Emotional Intelligence in Business

Where does it show up in business?  Here are some all too familiar business scenarios – deep cuts that mean many employees will be let go, or, perhaps, a rumor floats that the business is going under, or there are complaints of an arrogant manager or an employee who keeps blowing up, or a conflict between business partners. As a business leader you may face these issues.  Will it be your IQ or your EQ (emotional intelligence) that makes the difference as you move to a better future?

“We should take care to not make the intellect our god.  It has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.  It cannot lead, it can only serve.” Albert Einstein. Emotions are the very root of everything we do…the origin of every action beyond a reflex. Our emotions, whether recognized or not, are most often in charge!

What is EQ?  Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own emotions and those of others AND relate to others in intentional and healthy ways in a variety of contexts and roles even when under stress or challenged.

The Bottom Line and EQ: Emotional intelligence impacts business productivity and success, makes a difference in navigating change or trying to bring the business vision to life.  Employee and leader productivity, retention, and long-term success are all related to the strength of emotional intelligence capacities.  For example:  At L’Oreal salespeople selected based on EQ competencies outsold others by over $91K; In top leadership positions EQ accounts for 80%+ of the difference between the best and average performers; and Insurance agents strong in at least 5 of 8 key emotional competencies sold twice the volume of agents weak in emotional competencies.

The Good News: EQ fitness can be intentionally developed just as we can improve and maintain physical fitness.

We are emotional beings – fully wired from the start as emotional, social beings who learn, grow and thrive in relationships. However, our emotional intelligence is a learned process throughout our lives.  When we are happy, comfortable and content, life is good. When we are under stress, facing conflict and challenges most of us move to protect our selves and our emotional well being in ways we learned early in life.  Sometimes, those learned behaviors that served us well when we were young no longer serve us in our adult lives.  Some of the learned responses help us succeed and are life serving but others may prevent us from being effective in professional and personal relationships as adults.

In the workplace, when emotional intelligence is low it may show up with Intimidated workers, destructive morale and arrogant bosses. While these may not all be visible to the outside world the internal costs are high. Increased missed deadlines and mistakes and more employee departures may also reflect emotional intelligence deficits in the workplace. The bottom line is impacted when emotional intelligence is low  – if it is rampant and pervasive companies ultimately crash and burn.

Emotional intelligence is a key factor in the way we provide criticism and feedback, hire and fire, manage a team, handle conflict and disagreements and it impacts all our relationships, professional and personal.  EQ capacities determine whether we are comfortable collaborating and working in harmony or whether under stress – we disconnect, go it alone, or just give it up.  When teams work together to meet business goals it’s not their IQ that has the greatest impact but their EQ. Technical skills are great and important – they are what often gets someone in the door but a well developed emotional intelligence is the advantage to overall success. When the group has high EQ there will be greater positive feelings about the business and the bottom line will reflect this – EQ competencies leverage intellectual capital.

There are three core components of Emotional Intelligence: Self Reflection, Empathy and Self Regulation (self soothing). EQ is our ability to notice and name our own emotions, recognize and empathize with others, balance thoughts, wants and feelings and maintain our own equilibrium in the moment of challenge without requiring others to change. The ability to notice the emotion you are experiencing and recognize what it means to you is a strategic advantage.

Emotional capacities much like physical capacities vary from person to person. We all come with our genetic predispositions and we have the capacity to intentionally become more fit. Just as you may learn to improve your golf shot with practice so too your EQ – you may not be Arnie Palmer or Tiger Woods but you can be better.

You may go to the gym, workout or even hire a trainer to get more physically fit but what can you do to become more emotionally fit?  There are resources available to help you assess and identify your Emotional Intelligence, handbooks and practices to help you improve your EQ Fitness, and there are coaches certified to coach emotional intelligence.  The research has shown that with knowledge and awareness combined with intentional practice we can modify our brains and build Emotional Intelligence.

Emotions are at the root of everything we do, the unquenchable origin of every act more complicated than a reflex. In all cases, emotions are humanity’s motivator and it’s omnipresent guide.

Thomas Lewis, A General Theory of Love

A Practice:

Stop and Notice. Reduce Internal Noise. To do this you need to inhabit your body or your mind will drag you down its own path.  Pay attention to your body  – taking control of your energy. Notice slowly each part of your body, breathe and focus on your breath – get out of head and back into the present experience. Notice the emotion you feel where is it experienced in your physical being? Notice the sensations, notice the emotion, and then Name it. Try this frequently.


Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence. New York. Bantam. 1995

Daniel Goleman, Richard E Boyatzis, Annie McKee. Primal Leadership:  Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelli