Emotional Intelligence and the Bottom Line

I think highly of myself. I feel I have something to contribute. I am aware of the impact of my mood on others. I make rash decision when I am emotional. I perform well under pressure.

The way you react to statements like these shows a lot more than how you feel about yourself. The answers actually impact your company’s bottom line.

‘Covid opened our eyes’

“We’ve often talked about targets,” says Agnieszka Koziara, Fortaco’s Senior Vice President for People and HR. “But Covid opened our eyes about the fact that we need to be aware of what’s going on with our people. How’s the home situation? How’s the family?”

Koziara wasn’t thinking about the company’s bottom line. She was more concerned with the mental health of her colleagues. When she discussed the behavior she was witnessing with Lars Hellberg, Fortaco’s President and CEO. Hellberg suggested she get in touch with Dr. Margareta Sjölund, Founder and Chief Psychologist at EQ Europe, one of the pioneers in emotional intelligence.

More than hugging

Everyone is familiar with IQ – the intelligence quotient. In 1995, a bestselling book by psychologist Daniel Goleman popularized the idea of the EQ, or emotional quotient. “Research makes clear that EQ is not just about hugging people,” says Dr. Sjölund. “It’s directly related to performance. If you’re a leader who works on relationships, then your people feel appreciated, listened to, and respected. Through that you can motivate people to do their very best.”

Sjölund is quick to point out that the World Economic Forum lists EQ among the top skills employers are looking for. “How you relate to others is so basic to being human. Feelings drive behaviors. Behaviors affect your success.”

Not everyone, however, is good with feelings. But the good news is that EQ is not like IQ: EQ skills can be learned. EQ can be developed and improved.

Getting emotional

Fortaco decided to examine the emotional skills of its managers, and brought in a team from Sjölund’s company to help.

Fortaco’s top 25 managers were tested using the EQ-i2.0 inventory which measures emotional intelligence. The test measures 15 social/emotional competencies, including stress management, self-awareness, confidence, self-expression, and assertiveness. How’d the managers do, talking about themselves to strangers on a video call? “We were touched that people were so open,” says Birgitta Söderström, EQ Europe’s Senior Consultant and Master Trainer. “People shared in a courageous and vulnerable way.”

EQ-i2.0 scores subjects from 60 to 130, with scores below 90 and above 110 considered low and high, respectively. “Most important is the balance between the competencies,” says Söderström. “We look for gaps. If I’m high on empathy but low on assertiveness, what happens if I work to make this more balanced? How can it make me more effective?”

When you’re low on empathy

Scores were kept strictly confidential and not shared with management. “You’re the owner of your own results,” says Söderström. “You decide what to do with them.”

Generally speaking, Fortaco employees scored well in stress response, self-responsibility and self-awareness, with lower scores in in collaboration and empathy. “But this is completely natural,” says Agnieszka Koziara, “because people aren’t seeing each other anymore. Turn off the camera and we’re even farther from each other. Camaraderie, the team, the ‘we’ — these were weak.”

What’s the solution to improve weak areas in the time of Corona? “More camera is one,” says Koziara. “Seeing each other’s faces is important. Because of connection speed issues, we used to have meetings without the camera, but now we always turn it on.”

„We’ve got to consciously focus on having time together, since it doesn’t happen by the coffee machine anymore,“ she says. „We’ve got to create a virtual coffee machine.”

Profit and performance

Creating a virtual coffee machine to boost EQ scores has implications that go well beyond the world of psychology. The results achieved by Fortune 500 companies speak for themselves.

At PepsiCo, for example, executives with high EQ competencies generated 10 percent more productivity with 87 percent less turnover. In computer programming, research shows that the top 10 percent of EQ performers beat average performers in producing effective programs by 320 percent. Superstars, those in the top one percent, produced twelve times better than average

In manufacturing, research has shown that when supervisors are trained in emotional competencies like listening and helping employees resolve problems on their own, key performance indicators improve. In one company, lost-time accidents were reduced 50 percent, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to three, and the plant exceeded its productivity goal.

Fortaco results

What should Fortaco expect? “What Fortaco is attempting to do is improve their culture,” says Sjölund. “We’re starting with the leaders, and we’re looking for it to trickle down, creating a successful organization with happy customers. How do you get happy customers? Through efficient and happy employees. This is only part of what you get with EQ-savvy leaders.”

Improving the bottom line was never one of Agnieszka Koziara’s goals when she began the current EQ project. If that happens, it will be an added bonus. For the moment, she’s putting into play what’s been learned and looking beyond Corona. “We’ve had some deep conversations. We’ve learned we can do more via video than we previously thought. And once Covid is over there will again be meetings. We’ll hug and drink wine. People are a lot like plants in the desert. We can learn to grow if we want.”

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Want to learn more? Read Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman (Bantam Books, 1995). And forthcoming in autumn 2021 is EQ in Action by Dr. Margareta Sjölund (Black Card Publishing).