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Does Emotional Intelligence (EI) really matter to business performance? | May 10, 2013

The concept of “Emotional Intelligence” or “EI” is one of the most commonly used buzzwords. Business consultants and organizational influencers are constantly discussing EI these days. But the question must be asked: “Will ‘EI’ become just another flashy term that will soon be thrown on to the pile of garbage representing trends that came and went? Or, does the growing amount of behavioral science tools that assess ‘EI’ (such as the Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0) represent the beginning of a lasting paradigm shift?

As a behavioral scientist who has both created advanced scientific tools as well as worked with influencers across industries, I am convinced that EI is here to stay and will become part of concrete organizational benchmarks used to assess talent, managerial effectiveness, and leadership potential. Scientists are rarely convinced of things, so why am I so confident? I will succinctly articulate my reasons.

First, we are at a point in the history of business across the globe where the fantasy that the newest technology or the most engaging marketing campaign could be enough to gain a lasting competitive market edge has run its course. Technology and marketing are great tools, and can help with distinguishing your organization, but it is the productivity of your internal work culture that will give you the most horsepower in the race to be the best. And to have the most productive work culture, you need to hire, develop, and retain exceptional talent. That was the core message in the book Good to Great, a true classic that even in 10 years will be seen as a game shifter because it refocused organizations on their most valuable and expandable asset: their people.

Secondly, behavioral science clearly shows that the drivers of behavior are how we think AND feel. In fact, in his landmark book Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, Daniel Kahneman discusses just how important feelings are to decision making. His book is worth your time! If you experience a positive emotion about something, you are much more likely to engage in that activity more, put deep effort in, and even have a sense of loyalty. The challenges for managers are to find ways to get the best from their direct reports, and the way to do this is to engage their feelings as much as their thinking. If you only engage a person’s thinking, then you have engaged them on a rather superficial level. The things you are willing to work the hardest for are things that engage your deepest feelings.

With this said, the question the greatest leaders are asking themselves is “How do I influence others by engaging them at a feeling level so that they are passionate about wanting to accomplish agreed-upon goals?” In other words, how do I get others to want to do what I want them to do? This is what great influencers can do, not through threats or mere charisma, but rather through a genuine engaging of a person’s feelings and thus, their value system.

Let’s end with an example shared with me by Emotional Intelligence expert, Dr. Dana Ackley. Dr. Ackley reported that the United States Air Force had been losing 50% of its recruiters. A consultant who recognized the value of EI recognized these recruiters had poorly developed “soft skills” or “EI” skills. The Emotional Quotient Inventory was given to 1500 recruiters and they were coached according to their skill gaps on their resulting profile. The result was, after five targeted EI skills were addressed, the recruiters became 270% more likely of meeting their goals. Moreover, the retention rate for Air Force recruiters went from 50 to 97%. The proof is in the pudding as my grandmother used to say.

The problem is you cannot create sustained breakthroughs with your EI through amateurish questionnaires or magazine surveys like many people believe. It takes using the right tool, with a seasoned professional who help you develop a precisely guided actionable plan with targeted goals using credible behavioral science techniques. Those are the necessary factors that will deliver the sustainable solutions you or your organization need in order to optimize your internal work culture so it has a high level of EI enhancing relationships that deeply motivate people to give their very best.

Some of you in my audience are still thinking these “soft skills” really don’t matter. There is a growing amount of hard data clarifying the dramatically satisfying Return on Investment (ROI) when Emotional Intelligence is enhanced. Go to this link for more information: https://greatpeoplescience.com/return-on-investment/. One stark fact reported by one of the chief innovators of EI named Daniel Goleman is that 80% of the variance in senior leader productivity increases is due to interpersonal and emotional competence factors.

This is my parting comment: If you invest in developing your EI as well as the EI’s of your influencers, it would be one of your smartest business moves. And if you ignore EI, it will be one of the dumbest decisions you’ve ever made. EI is not only here to stay, it is a key way to gain a lasting market edge. Remember, the key reason people leave a company is a poor relationship with their supervisor (not salary or benefits). If you want to retain your top talent and attract the best talent, you must make high EI an organizational priority.


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If you or your organization are faced with a workplace growth challenge, email Tom and he will consider writing a blog about it.

Meet the Expert: Dr. Tom Brunner is a capable executive level consultant who has worked with local and nationally known organizations including Carondelet Healthcare, Tucson Electric Power, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Discovery Channel. Tom is a published behavioral science expert and is the Founder and Principal of Performance Edge Solutions. He is a licensed psychologist and a member of the Society of Consulting Psychologists. He has been an invited speaker at national conferences and local organizations such as University Medical Center, Tucson, AZ. Tom is humbled by the fact that in 2010 he was awarded the Arizona Psychological Foundations Early Career Psychologist Award. He is the senior author of a personality tool that has been adapted into seven languages. To see a 60-second video introducing his consulting firm click here, to read his bio click here, and to review his recent blogs, click here.