Foundational Understandings of Emotional Intelligence

By Dan Bobinski

Dan-Bobinski

If you’ve not become a student of Emotional Intelligence you should, especially if you want to be a top performer. Two powerful reasons back up that statement. First, research shows that the overwhelming difference between top performers and average performers is higher levels of Emotional Intelligence. The second reason? Emotional Intelligence is learnable.

Emotional Intelligence (what many call “EQ”) is a type of skill or intelligence that enables you to perceive and assess the emotions, desires, and tendencies of yourself as well as of those around you, and choose the best decision for all concerned that moves everyone in the direction of a common goal.

There’s a lot in that definition. It’s something I created to be more practical than EQ definitions found elsewhere. The verbs perceive, assess and choose are important, as that’s what we must do to practice EQ. The various differences in emotions, desires and tendencies are what we must study.

To make it simple, we can examine emotions, desires and tendencies in terms of cognitive style, behavioral style and internal motivators. Thankfully, studying these areas has been made easy because of several popular assessment tools that exist.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measures our preferences in cognitive styles. DISC assessments are used to identify preferences in behavioral style. And an assessment called Driving Forces is used to determine preferences in internal motivation.

To learn what makes people tick, all one needs to do is study what each of these assessments measures. The more you understand these facets of personality, the easier it becomes to perceive, assess and make choices that move people forward.  If you want to be a top performer, this needs to be on your to-do list. Two thirds of the difference between average and top performers in skilled professions and middle management is emotional intelligence. And EQ is even more important for people in positions of senior leadership, where it comprises four fifths of the difference between average and top performers.

Laying the foundation

What follows are 10 essential understandings about self-awareness and relationship management that will help anyone strengthen their emotional intelligence.

For some, this list will be things you already know.  If so, know that you have a good foundation on which to build more EQ knowledge. For others, this list will lay the groundwork needed to move in the direction of becoming a top performer. 

  1. In the realm of personality styles, we should drop the ideas of “good” and “bad.” People are just different.
  2. People often equate “different” with “difficult.” In reality, different is difficult only because people haven’t learned to work effectively with the differences.
  3. In the same way that a stick has two ends, people have strengths and weaknesses. All strengths have an associated weakness, and all weaknesses have an associated strength. We choose which end of the stick will receive our attention.
  4. All personality styles add to team strength, it’s just a matter of choosing to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. By focusing on strengths we get stronger. By focusing on weaknesses, we get weaker.
  5. Seeking the strengths in differing styles does not come naturally – it takes conscious choice and constant effort.
  6. We cannot be effective if we expect everyone else to meet us on “our turf.”
  7. We cannot assume we know another person’s definition of “win.” We may have a general idea, but to be effective we must ask, and truly seek to understand.
  8. If we place personal goals over those of others, the team, and/or the organization’s vision and mission, we create divisions. This severely weakens our ability to maximize results.
  9. Effectiveness has to do with doing the right thing, efficiency has to do with getting things done quickly. When working with people, we should prioritize effectiveness over efficiency. The best results usually come when we take the time in our relationships to do things right.
  10. It’s one thing to understand these things, it’s another thing to do them. When applying the truth found in this list, the longest road can be the 18 inches between our head and our heart.

The best place to start

After absorbing these essential understandings, many people want to start analyzing those around them. Although this will be needed down the road, it’s not a good place to start. According to the majority of literature on leadership and the EQ model itself, the best place to start is by becoming more self-aware. I always suggest that people identify one or two of the facets associated with cognitive or behavioral preferences, and start examining their own preferences in those areas.

As an example, let’s look at the “problem solving” facet. Some people see problems and want to solve them immediately. Others see problems and want to step back to analyze them. In truth, different situations call for different approaches, but knowing our own preference on this behavioral spectrum is a good starting line for developing stronger EQ. If you think your problem-solving style is exceptional, be careful, because every strength has a corresponding weakness. On the other hand, if you think your approach to problem-solving is not good, take heart, for every weakness has a corresponding strength.

A starting point in developing EQ is perceiving and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of our own emotions, desires, and tendencies, and then choosing the best course of action to get the best result for everyone involved.

The good news is that no matter what your experience or position, you will become more effective in your role if you can perceive and assess your own and others emotions, desires and tendencies, and then choose the best course of action that moves everyone in the direction of a common goal.   

Dan Bobinski is president of Workplace-Excellence.com and Everything-Training.com As a consultant, speaker, and trainer, he helps organizations of all shapes and sizes create excellent workplaces. He is also the author of numerous books, including “The EQ Factor” (due in the spring) and the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams.” Reach him at daniel@eqfactor.net