ultimately EQ is all about people and fulfilling the core emotional needs that they share – and with the increasingly unpredictable climate, it could be your organisation’s new superpower. 

StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients empower leaders throughout the region by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.

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