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Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Being smart is a desirable trait. But will it get you to the top? Jeff Haden looks at why emotional intelligence trumps IQ every time.

guy wearing jumper with "wise guy" printed

You’re smart. And you constantly work to get even smarter.

And that’s important. But being the smartest person in the room won’t always make you the most successful person in the room.

According to research described in Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “People with the highest levels of IQ outperform those with average IQs just 20 per cent of the time, while people with average IQs outperform those with high IQs 70 per cent of the time.”

But wait, there’s more: According to Richard K. Wagner in a paper titled Intelligence, Training, and Employment in American Psychologist, “IQ does not and cannot predict success in life – it can predict on average six per cent of success in a given job.”

So what does predict success?

Emotional intelligence: according to research conducted by TalentSmart, emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance out of thirty-four important workplace skills, explaining 58 per cent of job performance in all types of jobs. People with a high emotional intelligence make an average of $29,000 more per year than people with low emotional intelligence – and that holds true for all industries, all levels, in every region of the world.

As TalentSmart President Travis Bradberry says, “We have yet to find a job in which performance and pay are not tied closely to emotional intelligence.”

Clearly, emotional intelligence in business is critical. Social awareness, the ability to pick up other people’s emotions and understand their true feelings, motivations, and agendas, is incredibly important. So are relationship management skills, the ability to use your awareness of other people’s emotions – and your own emotions – to successfully manage interactions and relationships.

So how can you develop greater business emotional intelligence? Here are some easy ways:

1. Don’t “fix” people’s emotions; acknowledge them

Sarah missed a deadline. Michael’s project depends on Sarah. He’s frustrated. He’s angry. What do you typically do? Fix the problem: provide additional resources, rework the schedule and generally take action.

Meanwhile, Michael continues to revisit it  – and his frustration gets in the way of his performance.

Before you fix the problem, acknowledge Michael’s feelings. Talk it through. Validate his emotions. Show him you understand why he’s frustrated and angry.

Then fix the problem.

Taking a few minutes to deal with lingering emotions is well worth the time spent.

2. Make “care” a verb

You know when people do something well, but do you tell them? Most of us don’t – at least not nearly as often as we should.

Every time an employee – or supplier or vendor or partner or anyone, really – does something well, say, "Wow, that was great how you..."

You can also go back in time. Recalling past wins and acknowledging them can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. It can even make a bigger impact, because it shows you still remember what happened last month.

3. Answer questions that aren’t asked

Where personal and professional relationships are concerned, face value doesn’t always tell the full story because people can often ask different questions to the one they really want answered.

One employee might ask you whether she should take a night class, but really wants to talk about whether you see her as promotable. Another employee might ask how you built a successful business. Instead of trying to flatter you, he might be looking for some advice – and encouragement – to help him follow his own dreams. Or a partner might ask how you felt about the idea they presented during the last board meeting, but what they really want to talk about is their diminished role in the running of the company.

Behind simple questions can be larger questions that go unasked. Emotionally intelligent leaders think about what lies underneath so they can answer that question, too.

4. Heart on your sleeve

The prevailing paradigm is that a great leader is clinical and rational. And that’s true to a degree, because good bosses are professional.

Great bosses are professional, yet also openly human. They show sincere excitement when things go well. They show sincere appreciation for hard work and extra effort. They show sincere disappointment – not in others, but in themselves. They're even willing to show a little anger.

In short, great bosses are people, and they treat their employees like people, too.

If I’m your employee and you treat me like a number, I'll stay until a better number comes along. If you treat me with a blend of compassion, caring, and emotional intelligence, I will stay for the long-term – because ultimately what we all want is to be treated like an individual.

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