According to Kim Morris Lee, Director of Organisational Effectiveness at the University of Illinois, when the American Air Force started considering emotional intelligence during their selection of recruits, their financial loss through recruiting the wrong type of people went down by a huge 92%.
With such a compelling result, you’d think emotional intelligence would be on top of the agenda for every organisation, but surprisingly it seems that many haven’t yet embraced its virtues.
Understanding exactly what is emotional intelligence and the benefits it brings is probably what’s needed.
It was Daniel Goleman’s book ‘Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ’ that put EI on the map in the mid-1990s (following Peter Salovey and John Mayer’s studies five years before), though the term had actually been coined first in the 1970s in a doctoral dissertation by Wayne Payne. Signs of acumen other than cognitive intelligence (IQ) had emerged much earlier, however, in the 1920s, when psychologist Edward Thorndike studied what he termed social intelligence: “the ability to understand and manage men and women and girls, to act wisely in human relations”.
Going back further, it was the demands of living together that drove our need for emotional intelligence, as our brain development proves. According to the Smithsonian, the human brain had a growth spurt between two million and 800,000 years ago, when early humans started to move around the globe and interact with others. Growth was even greater (doubling the brain in size) between then and 200,000 years ago when these early humans began living together in larger, more complex groups and communities. For the first time they now had to learn to manage multiple relationships and communicate with language. This all required a greater mental capacity and therefore a larger brain. Interestingly, this social development (EQ: Emotional Quotient-related) stimulated far more brain growth than previous societal developments such as learning to make and use tools (IQ-related).
There are differing models for EI but they broadly encompass two main areas:
To this mix we could add ‘caring’ and ‘kindness’. You could say that whether a person cares or not is usually part of their personality which, like our IQ and unlike EQ, is fixed early on. However it is with the building of our EQ skills, along with self-compassion, that our softer qualities are given the chance to surface naturally. As Nelson Mandela said “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
If these abilities aren’t evidence enough of the importance of EI to an individual’s business relationships and perfomance, then the statistics are. For a so-called ‘soft’ skill, there is a remarkable amount of research that measures the impact of a high EQ compared to a low EQ. The overwhelming evidence: the higher a person’s EQ, the more likely they are to perform well.
And the higher proportion of high EQ-ers in an organisation, the more successful the organisation is likely to be.
And all this leads to financial benefits for individuals.
And the same goes for the aggregate of EQ in organisations. Professors Malcolm Higgs and Victor Dulewicz concluded through their research, as published in their book ‘Making Sense of Emotional Intelligence’, that the aspects in a corporate strategy that involve emotional intelligence are equally as important to performance results as the more rational aspects.
Looking to the future, we find other developments that suggest the need for a focus on emotional intelligence. One in particular is the very real and imminent advance in the automation of jobs. According to the BBC website, 35% of jobs in the UK are in danger of being replaced by automation and robots, whilst an Oxford University study indicates that 47% of the US labour force could be replaced by robots in 20 years’ time.
Thankfully, it is well recognised that some skills cannot be replicated by an automated machine, and it’s these which will make the perfect partnership in the future between robots and their human colleagues. It’s these skills that already link with high performance, but in the future will also ensure maintaining jobs for people as opposed to robots. These important skills include good judgment, creativity and – you guessed it – emotional intelligence.
Penelope Newton-Hurley is a Communication Troubleshooter,Consultant, Trainer and Mediator
The Communication Troubleshooter helps drive engagement and performance through Emotional Intelligence and CommPassion© Communication techniques.
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