IQ vs EQ – which makes you more successful?

What makes you successful at work? Being smarter? Being more assertive? Being better looking? Well according to a recent CNN report it’s proven that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) plays a more pivotal role in ensuring your success at work…

So firstly, let’s briefly define the terms. IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is a specific number derived from a standardised intelligence test. A score of between 90-109 is average, over 130 is highly superior and less than 69 is deemed ‘extremely low’ (basically me, plankton and my dog Baxter). Scores are calculated by comparing the test taker’s score to the results from other people in the same age group.

By comparison Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is the ability to manage and develop productive relationships with others and this manifests itself in 5 core competencies:

1. Self-awareness: recognising your ’emotions’ (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, all neatly portrayed in the movie Inside Out) and their effects; knowing your strengths and limitations; and having a strong sense of your capabilities and self-worth.

2. Self-regulation: managing your moods by keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check; and channeling your feelings and resources to enhance your performance and productivity.

3. Self-motivation: knowing how to use your emotions to propel yourself into action toward a desired goal and to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks.

4. Empathy: your ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives; read and understand the dynamics of relationships; and anticipate, recognise and meet key constituents’ needs.

5. Social skills: your adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others through communication (see my previous article called Shut Up. Why Talking Too Much Can Damage Your Career), collaboration, influence and relationship-building.

And unlike IQ, which is pretty much innate (although that is no excuse for not trying to being smarter) EQ is much more about nurture in that it is almost exclusively learned behaviour. Interestingly it also peaks later in life, usually between the age of 50-59. Evidently that’s why my own personal EQ skills have reached their absolute pinnacle 😉

IQ has long been associated with success, particularly when it comes to academic achievement (no surprises there then). Those with a high IQ typically perform well in school, often earn higher salaries and generally tend to be physically / mentally healthier. However, more recently, experts have recognised that IQ is absolutely not the sole key to success in life and many have postulated that EQ is actually more powerful.

Psychologist, author and New York Times columnist Daniel Goleman, succinctly explains why EQ is so important in the ever evolving and increasingly complex working environment:

“In the new workplace, with its emphasis on flexibility, teams and a strong customer orientation, this crucial set of emotional competencies is becoming increasingly essential for excellence in every job in every part of the world”

Goleman describes EQ as being a “different way of being smart” by understanding your own feelings and using them to make good decisions. Of course it’s a social skill because it means you need to get along with your colleagues but that’s often down to managing your emotions and controlling impulses. It may well be that you would cheerfully choke your compatriot for their churlish behaviour but learning to cajole them into what is required is far more beneficial for all parties….

Now I’m no emotional intelligence expert but, somewhat fortuitously, I know a man in my LinkedIn network that is… Bob Newton (MBA) owns the CRN Strategic Consultancy and lectures on the subject at both Penn State University and Eastern University. When I asked Bob for his opinion, he inevitably added some invaluable words of wisdom…

“EQ is a relearned behaviour. As a well-rounded child we typically exhibit a moderate level of EQ in our interactions with others due to the nurturing our parents have provided. Sadly, as we progress through our formative years and educational path, less emphasis is placed on improving these skills and more emphasis is placed on uniformity instead. It’s only now that we are starting to understand that attainment of a higher EQ is equally, if not more, important to success as a high IQ”

So, conversely, why is having a high IQ less desirable in the workplace these days? Well according to HR expert Lori Kocon it’s because we have pretty much plateaued when it comes to being smart. We are churning out University graduates like a sausage machine to the extent that we now have a glut of highly intelligent people with roughly the same level of knowledge and technical prowess. Consequently, by previously prioritising IQ, we have effectively reached its maximum effectiveness. Prospective employers are therefore having to refocus on ’emotional intelligence’ as a way of determining the best candidates to employ. As Kocon puts it:

“What sets people apart now are their abilities to manage themselves and develop productive relationships with others. It all boils down to being emotionally intelligent”

Let me put it another way. A high IQ may get you the initial job interview but it will be your EQ skills at that interview which will ultimately get you the job. Now that’s something to think about right?

And a closing thought from Dr Travis Bradbury. As author of the the #1 bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, it’s fair to say that Dr B knows a little bit about the subject. He reckons that:

“The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary”

Cool. That means I just need to add another 800 points or so to my EQ skills index and then I’m a millionaire! Hmm. Slight problem though. From what I can gather, the scale only goes up to about 80.

So what do you think? Is EQ dominant over IQ? Or do you think that simply being clever always beats being more empathetic and self aware? Also, does the IQ/EQ balance switch depending on the industry in which you work or does it make no difference at all? As ever, I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

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