Over the past five weeks we’ve covered a lot of Emotional Intelligence ground. If we look at the totality of EQ it’s easy to see how the description ‘The Swiss army knife of life’ is on the money, based on how many tools and solutions the various practices can provide. A common goal most of us have is to live a productive, successful, happy life and be the version of ourselves that we aspire to be.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, and it’s not unusual that we end up having drastically different days than we envisioned when we woke up. While there are many reasons this can occur, a common theme is that our mindset and perspective play a significant role in how we respond to and process all events and interactions we have on any given day. It’s essential to recognize that many of our natural tendencies and reactions are default settings that are not optimal for modern-day life. In our early ancestors’ lives, it was critical to identify threats and dangers to survive another day. We are still operating under that same neural programming to zero in on negative aspects of life even though they are no longer life-threatening. Not surprisingly, this default tendency to focus unconsciously on negative aspects before positive ones leads to plenty of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Now imagine if that was the other way around, and your default perspective was first to see the positive instead of the negative. This approach ties into self-awareness and self-management and enables you to fundamentally shift your outlook to minimize stress and increase your happiness. It’s important to note that this is not an attempt to become oblivious to problems that come up; of course, those still need to be dealt with. More to the point, it’s developing the understanding that we have significant control over our emotions and the lens through which we see the world.
As much as developing our skills and abilities around EQ will help us manage our emotional responses and optimize our relationships with others, there is also a substantial upside related to upward career mobility. While it’s easy to make a case for why building our EQ powers should be a priority in our personal lives, it’s significant that EQ in professional applications proves valuable and financially rewarding. For example, LinkedIn is widely considered a reliable barometer of emerging workplace trends based on the millions of employers and employees providing activity data that can be used for analysis. In 2022 studies, LinkedIn determined that 57% of employers list ‘soft skills’ (aka EQ) as the most in-demand expertise they are recruiting for. Additionally, Harvard Business Review published an eye-opening article in August 2022 titled ‘The C Suite Skills that Matter Most’, which looked at the evolution of hiring practices at the highest levels in the largest US companies. Essentially, the article spoke to the historical recruiting practices of searching out candidates based on the right education pedigree and track record of financial management success, or trying to lure away executives from companies like GE, IBM, and McKinsey, and determined it was “ancient history.” Put simply, relying on those established hiring practices is no longer a reliable indicator of managerial success. As such, executive recruiters have adjusted their focus to finding people with soft skills instead of hard skills. Their reasoning is simple, modern-day workplace priorities have evolved to where expert communication and collaboration is the prioritized need.
The management expert Peter Drucker was prophetic in his quote decades ago “the more we automate information handling, the more we will have to create opportunities for effective communication”. As technology now allows businesses to be run mainly through automated processes, Drucker’s prediction has come to fruition. Suppose we consider that the world’s largest companies uniformly have access to the most robust and cutting-edge tech to operate day-to-day functions. In that case, their competitive edge is derived from what the technology cannot yet offer. Specifically, these are intangibles such as judgment, creativity, and navigating a diverse workforce with employees placed globally. The nature of how the world’s largest companies operate is radically different in 2022 vs. 2002, and the skillsets that define the most successful leaders have also evolved. The companies that are most responsive to these evolutions are the most successful. Additionally, the people in tune with these changes are building their skills in these in-demand areas. In doing so, they are well-positioned to align themselves with the top leadership positions now and in the future.
As you may have suspected, all of these in-demand and prioritized skills referenced in articles and studies are under the umbrella of EQ. They are just being referred to as the better known (and slightly vintage) term of soft skills.
While the research and data make it clear that EQ will continue to have a growing significance in hiring decisions, career growth, and leadership roles, you may ask: how can this help me now?
To that question, here’s a takeaway to help put a financial incentive on building your EQ skills. Dr. Travis Bradberry, the co-author of ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0’ and co-founder of TalentSmart EQ, published a study of 42,000 participants who took the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal Test with a comparison to their annual incomes. People with high EQ scores make a yearly average of $29,000 more than people with low EQ scores. On average, each IQ point added $1,300 to annual income.
Think about that data; not only does building your EQ skillsets reward you with the richness of functioning as the best version of yourself, but you’ll also likely reap the rewards in your paycheck now or in your next role.
For some final EQ starting steps I’ll leave you with these suggestions:
Begin the habit of honest and accurate self-assessment to identify areas you would like to develop your skills, and equally important, in order to ‘catch yourself doing something right’ by keeping track of daily successes.
Ensure you maintain a growth-mindset as opposed to a fixed-mindset. By doing so you remain open-minded to new ideas and opportunities to progress and evolve each day. Curiosity is a superpower, and the road of self-improvement is always under construction.
Be mindful of staying present in the present and dedicating your focus and attention to whatever task you are involved in. Multitasking is often characterized as doing many things poorly at once.
On a related note, be an active listener and pay close attention to non-verbal communication as that will be a much larger part of any conversation that whatever words are being said.
Form a relationship with your future self and develop the habit of seeking their advice. When they tell you what they wish they did 10 years ago, that’s what you do in present day. It may not be the easiest choice but it’s advice from a wiser version of your subconscious self that will rarely steer you wrong!