So, what is “Emotional Intelligence” really?

I know even in writing out that single question in the title – half of you reading will probably crack a little smile and be thinking, “I just was reading something on that…” and the other half will furrow their brow and grumble, “It's an idea made popular by a bunch of people who struggle on the IQ bar chart...

The funny thing is that our culture can tend to downplay our emotions or make us feel “soft” when we start talking, especially in a business environment, about what to do with them. The older guard practically yells, "You don’t doanything with them! They simply don’t belong at work!” But Emotional Intelligence is actually quite the opposite of things soft or squishy. It’s actually a form of mastery, a science, and a discipline. Psychology Today defines it as, “… the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include 3 skills:

  • Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others
  • The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving
  • The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person”

These bullet points read more like a Kung Fu manual, not a romance novel. Look em over again – Identify. Harness and apply. Manage, regulate, and change circumstances around you. That’s a power position.

As a culture, we are discovering that raw intelligence and skill do not always translate into success. Of course, it’s important, as is hard work and diligence, but one may be extremely intelligent, highly skilled, outwork their peers, and apply all necessary diligence, but if they do not have a firm understanding of themselves and those they are working with, working for, or of those they are leading, success will be very limited. A Dr. Travis Bradberry article describes it like this: Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.


As an example here at Morrison, in our selection process, we extract real life experiences from candidates and operate on the assumption that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. We are, of course, looking for the most intelligent (IQ), hardworking, and diligent candidates with the right technical skills for the job, but we know that EQ plays a much larger roles in a person’s career success than IQ.

Understanding ourselves and the role that our emotions play in our decision making/actions is paramount to success. Second only to this principle is the ability to understand others, particularly the role that their emotions are playing in their actions and decisions. Very few of us work in a vacuum, so the ability to read others’ emotions is key. We ask key questions designed to draw out stories that indicate a candidates EQ, which is often the deciding criteria between otherwise equally qualified candidates.

IQ is not the foundation to success. EQ is the foundation to success.

There is, yet again, hope for the “C” student.

About the Author
Shawn Miller is a principal at Morrison working primarily in our People Solutions practice. To get in touch with Shawn, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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