Improve your Emotional Intelligence – Increase Success

While much of your IQ is determined by your genetics, psychology experts Bill Benjamin and Dr. Skrikumar Rao agree that IQ alone is a poor indicator of success.  After a certain threshold, emotional performance “counts for twice as much as technical and intellectual skills combined”.  Read on to learn ways you can improve your emotional performance.

Emotional intelligence experts Bill Benjamin and Dr. Srikumar Rao agree: the key to success and fulfillment is already ingrained in your mind and emotions – if you know how to manage them.  

20 years ago, Dan Goleman published his groundbreaking work, Emotional Intelligence, in which he found through a 40-year longitudinal study that IQ and technical skills were a poor measurement of success – they were threshold competencies. “Once you got over the threshold, it didn’t significantly differentiate performance,” Benjamin explains. “Emotional performance counted for twice as much as technical and intellectual skills combined.”

Below, the two give engaging tips on how to tap into – and master – your hard-wired emotional abilities to make your work much more fulfilling, and achieve your full potential.

Develop self-awareness.

We have two systems in our brain, the cognitive and emotional systems, Benjamin says. While the cognitive system controls things like decision-making, our emotional system, controls ingrained emotional reactions, such as fight-or-flight responses – and it operates 100 times faster than the cognitive one.

“When we are truly under some sort of threat, if we’re in a jungle with a lion or a bus coming at us, that system will cause us to release chemicals in our body and react right away,” Benjamin says.

The same systems kick in when work stressors take over. “Most people in business, their lives aren’t actually at risk, yet there are things that still trigger our system – they are social threats,” Benjamin says. An overwhelming pile of emails or a disrespectful coworker triggers in us the same fight-or-flight responses.

Having an awareness of these instances will improve your judgment on the job. Ask yourself: How are my reactions affecting my relationships? Am I jumping to make a decision because my emotions are kicking in? Is the stress I am feeling about this situation proportionate to the true danger or difficulty of it?

These questions are arguably more important now than ever, with an often overwhelming volume of emails and communications that, without body language or tone of voice, are hard to read. “it has added another level of complexity to managing our social needs/ It makes being emotionally intelligent even harder, and even more important. It’s harder to interpret, where is someone coming from, are they frustrated and anxious, or are they just busy today and that’s why they sent me a short e-mail?” Benjamin says.

Overcome your habits of thought.

We are trained to be unhappy with our lives, Dr. Rao says. He says we are trained to buy into an If-Then model of happiness: if we get that raise, then we will be happy, or if we get that car, or if we get that new haircut… the list goes on. He suggests overcoming this ingrained belief by understanding first that happiness is not to be found in this conditional model.

“Recognize that whatever it is you are striving for is not going to make going to make you happy. It is a fundamentally flawed model, because that is not the way that life works,” he explains.

He suggests instead cultivating an acceptance of your life as it is, and not how you feel it should be. “It’s contrary to the way that people in our society have been taught to think about it – they’ve been taught to go out, to be aggressive, to set goals,” he says.

Dr. Rao challenges us to ask of ourselves: why am I investing so much happiness in this thing? Why do I feel my life is incomplete without it – and will it really make my life complete?

Focus on the process – not the outcome.

Of course, goals need to be met, and Dr. Rao isn’t saying that you need to abandon them. Instead, he says, re-focus: don’t depend upon an outcome; invest instead in your process. “The outcome is always important because that sets the direction in which you are going, but you don’t obsess about it,” he said. “The best way to achieve your goal is to put all of your emotional energy on the process you have to use, to achieve the goal.”

Instead of attaching to the outcome, take pride in the effort you put to get there.  Focus on the service you are providing in your efforts – the service to your employees, to your stakeholders, and your customers. This allows you to achieve fulfillment in your efforts, and not in the ultimate result of your efforts, which you may or may not have full control over.

Likewise, a good leader ought not to base the team’s value solely in its ability to achieve a certain result, but in the quality of the team’s process of pursuing it. It’s not about the destination, as they say, but the journey.

Be strategic about high-pressure situations.

The highest achievers in a field are the ones who know how to read and react to high-pressure situations, Benjamin says. In his book Performing Under Pressure, he analyzes the performance of 12,000 workers in high-pressure situations, and finds noticeable differences between the top 10% and bottom 90%. “The bottom 90% have a haphazard approach to dealing with difficult situations. They don’t recognize how it’s coming up, or how they can manage their emotions, while those top 10% were much more aware,” he says.

Pressure moments are meaningful, and the top 10% understand this. By developing your self-awareness in high-pressure situations – how you manage and leverage your emotions to best perform – you will better understand the patterns, and develop a better strategy.

One high-pressure situation will no doubt yield emotional tools to understanding future situations.  Watch your decision-making process, and reflect back.

Reframe your values.

Developing your emotional intelligence also means knowing where to direct your satisfaction.  And the answer, Dr. Rao reminds us, is not in accumulation.  “We have a very pernicious view of business that has been propagated by top business schools which is that you ought to focus primarily on financial metrics and that you need to maximize wealth for shareholders, and that is the only thing you should do,” he says. “And we have normalized a culture of excessive greed.”

Developing emotional intelligence means evaluating the emotional impact and intrinsic values of your company’s core. Redirecting value into those pursuits which serve others, rather than those that merely serve oneself, well create a more emotionally conscious work force.

“We ought to celebrate people who do things for others, we ought to celebrate the culture of service,” Dr. Rao says. He hopes America can unlearn its If-Then model of happiness – which promotes accumulation – and asks us to invest in those acts which serve others. “If you focus on what you are contributing, the employees engage more, and it just becomes better all around for all.”

Bill Benjamin is an emotional intelligence and sales expert, and Dr. Rao is a leading thinker on happiness and positivity.

The content writers at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau are Experts on the Experts. They hold doctoral, masters, and bachelors’ degrees in business, writing, literature, and education. Their business thought pieces are published regularly in leading business publications. Working in close association with the top business, entrepreneur, and motivational speakers, BigSpeak content writers are at the forefront of industry trends and research.