Emotional Smarts Count

By Patrice Baughman Borders, J.D.

IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.  Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader

Cognitive intelligence (IQ) and competence in your field are still the cost of entry; however, emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is the currency that opens the doors to the highest levels of success.
As more and more research supports the correlation between high Emotional Intelligence and better judgment, effective relationships, and higher productivity, the legal profession is taking note. Like business schools, some law schools are now offering EI courses and law firms and legal associations are catching up with the corporate EI training boom. NYU Law has recently rolled out an emotional intelligence training program to the entire student population led by Vice Dean Jeannie Forrest. In the workshop’s introductory segment, Dean Forrest lists three “buckets” necessary to be a good lawyer: (1) knowing your stuff, (2) getting stuff done, and (3) exhibiting emotional intelligence. Forrest cautions students that the one with the high EI is the one who gets hired and the one you want to work with. The course strives to make students more aware of who they are, what they’re bringing to the table, and how they interact with others.
At the most recent annual meeting (New Orleans, Oct. 2014) of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), EI stole the show. Over 500 registrants attended the EI panel discussion entitled, What Makes Smart Lawyers Fail – How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence and Your Impact! and according to panelist LaKeisha Marsh, Senior Attorney with Miller Canfield, “we were extremely surprised by the turnout.”
In retrospect, Marsh attributes the reception to the topic to the fact that emotional intelligence is so integral to success, “as legal professionals, EI is a part of how we do the work we do on a daily basis – it helps you understand how to provide better client service and to be a better attorney.” The EI buzz was so loud following ACC’s annual meeting the panelists were requested to do an encore webinar presentation.
Whether the question is presented to lawyers, legal professionals, or to the general workforce – the answer is the same, what makes smart people fail, is the lack of emotional intelligence.
What is EI?
More than 20 years after psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer introduced the concept of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman’s definition and framework propelled the phrase into pop business culture. Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence primer was the subject of the 2000 Harvard Business Review article, Leadership That Gets Results.

Goleman’s definition of emotional intelligence identifies four key elements:
1. Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.
2. Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior. 3. Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.  4. Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.

Goleman EI Framework

Harvard psychologist David McClelland concluded after studying a cross-section of professions and organizations that the following EI characteristics differentiated average performers from top performers:
• achievement drive (optimism; the desire to improve performance);
• the ability to develop others (which involves sensing others’ needs and bolstering them);
• adaptability (being able to manage change, and being open to new ideas);
• influence (the ability to sense others’ emotions, and the ability to persuade);
• self-confidence (including awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses); and
• leadership (inspiring others toward a shared vision).
Research shows that emotional intelligence matters twice as much as technical and analytic skill combined for high performers. And, as individuals progress in their careers, the more essential high emotional intelligence becomes. Goleman says “at best, I.Q. contributes about 20% to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80% to other forces: forces grouped as emotional intelligence.”  Knowing that EI matters a lot, the next logical questions to ask are, how much EI do you have and how can you get more.
How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?
How you show up in meetings, when giving assignments, providing feedback, and even in emails allows others to draw conclusions about your emotional smarts. We’ve all encountered the team member who is anything but a team player. To know EI is to know what it looks like, what behaviors convey a mastery of one’s thinking and feeling. We all get a pass for having a bad day, but we need to be aware of and own what we consistently show to others. While I highly recommend taking a validated EI assessment, to start the process, ask yourself how many and to what degree you possess the 14 characteristics Huffington Post offers as tell-tale signs of high EI:

How emotionally intelligent are you?

EI can be learned
Knowing one’s emotional state allows the possibility of scripting the appropriate response – or no response. In short, self-awareness is the gateway to managing your reactions and impulses. It allows you to direct your words and actions versus being led by them. Our words and actions are the vehicles through which our emotions are expressed – self-awareness puts you in the driver’s seat. When we are more aware of our own feelings, we are better able to perceive the feelings of others and to operate with enhanced interpersonal aptitude. Reading others’ emotions accurately makes you a better mentor, coach, team member, and leader.
If you’re feeling like you’re not stacking up the way you’d like against these characteristics, don’t throw in the towel just yet. EI and its appropriate application can be learned, taught, trained, and practiced. According to Goleman, “unlike IQ–which some argue doesn’t change throughout life–emotional intelligence can be developed.”

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