What is Emotional Intelligence, and Why Should You Let It Pull at Your Heartstrings?

There’s no shortage of buzz words in the corporate landscape, with terms coming and going as fast as Fitbit’s shares were snapped up when the company went public back in June 2015. Some integrate themselves with formidable staying power, while others crash and burn in a sea of hollow lingo.

One term that definitively falls into the former category is emotional intelligence. American author, psychologist, and science journalist Daniel Goleman pushed the concept into the spotlight in 1995 with a book claiming that EI is more important than IQ. Two years later, the Harvard Business Review published an article titled ‘What Makes a Leader?’ which went on to attract more readers than any other write up published in the past four decades. In fact, senior management personnel at Johnson & Johnson were so infatuated with the concept that they sent copies to 400 top executives, across the globe.

Thus the concept has now been going strong for more than two decades, and over the past few years has enjoyed something of a buzzword revival.

Defining EI

But what exactly is emotional intelligence, and why do the likes of Google consider it so immensely important?

In a nutshell, emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to become aware of, control and express their emotions. This empowers them with the capacity to manage interpersonal relationships with thought, and empathy. EI is made up of a trio of three major skills:

  • 1.Emotional awareness

This includes the ability to recognise both your own emotions, and the emotions of others.

  • 2.Harnessing and applying

The second stage of EI sees people actively harness emotions, and use them to augment tasks like problem solving.

  • 3.Emotional management

Often cited as the most important EI skill, this refers to the ability to both regulate your own emotions, as well as intentionally heighten or calm the emotions of another person.

EI in a corporate context

Obviously, EI is a skill that can be applied to everyday life. But in a corporate context, it has particular sway. Today, EI is the cornerstone of blue chip hiring strategies, with “book smarts” no longer the be all and end all of a resume. Employees with high EI goes hand in hand with a host of benefits, with Google’s head of people operations Laszlo Bock asserting that lack of EI tend to pass on blame, find it hard to learn from their mistakes and are often unmotivated to improve.

In contrast, emotionally intelligent employees work well with others, constructively learn from their mistakes and are effective in leading change. Most importantly, Forbes cites that a huge 90% of top performers are highly versed in managing their emotions, staying positive and disconnecting from drama when confronted with high pressure situations. This allows them to remain calm and in control, an attitude that plays a key role in navigating the path to success.

With the U.S. Department of Labour estimating that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can cost business’s 30% of the individual’s first-year salary, a holistic approach to recruitment has never been so crucial. So whether you’re an executive headhunting your next corporate CEO, a retail recruitment agency sifting through applicants or a small business owner looking to take on an additional employee, emotional intelligence should absolutely be factored into your hiring equation.


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