EQ – the secret weapon of high performing teams

If you nurture a high performing team, you’re more likely to have a high performing company – but what is that extra ingredient that takes a team from great to truly extraordinary?

“The criteria for success at work are changing. We are being judged by a new yardstick: not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.  

This yardstick is increasingly applied in choosing who will be hired and who will not, who will be let go and who retained, who passed over and who promoted …”  –  Dr. Daniel Goleman

In the knowledge economy, workers at all levels must work with increased autonomy – to manage both information and increased customer expectations. Highly developed social skills are now on par with, and perhaps exceed academic excellence as the primary success factor in the workplace.

Over the past 20 years, numerous research studies have shown that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a poor predictor of an individual’s future success – rating IQ as accounting for no more than 25% of the variance between high and low performers.

One 40-year study of 450 boys found that while IQ had little relation to how well they did in their adult personal and professional lives, their expertise and training was not enough – the biggest predictor of their success was the ability to persist in difficult situations and get along with other people – especially colleagues and subordinates.

Daniel Goleman, in his 1995 landmark book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ, defined emotional intelligence as ‘understanding one’s own feelings, empathy for the feelings of others and the regulation of emotion in a way that enhances [performance].’

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a very individualized measure. A team comprised of high EQ people is greater than the sum of its parts. Fundamentally, we all rely on others to help us achieve business (and personal) goals ; the more EQ present in a given team, the less time is spent fixing miscommunication or conflict.

developing EQ for long-term success

Patrick McKennaIn over twenty years of working with newly promoted executives and people identified as ‘high potential,’ Templar consultant, Patrick McKenna has grown accustomed to a few pronounced signs predictive of long-term success.

“The clearest sign of trouble is pervasive, observable stress. High EQ people have learned from tough situations where unexpressed emotions have led to mental (and physical strain) – and they develop, with or without coaching, strategies to achieve the best possible outcomes even when they are upset or frustrated.

Others, who fail to acknowledge and understand the role emotions play in their lives, at best face a Herculean struggle to mask their emotions with an inauthentic facade and at worst fall prey to anxiety, depression and substance abuse,” Patrick explains.

“Related to learning from tough situations is a mental model of reframing mistakes as an opportunity to ‘acquire wisdom.’  They don’t dwell on failure, but they are clear about what and how to adapt going forward. By letting unfiltered emotional responses wash over them, they model resilience for teammates, empowering them to think creatively and avoid being gun shy,” Patrick added.

Key components of emotional intelligence

While IQ may help get you the job, it is your EQ that will get you promoted.  The good news? While we all must play the IQ cards we are dealt, EQ can be improved.
EQ for high performing teams

In a professional setting, EQ can be broken into four domains that build on each other:


Do you understand your own emotional state? Your strengths and weaknesses? Strong self-awareness equates with self-confidence. But this is just the first step. It is then necessary to use self-awareness , improve:


Are you able to control your emotions instead of having them control you? Regardless of how challenging the situation or provocation, do you act rationally – and not give in to emotional impulses?

If you can, your integrity and trustworthiness will be more clearly on display.

You will more easily spot the potential upside in events, and readily act to seize opportunities. Once you have your own emotions in hand, you can advance your level of: 

Social awareness

How well do you manage your relationships with others – including your clients – understanding their perspectives and demonstrating an active interest in their concerns? Can you empathize? Are you aware of how your organization’s power dynamics and emotional environment affect those around you?

All these competencies, working together, enable you to:

Strengthen relationships

How effective are you in leveraging your understanding of your emotions and of others to build stronger relationships? Do you use this insight to build others’ abilities through effective coaching, feedback and delegation? Are you seen as an inspirational leader, guiding and motivating with a compelling vision?

Within stronger relationships, you are better able to communicate and persuade others – and to be honest and direct without alienating those around you.

It’s like the ‘flywheel’ Jim Collins wrote about in Good to Great – once it starts turning, momentum increases and lessens the ‘execution effort’ needed, resulting in greater efficiency and capacity for innovation.

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