“I see great power in emotional intelligence, but how can you actually create VALUE with it in a business?”
While I’ve heard variations on this question for years, I was surprised that it came up from an experienced coach working with a well-respected emotional intelligence assessment. I’ve come to see that for many people, EQ is an abstract idea… and most emotional intelligence tests make it worse because they are also so theoretical. There’s little value in a diagnosis with no meaningful path forward.
What does it take to turn EQ from something “interesting” to “valuable” — especially in a hard-hitting business context?
Three Free Resources on the Business Value of Emotional Intelligence
1. We introduced the new business case with a 20-minute webinar on the value chain fueled by emotional intelligence.
2. Our most-downloaded report, and one of our most-cited publications is The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence. (To share with others, here’s a shortlink: 6sec.org/case )
The new edition of this free eBook offers a visually engaging review of a host of studies linking emotional intelligence to performance in key areas:
- Leadership & the bottom line.
- Customers, sales & loyalty.
- The climate for employee motivation and retention.
- Career development and the attributes of start performers.
3. The “EQ in Learning & Development” eBook/brochure walks through a number of examples and includes links to in-depth case studies using Six Seconds’ methods and tools. It shows how companies are making emotional intelligence part of their culture and leadership.
Building the Business Case for EQ
In the early 2000s, my most frequently requested keynote was The Business Case for EQ. At first, I thought this meant I should share some fascinating research studies. While the talks were “good,” it wasn’t compelling. I realized there’s a better way, and it starts with three questions:
To excel, what does your org need to do?
What kind of culture will enable that?
What skills do your managers & leaders need to strengthen to build that culture?
Now when I give the business case keynote, I focus on facilitating a discussion of those questions — and at the end say: “A lot of the skills you’re talking about are fueled by emotional intelligence, or EQ — and there’s now a ton of research on the business value of EQ. If you want to dig into that, you can get a whole report free on 6sec.org/case … so now let’s focus on how you can add that value in your business.”
Will the Real Emotional Intelligence Please Stand Up?
One reason business leaders struggle with EQ is that it seems to be an academic concept… and even academics can’t agree on what it means. Then we get into a silly argument.
Where Six Seconds is unusual is that our focus isn’t on defining an abstract concept, but on creating a process to actually use it. That’s why the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence is a process framework — three action steps with learnable, measurable skills that help people take those actions.
From an academic perspective, it’s normal. Even “regular old IQ,” which has been around for over 100 years, lacks a definitive model. There are numerous IQ tests with different components. Yet there’s a common, simple understanding that cognitive intelligence means acquiring data and using that data to solve problems.
In mathematical intelligence, we’re talking about numerical data and mathematical puzzles (eg how to divide a plate of cookies among friends). The same structure applies to EQ: It’s about accurately picking up feeling data, and using that to solve emotional puzzles (eg how to ensure all the friends stay friends in the process).
Emotional Intelligence Awareness Versus Value
To increase commitment to emotional intelligence in business, we frequently conduct research on the relationship between EQ skills and a specific aspect of performance. “What skills set our best salespeople apart?” “How can we see the value of EQ to improve customer service?” “What skills make some of our nurses stand out in their patient outcome indicators?” Take a look at this article on documenting the value of emotional intelligence.
It turns out to be quite a simple exercise: You get a group of people in a specific role and compare their performance scores with their emotional intelligence scores. Over and over, we’ve seen that overall, emotional intelligence is a key differentiator — and a few specific capabilities stand out.
Then, to increase performance, leaders know they should develop emotional intelligence, and which aspects are priorities. They also know who to hire and the capabilities they should be evaluating as they assess performance.
In other words, the data provides direction. To get the value, leaders need to make it part of the way people-management happens on the ground from selection to onboarding to development and evaluation.
Culture for the Win
We’re currently running the Organizational Vitality research project — where we ask about emotions in the workplace and perceptions about emotional intelligence. We’ve run this study since 2006, and over and over, there’s an important trend:
Organizations that see emotional intelligence as “another topic for training” don’t get real value from this work. They treat it as flavor of the month, and frequently managers say, “it’s the senior managers who actually need this.”
On the other hand, there are a growing group of orgs committed to building a fabulous culture. These leaders want people to want to come to work. They know what Peter Drucker meant by, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” So when they see that there are learnable, measurable skills that enable leaders to build a winning culture… they’re in.
(By the way, please take the survey and tell us about emotions your organization)
This provides an important insight for making the case for emotional intelligence. The focus should be on the strategic priority — and the culture that will make that happen.