How many times have you had an interaction with someone who is really smart in terms of their Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, but has no clue as to how you are feeling, what you are thinking or how to handle a challenging situation? The person may have gone to all the best schools and even have a fancy degree and title, but they lack emotional intelligence, or Emotional Quotient (EQ). When such an interaction happens in the workplace, it’s really frustrating and causes many people to want to quit their jobs. When it happens at home, relationships become strained and can fall apart.

Author Dan Goleman brought the concept of EQ into the mainstream with his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, which changed the way we think about what makes people and leaders successful. Having talent, skills and knowledge is not enough. You need to be able to effectively deal with all types of people.

IQ and EQ are very different. Many people may have a high IQ with impressive analytical and technical skills. The questions we need to ask are: What’s our EQ, and how am I showing up in the workplace as a leader?

Companies are now focusing on EQ rather than just IQ. Employers would prefer employees with a good attitude and teach them additional skills rather than hiring technical wizards with low EQs.

Recently, I spoke with a partner in a private equity firm and asked him what makes the companies he is looking at successful. His answer: the people and how effectively they can manage change and conflict. The partner brought home the point that being the smartest person in the room no longer makes companies and people successful; you need more, and that special ingredient is EQ.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and why do we care?

Goleman writes that emotional intelligence is the “ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.” This includes not only the easy relationships but the challenging ones too. Empathy is connected to EQ and takes into consideration understanding not just people’s feelings but different perspectives they may have, as well as their drives and needs.

There are four areas to better understand and explore EQ:

1. Self-Awareness: The ability to realistically understand your strengths and weaknesses and recognize their impact. Think of the term “know thyself.”

Question: Are you aware what your top three strengths are and what your blind spots are?

2. Self-Management: The ability to control your disruptive emotions and impulses.

Question: How well do your co-workers think you match an emotion to a situation to keep a situation on track instead of aggravating it?

3. Social awareness: The ability to accurately understand other people’s emotions and perspectives as well as their needs. This includes accurately assessing what happens in a meeting or the changing dynamics of a team or organization.

Question: How accurately do you understand your team and work dynamics?

4. Relationship Management: The ability to cultivate relationships and manage and resolve the difficult ones with grace.

Question: How well do you manage the difficult conversations and what impact do they have on your relationships?

A few gentle signs that you may need to work on your EQ include:

  • You get impatient and frustrated when others don’t understand something.
  • You don’t care if people don’t like you.
  • You find others are to blame for most of the issues on your team.

Developing emotional intelligence is an essential component of leadership as you move forward in your career. Like becoming a master in anything, this, too, is a process and takes time and awareness.