Career SkillsLessons on Leadership

Emotional Intelligence: The Non-Negotiable Factor Every Company Needs for Success

By Jacquelyn Adams

Ever felt that certain “vibe” in an organization? That invisible force driving empathy, growth and a general sense of “we’re all in this together”? That’s an indicator that you’ve entered the realm of Emotional Intelligence (or EQ – also known as EI).

During the Corporate Learning Week (CLW Atlanta 2023) conference, a bi-annual L&D event where industry leaders share strategies, trends and insights, I gained deeper insights into the significance of EQ. I realized it’s not just a trendy concept, but a powerful factor that underpins successful leadership and efficient organizational practices. Let’s embark on this exploration together, unraveling the golden nuggets from leaders who don’t just preach EQ, but practice it in every beat of their organizational rhythm.

What’s All the Buzz About EQ Anyway?

Emotional Intelligence is about making sure your emotions work for you. And as we’ve previously addressed in this column, it’s not about constant sunshine; it’s acknowledging the storm and dancing in the rain. Here’s some food for thought: A massive 71% of hiring managers lean more towards EQ than IQ when making the big hire. And if that wasn’t convincing enough, The Carnegie Institute tells us that our financial success banks 85% on our EQ. Yes, 85%! So, if you’ve been focusing on just IQ, it’s time for a strategy tweak.

Born this way? Think Again!

The first panel discussion I attended included Andre Lesseres, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at UAB Medicine, and this myth-busting comment: We’re not born with EQ. It’s a learned behavior, and it’s a valuable tool. So, for everyone thinking they missed the EQ train — good news! There’s still time to catch it.

In fact, Lesseres went on to dish out some sage advice on gut, instinctual feelings. When you feel something’s “off” with someone, we need to take a second and pause. It is really that spidey sense telling us that something is wrong, or is it just realizing that they are part of a different “tribe”? We are programmed to look out for our own, whether it’s race, religion or even our alma mater. So, when we meet someone with a different belief or sports team, they might feel like a threat, but it’s time to invite EQ to our decision-making parties. We listen to our gut, and then let EQ help us realize whether they are a threat or simply different than we are.

How to Integrate EQ into Your Workplace

Transitioning from understanding the critical importance of EQ to actually embedding it into your organizational fabric can feel like a gigantic leap. However, just as with any significant transition in life, we can return to Desmond Tutu’s age old question, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” So here are some steps we can take as we eat our metaphorical elephant, leading ourselves and our organization to have more EQ in the work environment:

Daily Doses of EQ

Victoria Feldman, Head of Learning and Development at Amazon, shared that her company throws out a sprinkle of EQ daily! They send three or four EQ-related questions every day, reminding everyone that EQ isn’t just an annual seminar topic. Questions that integrate emotional intelligence could include:

    • Do you trust your manager?
    • Do you feel like you can bring your whole self to work?
    • Do you feel like you’re empowered to grow in your role?

In this subtle, yet impactful, manner, by integrating this optional daily questionnaire, Amazon’s leadership doesn’t just measure the pulse of EQ but gathers invaluable analytics, enabling them to astutely navigate through their EQ dashboards and thoughtfully mold an emotionally intelligent work environment.

Leaders, Set The Tone!

One of my favorite moments in CLW Atlanta 2023 was when Jewell Williams, Vice President of Learning & Development at Jackson Healthcare, had a simple yet profound takeaway, “Leaders set the vibe. A nod, a decision shared, or just a simple “I understand” goes a long way.” On the other hand, if we are dismissive of EQ and connection in our department, then it will be like a web with snapping cords. Every moment we lead and are dismissive towards our subordinates or undercut those around us drains the EQ in our department, and instead creates a toxic workplace. It is so simple, but even so, it is so easy to forget our impact — for better or worse — on our department’s EQ.

Don’t EQ Alone

Don’t walk the EQ journey solo. It’s like a potluck; everyone brings something to the table, enriching the feast. Since it is something we grow in over time, and not simply born with, that means we need to exercise this intelligence. We need people in our lives who can push back, challenge and have hard conversations. We need to find solid resources (like CLW2023), whether its established books or speakers on the topic. The important part is that this change does not occur in a vacuum. Like any new skill set, we need to do the learning and training.

In the realm of organizational growth and leadership, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) stands out not as an option, but a necessity. It’s the catalyst that propels companies towards authentic leadership, enhanced teamwork, and a culture that values the multifaceted human experience. To employ EQ is to employ a deepened understanding, harnessing emotions to fuel our actions, decisions and connections within the workplace. As we traverse the path towards integrating EQ into our professional realms, we’re not just building better work environments; we’re constructing a future where every individual is empowered, valued and understood. Emotionally intelligent leadership is here, urging us to not merely acknowledge but to embrace, adapt and forge ahead, crafting spaces where emotional wisdom is not only respected, but is intrinsically woven into the very fabric of our organizations.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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