We all know it's important to be smart.
But being smart doesn't have to mean a super high IQ, of course, it can mean being a normal human with a lot of knowledge about your particular area of expertise.
Having a high IQ can be very helpful to a successful career, but it might not be the most helpful thing. Enter: EQ.
A good EQ might actually be even better for your career trajectory. Here's why.
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What is EQ?
Emotional Quotient, or as it's sometimes referred to, Emotional Intelligence (EI), is the ability to recognize and understand feelings, your own feelings and other people's feelings.
This is not to say that the most important aspect of business is the ability to give out hugs. (Blech, although admittedly, I may not be the best at the emotional side of things. They don't call me Evil HR Lady for nothing.)
It's not about touchy-feely, it's about understanding. And that? I'm good at. (Also, humble.)
Why Is EQ Important in Your Business?
Well, think of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He's super smart, but he has no idea what us normal humans think and feel about things.
Coming up with a product or service that can appeal to the masses is beyond his capability. He doesn't get what other people see as necessary or even desired.
He can't switch his behavior to accommodate someone else's needs. It's his spot on the couch, the fact that someone is sleeping there is irrelevant. He's sick, so everyone needs to cater to him. Et cetera. That's someone with low EQ.
Contrast that with the people at Apple who came up with the iPhone. It was something entirely new, and definitely required a great deal of IQ to create, but it appealed to everyone, from toddlers to teens to grandma.
They got what people wanted, even though people didn't know why they wanted it until the product was actually available.
That's EQ. Understanding people and their wants and desires.
If you can come up with the next iPhone, you're set for life, but EQ can do more than that. It can make the difference between a successful business and a failed one.
Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, explains in the new book, "The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance", he says, “Too often we tout the intellectual capabilities of leaders by focusing on their IQ, when we should really be valuing their emotional intelligence quotient or EQ score.
Being the smartest person in the room is not enough if you don’t have the capacity to work with the people who are in that room with you.
When you work with and through communities of contributors as Red Hat does, where you can’t order anyone to do anything for you, your ability to listen, process, and not take everything personally becomes incredibly valuable.”
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Too often businesses promote the best "workers" to management positions instead of the person who would be the best at managing.
If you're sitting behind a desk doing a task all day, it doesn't necessarily matter how good you are at understanding others.
What matters if if you're good at understanding your task, a very IQ oriented job. But, if you want to manage and lead? Whitehurst has it right.
Good leaders have to understand their teams and their clients. And that takes EQ.
How Can You Look for That Skill When You Hire?
Whitehurst says that you should, "Hire people who show they are listening. Leadership is the art of getting work done with other people.
You should strive to build a balanced team that is equipped to handle any challenge they may face. I strongly believe that diversity of personality, perspective, and background leads to a stronger team. T
hose differences may cause a team to disagree from time to time, or even argue, but a well-functioning team knows how to listen to each other, hash out even the most difficult of issues, and ultimately deliver better results.
Choosing intellectually curious people with diverse strengths and perspectives will make a strong team."
Some people panic at the idea of disagreeing. It's scary to be in a situation where people say, "No, you're wrong," but it's critical that you have people like that on your team.
You need to have the ability to talk with one another and see things from a different point of view. One of the hallmarks of someone with good EQ is that they can listen and ask questions and consider that they might not always be right.
Sometimes people that have too high of an IQ know that they are right, and as a result, stop listening.
However, sometimes, even smart people can be dumb.
Like IQ, some people are born with high EQ and some are born with low EQ. If yours is low, it doesn't mean you're forever stuck as a task only person. You can learn and develop your EQ as well.
Try some of the following techniques:
- Take notes while other people speak. This keeps your mind focused on what they are saying, rather than focused on coming up with your next response.
- Let others give their ideas first. This is especially critical if you're already the boss. If you always speak first, people will try to mirror your ideas back to you in the hopes of gaining favor.
- Take surveys. Formally and informally. In this way, you find out what others are thinking because you're actually asking them. Companies often do focus groups before releasing a new product. It's the scientific way of forcing the powers that be to learn how others think.
- Specifically, hire people with different backgrounds than your own. Look for people who grew up differently than you did, went to different schools than you did and have different views than you do. If you hear enough difference from people you know to be smart, it just might make you start listening.
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Hopefully, you can use your increasing EQ skills to improve and strengthen your business and your own career.
When you're stuck, ask yourself, "Would Sheldon do this?" If the answer is yes, stop it and ask someone for their opinion.