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Emotional Intelligence: An Invaluable Assessment Tool

03 Jun 2011

Emotional Intelligence: An Invaluable Assessment Tool

Personality and intelligence tests have long been valuable corporate tools. But the more recently discovered emotional intelligence is now starting to earn its place in the HR assessment tool-chest.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is all about our ability to understand our own emotions and to interact harmoniously with those around us. Essentially, it has two elements: the intra-personal and the inter-personal. The intra-personal element is summed up by self-recognition. It describes our ability to recognise our own strengths and weaknesses, what motivates us, our values, and the ways in which we function. The inter-personal element is about how we manage conflict, about empathy, how we understand other people's emotions, and whether we respond to them appropriately.

What are its benefits?

Emotional intelligence can be hugely important in the workplace, especially in terms of people-management. A manager whose emotional intelligence is weak will attempt to impose and dictate change, while a manager with strong emotional intelligence will be able to carry their team with them and allow that team to drive the change. In fact, emotional intelligence is crucial in a whole range of daily situations. For instance, with the blizzard of emails growing constantly in the workplace, a person with high emotional intelligence might suggest a meeting or a video-conference to improve communications. Emotional intelligence is also important in sales, where it allows the seller to analyse the reactions of potential purchasers and arrange the sales process accordingly.

How do you evaluate it?

The degree of corporate importance attached to emotional intelligence depends on the culture of a company. Some businesses focus mainly on technical ability, while others realise the importance of motivation, empathy, and communication – and the problems their absence can cause. Emotional intelligence can be measured using Emotional Quotient (EQ) tests. These can help companies to evaluate job applicants during recruitment or, used internally, can be used to encourage personnel and help them to progress. It's the employer's job to match the results to the qualities needed for the job vacancy.

EQ: Can it be improved?

We all have an inner core of emotional intelligence. But we also have an element of emotional intelligence which we acquire and either develop or fail to develop. That means we can train ourselves to improve certain aspects of that emotional intelligence, such as our willingness to listen, our empathy, and our ability to manage more consensually. The first step, though, is to realise that there is a need to improve. That realisation is the key; without it, there can be no progress.