What is EQ and Why is it Important for Business?

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You’ve probably read the phrase in an online article or heard it from your Aunt Robin, the family psychologist. But what exactly does it mean and why is “Emotional Intelligence” or “EQ” being linked to professional success?

A person with a strong EQ has the capacity to be aware of, express and control their emotions and handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. People have an EQ and companies have an EQ, and it is becoming more prevalent for companies to hire professionals with a high EQ.

The concept was originally formulated by two psychologists from the University of New Hampshire and Yale University in 1990. In those days “IQ” was king and indicative of an individual’s inherent intelligence or intelligence gained from life experiences. EQ didn’t evolve into a mainstream concept until the mid 2000’s, and has only just recently become a buzzword in the business world over the past few years.

I’m willing to bet most of us had that friend in college that lived by the age-old mantra, “It’s not about the grades you make, it’s the hands you shake.” Be it by nepotism or strong networking skills, they expected to skate through life riding on coattails. Regardless of their apathy towards learning, they weren’t entirely wrong. Being a “people-person” is a very valuable trait in professionals, and businesses are hiring these people for a good reason.

I’m willing to make another bet that I’m not the only young professional that rolls their eyes when they come across the “qualifications” section of a job posting and see something along the lines of:

  • Must possess excellent communication skills


  • Must work well in a team

It seems these things should be a given at this point, shouldn’t they? After all, haven’t we been doing team projects and communicating with our peers since we were in Kindergarten? It wasn’t until I learned about emotional intelligence that I understood I was missing the point.

To paraphrase millionaire entrepreneur and public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, “IQ is a commodity. Data is a commodity. I’m far more interested in watching people interact at a restaurant with their smartphone.

Scientists believe a person’s IQ is rooted in genetics, but can be developed through environmental factors. So what does it mean for IQ to be a commodity and how does it relate to the business world? Growing businesses are learning how to replicate the same product or service as their competition, while longstanding businesses seek to find an “edge” to stay profitable. The edge is their emotional quotient. Their EQ as a business is the determining factor in why a consumer will choose to buy their product or use their service when faced with two similar options. Their capacity to be self aware as a business is based on their corporate culture and the people they have working there from the C-Suite to the customer service representatives.

Businesses all stem from one person who once had an idea. It becomes a business when the idea is given legs in the form of organizational structure, a business development plan, and most importantly, a corporate culture that gives the business its identity. This identity shapes everything from deciding who gets hired for a position, ethical principles, and customer interaction standards. If you’ve ever stopped to eat at Chik-fil-A, by the way, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Let’s go back to that job posting. I may still roll my eyes when I see the company is looking for an “experienced professional (insert title here)” with five years of relevant experience and “excellent communication skills” because of how obvious it sounds. But, the point I was missing is that communication and working well with a team is more than making sure you’re on the same page as all of your coworkers or being succinct in an email. The majority of communication is how we regulate our emotions as human beings and the way in which we display empathy and judgment in and out of the office.

How do you use the EQ to build your business? Tell us in the comments section below!

Will Deisley

Sales/New Business Representative

The Shell CompanyComment