Early in your career — whether it’s in banking, law, consulting or accounting — you will discover that all of your colleagues are as smart and hard working as you. You’ll learn that the key to being successful must be something else. The critical distinguishing factor for advancing in the professional services is emotional intelligence (EQ). Without EQ, it’s likely that you will be your firm’s “best-kept secret” — not recognized, not appreciated, not promoted and, often, not properly compensated. Developing EQ is just as pertinent for the recent graduate who is starting out, as it is for the seasoned veteran.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor your own and other people’s emotions, to distinguish between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use this information to guide your thinking and behavior. According to a 2013 study by American Express, EQ is one of the biggest predictors of performance in the workplace and a strong driver of leadership and personal excellence. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.
Emotional intelligence matters even more to-day. A complex and global business environment requires stronger communication across multiple boundaries, and the rise of big data means clients put more value on customized insight and integrity.
But in order to strengthen your emotional intelligence, you have to know what it is. EQ is more than charisma or personality. It is exhibited in adaptability, collegiality, and empathy — and it is practiced through listening, remaining calm and resilient in the face of problems, valuing and helping colleagues, and connecting and empathizing with clients. I’ve found that, in the workplace, it is about your relationships:
- Your relationship with yourself (self-awareness/adaptability)
- Your relationships with your colleagues (collegiality/collaboration)
- Your relationships with your clients (empathy)