Emotional Intelligence and Where to Get Some



At the start of the year, businesses were thrust into new territory as operations were forced into drastic change without warning. Professionals, at all levels, experienced difficulties adjusting to the combination of remote work expectations and, for many, home schooling and caring for young children. With the additional demands on remote employees amid a national pandemic, many businesses initially struggled with striking the right balance in setting expectations and organizing around a format with which many had zero experience managing.  

As the business world has adapted, soft skills have emerged as the focus among leaders. According to CNBC, the most valuable skills a leader can develop right now are futuristic thinking, courageous leadership, emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication and cognitive flexibility, all of which fall under the soft skill umbrella1. Emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), in particular has been making regular headlines as a must-have for leaders navigating difficult times, but what is EQ exactly?  

The term refers to one’s ability to be aware, manage and express emotions. People with a high EQ are able to approach situations and relationships with empathy, Forbes reports2. “EQ is not personality, cognitive intelligence or aptitude. EQ is a set of emotional and social skills that help us understand ourselves and others to respond to different situations,” according to Daniel Goleman who first studied the impact of EQ on high-performing leaders in 1990. “Having a high EQ doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a ‘warm and fuzzy’ person; it means that you are good at paying attention to how you interact with people, how people react to you and how to be deliberate and strategic with building relationships3.”  

The 30 years since Goleman’s initial study have only borne its truth. In fact, the World Economic Forum reported in 2017 that 70% of the time, people with average IQs tend to outperform those with very high IQ scores which, on the face, seems counterintuitive. The determining factor, according to the report, was emotional intelligence. While a person’s ability to learn, their IQ, is fairly rigid, emotional intelligence is more flexible and can be developed throughout a lifetime4. It is therefore not only important for leaders to continue honing their EQ, but it is also a trait of growing value among employees.  

According to Fast Company, employees with high emotional intelligence have a healthy approach to handling pressure, are able to better understand and cooperate with others, possess excellent listening skills, are more open to feedback, are empathetic, set good examples for others to follow and make thoughtful, deliberate decisions5. Employees with a high EQ are adaptable, open to change and good collaborators—all skills which the pandemic deemed necessary at the peak of business disruption.  

  1. So, now that we’ve unpacked emotional intelligence, where do we get some? A quick Google search reveals endless lists of ways to improve EQ, but the MICPA has cherry-picked five of the most relevant to professionals at every level:  
  2. Respond, don’t react. This tip is on almost every list but is, by far, the most important in our opinion. Just like how you shouldn’t go grocery shopping while hungry, no one should ever make decisions while emotionally motivated. Instead, when emotions run high, take a moment to experience that emotion, step away, and avoid making decisions until rational thought has returned (Financial Management). 
  3. Investigate the why. Part of being emotionally intelligent includes examining how others react to you and your words and actions. Taking a closer look at those reactions and asking yourself why someone reacted the way they did, can open your mind to feedback not only from your own observations but from others (Forbes).
  4. Be an active listener. In conversations, it can sometimes be hard to get a word in edgewise. Consider, however, that having a word is less important than understanding what others are saying so that your response is in touch with the concerns of the people around you. (Inc.)
  5. Be assertive when expressing difficult emotions. Setting boundaries with your colleagues and even friends and family requires more than the occasional hint drop. When faced with a difficult person, be it a manager or co-worker, steering away from accusatory ‘you’ statements can prevent a difficult situation from becoming worse. Focus instead on XYZ statements: “I feel X when you do Y in situation Z.” (Psychology Today).  
  6. Treat yo’self. Practice emotional intelligence on yourself. Several lists like this one have ‘practice self-awareness’ right at the top, and minding your own care plays directly into that narrative. Meditation, reflection, positive self-talk and taking time to relax and refresh are all ways you can take care of yourself and by extension, learn how to better take care of those around you (LinkedIn). 

As you continue to improve and hone your professional skills, the MICPA is here to help by following emerging strategies and techniques. Stay tuned for more on emotional intelligence and the developing conversation around the most valuable soft skills for the workplace as we head into 2021. 

  1. Steinberg, Scott. “These are the Most Valuable Skills to Learn Right Now…” CNBC. 4 Nov. 2020.
  2. Kelly, Jack. “Why Hiring Manager Seek People With High Levels of Emotional Intelligence.” Forbes. 31 Oct. 2020.
  3. Hawkins, Dan. “Tough Times Call for Emotionally Intelligent CEOs.” Forbes. 9 Nov. 2020.
  4. Bradberry, Travis. “Emotional Intelligence: What it is and Why You Need It.” WEF. 13 Feb. 2017.
  5. Deutschendorf, Harvey. “7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is One of the Fastest-Growing Job Skills.” Fast Company. 4 April 2016.

Source: MICPA

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