Why EQ Matters

Why EQ Matters

Improve your emotional quotient to foster personal and professional growth.

Research indicates that emotional intelligence, or emotional quotient (EQ), makes up 67 percent of the abilities deemed necessary for superior performance in leaders and matters twice as much as technical expertise or intelligence quotient (IQ). If it matters so much, why don’t we spend time training and developing EQ?  Quite simply, it sounds squishy and soft, and leaders need to be tough and objective. Right?

Once you understand EQ, you’ll understand why those with high EQs have improved job performance and why it is integral in today’s work environment.

What Does EQ Measure?

To understand why EQ is more important than ever, we need to first understand what EQ is and what EQ assessments measure.

EQ is not about having emotions or even what those emotions are; it’s the ability to recognize emotions and then effectively manage them. This allows for successful collaboration and productivity. Well-regulated emotions facilitate logic-based decision making and increase leadership effectiveness.

Trevor O’Sullivan, general manager and owner of TTI Success Insights Australia, points out that rugby blokes don’t talk about emotions. Taking away the softness, he frames EQ around what is being experienced in the moment and what one is going to do about it.

5 Components of EQ

According to Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, the EQ model has five components:

  • Self-awareness,
  • Self-regulation,
  • Social awareness,
  • Social regulation, and
  • Motivation.

O’Sullivan’s graphic explains these different components. This graphic keeps the concepts clear and simple, which allows people to move toward actionable changes in their life.

  • Awareness is the starting point for both self and others. We need to examine what we are experiencing, what triggers our emotions, and what the impact of our emotions is.
  • Regulation is determining what we should or could do about it.
  • Motivation examines how driven we are to focus on our EQ — how often we examine our awareness and choose our actions.

Overcome Your Natural Instinct

Without going deep into the neuroscience of emotions, let’s look briefly at our brains. When we experience fear, anger, or frustration, the information is sent directly to the amygdala portion of our brain. The amygdala triggers our fight or flight response, which can then hijack our conscious processing. So instead of processing the fear at a cognitive level, where we choose a wise response, we first have a basic animal instinct we need to overcome.

Consider the Circumstances

We are all working in an environment with greater-than-normal stressors. You may be working from home while homeschooling kids and sharing a workspace with your spouse, or living alone and feeling isolated, or maybe you are an “essential worker” on the frontlines.

Become More Aware

The first step in becoming more aware is to take a valid and reliable assessment of your baseline EQ. With my clients, I use the TTI Success Insights EQ assessment because it is simple and accurately reflects your baseline. With this knowledge, you can then target your development needs. 

Even without an assessment, focus on becoming more aware of what triggers you. Beyond the added stressors of the pandemic, think about the ways in which your work has changed. Are you so focused on getting through the day that you aren’t taking the time or able to identify the specific triggers you are experiencing (self-awareness)? With so much of our normal routine being changed, it can be difficult to maintain the activities that helped us keep emotions in check. The quiet time on your afternoon commute is gone. With the kids home all the time, your exercise routine isn’t happening. Managing our stress has become more challenging. Coupled with the increased stressors, self-regulation is even harder than normal.

There is so much coming at us, it can be difficult to determine what is specifically triggering you. When you are more aware of your triggers and more aware of what you are experiencing, or why you are experiencing something, you have the ability to successfully regulate yourself and others.

If you are working from home, you are likely seeing your colleagues less. If you are an essential worker, you may be busier than normal, which prevents typical socializing. With that decreased interaction you potentially are less aware of what your colleagues are experiencing (social awareness).

High EQ has always been an integral part of superior performance, but with the stress of today’s environment, it is even more important. Through assessment and training, you can develop greater awareness and regulation. You will soon find yourself building deeper relationships and resolving challenges with greater collaboration, despite the increased stressors you are facing.


Goleman, D. Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1998.

Amy Lafko
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Amy Lafko is founder of Cairn Consulting Solutions. She focuses on the employee experience that is derived from skilled leaders and aligned teams. As a national speaker, consultant, and facilitator, Lafko leverages over 20 years of professional leadership experience. She is certified in DISC, Driving Forces, and the 7 Stages of Growth™ business growth formula.

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