What's your emotional quotient?

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert Ritter
  • 28th Medical Group commander

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, Air Force Office Qualifying Test, Promotion Fitness Examination, Skills Knowledge Test--the Air Force is just as interested in test scores to pick its best as colleges are with using SATs and Graduate Record Examinations to pick the most promising students. But is intelligence the best predictor of performance? You might be surprised to learn that scientific evidence reveals that intelligence successfully predicts only somewhere between 4 and 25 percent of good job performance. Today, organizations are turning more to another and perhaps better predictor: emotional intelligence, or the Emotional Quotient rather than the Intelligence Quotient.

You may also be surprised to learn that just as cognitive intelligence (verbal reasoning, spatial logic, abstract thinking) has been linked to specific brain structures, so has emotional intelligence. Physiological research has shown that emotions reside in specific but very different parts of the brain. Brain damage in one area reduces intellectual abilities, while brain damage in other areas limits emotional capabilities.

So just what is emotional intelligence? It's being able to understand and manage your own feelings. It's appreciating others' emotions and adjusting the most appropriate response. It's not simply controlling your emotions, but also knowing when and how to best express them. It's being able to develop trusting relationships with superiors, peers, and subordinates. It's that and a lot more--Daniel Goleman, in his 2002 book, "Primal Leadership," identifies 20 competencies in emotional intelligence. For example, one competency is "influence," where we handle emotions effectively in other people and are persuasive. Goleman says the most effective person senses others' reactions and fine-tunes their own responses to move interaction in the best direction.

Lest you think that emotional intelligence is for wimps, without any real practical business value, dozens of studies have shown that emotional intelligence consistently distinguishes the average performer from the star performer. Studies at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the Gallup Organization, and many others have assessed emotional intelligence at such businesses as Met Life, AT&T, 3M, and Air Force Recruiting, with the consensus finding that higher EQ equals higher productivity, profitability, growth, and retention.

That's not to say IQ is irrelevant. There is little question that a certain IQ level is required for entry into specific career fields, and that technical competence is necessary for satisfactory performance. Therefore, measures of cognitive intelligence are useful for job selection and placement. But once a person is on the job, emotional intelligence emerges as a much more powerful predictor of who succeeds and who does not. And the higher one moves into leadership and management levels, the more important emotional intelligence becomes. Ultimately, EI far overshadows intellect and technical competence. A recent study of several hundred top-level organizations found that 85 percent of the competencies of those in leadership positions were in EI domain.

Former AF Chief of Staff, General Ronald Fogelman, said, "To become successful leaders we must first learn that no matter how good the technology or how shiny the equipment, people-to-people relations get things done in our organizations. People are the assets that determine our success or failure. If you are to be a good leader, you have to cultivate your skills in the arena of personal relations." Developing your emotional intelligence competencies is an excellent way to cultivate the personal relations skills General Fogelman spoke of.