Mind Your Es and Qs part 2: developing EI in your employees

Last week, Roundtable highlighted the psychology and main methods behind emotional intelligence (EI.) Today, we’re honing in on Daniel Goleman’s model of EI, which focuses on the strengths of “outstanding leaders.”

In Goleman’s 1996 book “Working With Emotional Intelligence,” he writes that nearly 90 percent of a person’s success in leadership could be attributed to emotional intelligence.

“For star performance in all jobs, in every field, emotional competence is twice as important as purely cognitive abilities,” Goleman writes.

With that said, on his site, Goleman writes that he doesn’t believe EI is, in general, more important than IQ (and he discredits claims that, for example, EI “accounts for 80 percent of success”). IQ is important in determining a person’s aptitude for mastering skills, which can help pinpoint the jobs in which that person will succeed. But Goleman believes that IQ isn’t enough to be an effective leader.

“IQ washes out when it comes to predicting who, among a talented pool of candidates within an intellectually demanding profession will become the strongest leader,” Goleman writes. “In part this is because of the floor effect: Everyone at the top echelons of a given profession, or at the top levels of a large organization, has already been sifted for intellect and expertise.”

In the Harvard Business Review article “Emotional Intelligence has 12 Elements, Which Do You Need to Work On?” co-written by Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, who is a professor at Case Western Reserve and founding member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence, Goleman and Boyatzis give this example:

Esther counts EI as one of her strengths — she is likable, sociable and sensitive. Even so, she’s feeling stuck in her job. Why?

According to Goleman and Boyatzis, Esther’s EI skills are too uneven; she needs more balance.

In Goleman’s model of EI, which he spent 30 years developing, there are four domains of emotional intelligence (among which are 12 elements).

He found that a wide array of EI capabilities prepares a leader for tough challenges, and having a broader balance of EI skills allows leaders to handle situations directly, instead of just smoothing things over.

We can’t just focus on a few aspects of emotional learning and ignore the rest. We should strive to develop EI skills in all four domains to make us more prepared and well-rounded leaders.

How can you improve your EI if you’re already strong in some areas?

Goleman and Boyatzis recommend reviewing the 12 competencies first. By doing this on your own, you can start thinking about your strengths and what areas of EI you can improve.

They also recommend a formal 360-degree assessment that produces self-rating results and captures how others — people who know you well — perceive the test taker.

“The larger the gap between a leader’s self-ratings and how others see them, research finds, the fewer EI strengths the leader actually shows, and the poorer the business results.”

We tend to think the best of ourselves, but other people can (and do) perceive us differently. A 360-degree assessment allows people a better sense of their true emotional intelligence, and it’s the best predictor of a leader’s effectiveness, actual business performance, engagement and overall life satisfaction.

“Don’t shortchange your development as a leader by assuming that EI is all about being sweet and chipper, or that your EI is perfect if you are — or, even worse, assume that EI can’t help you excel in your career,” Goleman and Boyatzis write.

What can your organization do to promote emotional intelligence?

In Goleman’s book, he writes of the importance of businesses focusing on emotional competencies because business has changed, and the traits required to succeed are different.

“The ratcheting upward of competitive pressures puts a new value on people who are self-motivated, show initiative, have the inner drive for outdoing themselves, and are optimistic enough to take reversals and setbacks in stride,” Goleman writes.

He believes that emotional intelligence is teachable, and he has created assessments and advocates for social and emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools. For businesses, taking EI assessments can be a good place to start, but what comes after is the most important.

Not only should employees learn about their EI, but also their managers and leaders must fully adopt it. Cultivating emotional intelligence begins with leaders, managers and bosses. These are the people who set the tone for everyone else and should “walk the talk.” Employees will come to model the behavior of their leaders and look to them for coaching.

When we treat employees with respect and understanding, we provide a foundation for building stronger relationships. Our workers learn from us how the workplace should be.
In Forbes’ “How to Develop More Emotionally Intelligent Employees,” Janice Gassam recommends organizations develop stress-management techniques. These could include:

  • Yoga classes
  • Discounted gym memberships
  • Meditation rooms
  • Prayer rooms
  • Additional information on stress reduction

She also recommends implementing activities that allow employees to bond and build relationships, such as retreats and weekly/monthly company outings.

Training can also be a great way to increase emotional intelligence. With training, competencies including empathy, listening skills, conflict management and self-control can improve. Gassam stresses training should be consistent and ongoing to create a continual promotion (and make sure to take a pre-assessment so you can track your progress).

In part three of this series, we’re working with our instructional design team to discuss custom eLearning that triggers emotional responses to help teach and improve emotional intelligence.

What aspects of EI would you like us to explore? Schedule a call to learn more about how Roundtable’s eLearning solutions can benefit your organization’s emotional intelligence, and subscribe to our blog to stay updated on our latest content.


Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence 10th Anniversary Hardcover Edition. Bantam Books, 2006.

Goleman, Daniel. Working With Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books, 1998.