Business case for emotional intelligence

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“Soft skills produce hard results”. Is this the case with Zimbabwean companies?

Report by Moven Dube

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is emerging as a critical factor for sustaining high performance in most business environments.

According to broad surveys, businesses are turning to the science of EQ as part of human capital strategy, convinced that “soft skills” produce “hard results”.

Daniel Goleman reported that 80-90% of the competencies that differentiate top performers are in the domains of emotional intelligence.

EQ is “the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997).

The big question is: are Zimbabwean businesses turning to the science of EQ to reap the benefits? If not, this is the time to start. Zimbabwean business leaders must increasingly consider how the EQ concept brings value to organisations.

EQ isn’t a luxury you can dispense with in tough times. It’s a basic tool that when deployed with finesse, is the key to our professional success.

The following brief points build a strong case for how EQ contributes to the bottom line in any work organisation:
People with the highest levels of intelligence quotient (IQ) outperform those with average IQ just 20% of the time, while people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs 70% of the time, according to research carried out by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0. (New York: Gallup Press, 2007)
The Harvard Business Review recently reminded leaders that their excellence begins and ends with their inner resources: “Executives who fail to develop self-awareness (one of the domains of EQ) risk falling into an emotionally deadening routine that threatens their true selves.”

AT&T participated in a large, cross-industry study that found that at all levels of management (from line supervisors to senior executives) increased emotional intelligence, as measured through the EQ appraisal, accounted for 20% more productivity than low EQ leaders. Ninety-one percent of top performers were high in EQ, while only 26% of low performers were high in EQ. EQ explained nearly 60% of job performance across companies in the study (Bradberry, 2002).

Good EQ promotes successful conflict resolution and leads to improved interaction between staff.

EQ development reduces stress for individuals and organisations by decreasing conflict, improving relationships and increasing stability, continuity and harmony.

TalentSmart studies show the link between EQ and job performance: EQ alone explains 58% of a leader’s job performance, as 90% of top performers are high in EQ. Just 20% of low performers are high in EQ.

A multinational consulting firm measured the EQ of senior partners on EQ competencies. Partners high in EQ were responsible for US$1,2 million more profit each in their clients than low EQ partners. High EQ partners achieved a 139% gain in profit (Boyatzis, 1999).

Research by the Centre for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of derailment in executives involve deficits in emotional competence. The three primary ones are difficulty in handling change, not being able to work well in a team and poor interpersonal relations.

Experienced partners in a multinational consulting firm were assessed on the EI competencies plus three others. Partners who scored above the median on nine or more of the 20 competencies delivered more profit from their accounts than did other partners (Boyatzis, 1999).

A study of 130 executives found that how well people handled their own emotions determined how much people around them preferred to deal with them (Walter V. Clarke Associates, 1997).

In a national insurance company, insurance sales agents who were weak in emotional competencies such as self-confidence, initiative and empathy sold policies with an average premium of US$54 000.

Those who were very strong in at least five of eight key emotional competencies sold policies worth US$114 000 (Hay/McBer Research and Innovation Group, 1997).

The primary reason people leave a job is based on relationships. One of the key factors is the quality of the relationship between the employee and her/his supervisor/manager. As leadership guru Richard Leider says: “People don’t leave companies, but they leave leaders.”

Coca-Cola saw division leaders who developed EQ competencies outperform their targets by more than 15%. Division leaders who didn’t develop their EQ missed targets by the same margin (McClelland, 1999).

In another study, 300 top-level executives from 15 global companies were analysed, and the results demonstrated that six emotional competencies separated the star performers from the average: influence, team leadership, organisational awareness, self-confidence, achievement drive, and leadership (Spencer, 1997).

Competency research in more than 200 companies and organisations around the globe suggests that approximately one-third of the difference in performers is due to technical skills and cognitive ability, while two-thirds is due to emotional competence.

In top leadership positions, research indicates that as much as four-fifths of the difference is due to emotional competence (Goleman, 1998).

The call to Zimbabwean business leaders is, let’s leverage on EQ to get the best engagement from our employees.

Dube is the founder and managing consultant of Strategic Learning and Growth Private Business Corporation Zimbabwe.

You can contact him on e-mail: movenddd@gmail.com

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