Some executives are better at budgets, analysis, research; the logical stuff. Some, on the other hand, are better at relating to people, motivating their team, gaining an understanding of how customers might think. Of course, some people believe themselves to be good at both skill sets but if you ever think you could improve on the second then think positive because the concept of emotional intelligence might just be of help.

There has been research on emotional intelligence – often referred to as EQ to distinguish it from the more academic-related IQ – throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, but the book that popularised the idea in business circles was Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence in 1995. Increasingly it has been incorporated into training and coaching practices.

The basic message of Goleman’s work was that success is strongly influenced by personal qualities such as perseverance, self-control and the ability to get along with other people. That doesn’t sound too controversial to the business world these days. Most of us can probably think of a mid-level executive who may be highly intelligent but whose career has stalled. Perhaps because they don’t understand organisational politics or upset too many of the wrong people or their reputation puts people off wanting to work with them? This person may well need to boost their EQ.

Fundamentally there are two main aspects to EQ: understanding yourself (your aims, motivations,behavioural responses, etc.) and understanding others. The business benefits to developing these skills are numerous: increased motivation, productivity, engagement, commitment, harmony within the team; and decreased workplace stress, conflict and unhelpful politics.

The two aspects are divided into five main competence headings, as follows:

Self-Awareness – understanding your own emotions, being able to assess yourself accurately, your level of self-confidence.
Self-Regulation – being able to control your emotional responses, being seen as trustworthy, the degree to which you are conscientious, adaptable and innovative.
Self-Motivation – your drive to achieve and your commitment, initiative and optimism.

Social Awareness – your degree of empathy, the ability to understand customer needs, developing others, the ability to use diversity positively, political awareness.
Social Skills – your communication and influencing skills, leadership, change and conflict management, networking and ability to effectively lead a team.

Certainly, put like this, these are all essential skills for the executive in today’s corporate environment. However, there is an argument that for most of us, these skills (or lack of) are set at an early age, usually in childhood. This then begs the question: can these skills be developed and improved or are we stuck with what we have?

The good news is that yes, one can become more socially and emotionally competent. That said, most corporate training focuses on cognitive learning methods, which encourage you to take new information and fit it into your existing framework or world view EQ requires emotional learning, which may mean using the new information to actually change the way you perceive the world. But think positive, because that change of world view may just break you out a static pattern and bring you the career you always wanted.