Telltale Signs of poor eQ

I really had poor eQ when I first became a General Manager.  I was promoted for my functional skills rather than my leadership or people skills and I really struggled in my first years.

Looking back, the one tip I’d wished I’d received is about the importance of eQ in developing a great team, and a simple means of assessing your own eQ and those of the people around you.

As a means of equipping those transitioning into General management so here’s a brief review of tell tale signs people around you need assistance with their eQ and four strategies to discuss with them, or in fact to use yourself.

Here are some of the telltale signs that people need to work on your emotional intelligence:

  • They often feel like others don’t get the point and it makes them impatient and frustrated.
  • They’re surprised when others are sensitive to their comments or jokes and they think they’re overreacting.
  • They think being liked at work is overrated.
  • They weigh in early with their views and defend them rigorously.
  • They hold others to the same high expectations they hold themselves to.
  • They find others are to blame for most of the issues in the team.
  • They find it annoying when others expect them to know how they feel.

So what do you do if you recognized either a colleague or yourself in this list? Here are four strategies that I have personally found useful in recent years:

1. Get feedback. You or they can’t work on a problem you don’t understand. A critical component of emotional intelligence is self-awareness — this is the ability to recognize and stay cognizant of behaviors in the moment. Whether you engage in a formalized 360 assessment or simply ask a few people what they observe about your behaviour, this step is critical in heightening your sense of what you do or don’t do. In my previous work life I didn’t take the time to seek feedback from people as I was too focused on doing my own work. For me a formalized 360 review was the catalyst for starting to change.  Please don’t just find excuses for your behaviour. I used to, and I found that it defeated the purpose of the feedback. Rather, listen to the feedback, try to understand it, and take ownership of the behaviours that have been displayed. Once you believe the behaviours are yours then you can seeks ways to change.

2. Beware of the gap between intent and impact. Those with weak emotional intelligence often underestimate what a negative impact their words and actions have on others. They ignore the gap between what they mean to say and what others actually hear. Here are some common examples of what I used to think/ say and how it’s was actually heard by my colleagues:

What I would say: “When it comes down to it, it’s all about getting the work done.”  What others would hear: “All I care about is the results and if some are offended along the way, so be it.”

What I would say: “If I can understand it, anyone can.” What others would hear: “You’re not smart enough to get this.”

What I would say: “I don’t see what the big deal is.” What others would hear: “I don’t really care how you feel.”

Regardless of what you intend to mean, think about how your words are going to impact others and whether that’s how you want to them to feel. Before every meeting, I ask myself: What is the impression I want to make? How do I want people to feel about me at the end? How do I need to frame my message to reach that objective?

3. Press the pause button: Having high emotional intelligence means consciously making choices about how you respond to situations, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction. For example, I used to have a tendency to interrupt and shoot down other people’s ideas before they could complete their thoughts. I believe this behaviour was a reaction to my fear wasting time in completing the task and faith in my own ability to have the full answer to a problem. So then I started to take pauses before reacting.

There are two important pauses to take:

  • Pause to listen to yourself. When I was getting impatient and frustrated in discussions, I would often feel my head shaking in disagreement and annoyance. By recognizing these physical signs, I was able to pause and remind myself that I feared losing control. As a result, I was better able to determine how I wanted to respond, rather than relying on my default of lashing out.
  • Pause to listen to others. Listening means helping others feel like you’ve understood them (even if you don’t agree with them). It’s not the same as not saying anything. It’s simply giving others a chance to convey their ideas before you jump in.

4. Put yourself in the other’s situation. As Steven Covey put it- seek first to understand –  to develop empathy, a key component of emotional intelligence, but you shouldn’t dismiss how you feel. You need to understanding both your agenda and their agenda and view any situation from both sides. I consciously shifted my approach from “Here are my concerns” to “I hear your concerns (and replay them to show you’ve been listening) and these are my issues. Let’s determine a way forward that takes both into consideration.”

Lets put this into perspective of Goleman’s eQ theory (2002).

We are seeking greater self awareness (what we do, how we behave) and more particularly social awareness (how this impacts others) as a means to better manage ourselves, and in so doing build stronger more effective relationships, as set down in the following diagram.


So whether you are in need of an eQ boost, or you are counselling a subordinate or peer on ways to build their eQ; strengthening your emotional intelligence takes commitment, discipline, and a genuine belief in its value.. a lot of practice and quite a bit of time. With time and practice, though, you’ll find that the results you achieve far outweigh the effort it took to get there.