Increasing Individual and Organizational Performance

By: Ms. Scottie O’Toole, MS, SPHR & Certified Professional Coach

Back in the late 70’s I worked as a career counselor for a major northeastern university.  I interfaced with most of the major company recruiters and college relations directors who came to campus to recruit our engineering students.  I loved working with the engineering students.  They were a very diverse group and I found them to be driven, analytical and smart.  Most of them were introverted, meaning they got their energy from quiet reflection, thinking, analyzing, etc.  A few were more extraverted; getting their energy from other people. Anyone familiar with the Myers Briggs Personality assessment can appreciate these definitions. Many of the extraverted students ended up working in technical sales or as applications engineers where they interfaced with customers.  The more introverted ones, migrated toward design and development roles where they could use their preferred style in an analytical role.

There was one senior student in electrical engineering who had a 4.0 GPA.  As you might guess, he was highly sought after for employment opportunities.  Both engineering professors and our career services staff were bombarded with requests to interview him. Interestingly, he had never stepped foot in our office.  None of us knew him nor did many of the engineering students know him aside from occasional interface in classes.  Eventually it was arranged that this student meet some of the reps from big name companies like GE, IBM, Lockheed, Harris, etc.   They were ready to court him hard in hopes of landing him in their organizations. After several meetings with these recruiters, the student quietly wandered back to his cave and we received word that not one company had extended him an offer.

Even in the late 70’s, the concept of emotional intelligence may not have yet been identified, but the results of this recruiting effort drove home the importance of “soft skills” or what we would call today, emotional intelligence.  These skills are critical in today’s workplace…or any place for that matter.  This student obviously had high cognitive abilities (IQ) to earn a 4.0 GPA in electrical engineering from a well-known university.  What he lacked was emotional intelligence or EI.  He was aloof, lacked social skills and kept to himself almost entirely. He could not relate to those who wished to hire him.

So what is Emotional Intelligence and why should business leaders care?  Daniel Golman in his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence in 1995 explained that “EI” is self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, zeal, self-motivation, empathy and social deftness.  People who are high in EI tend to be the “stars”.  They are well liked, pleasant to spend time with and they excel at their work.

In research by Cary Cherniss, Ph.D. – Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, an analysis (Spencer, L.M. Jr. 1997) of more than 300 top-level executives from 15 global companies showed that six emotional competencies distinguished “stars” from the average employee.  These included:

* Influence
* Team Leadership
* Organizational Awareness
* Self-confidence
* Achievement Drive
* Leadership

In another study (McClelland, 1999), an international soft drink company saw division leaders who developed EI competencies outperformed their targets by more than 15%.  Division leaders who didn’t develop their EI missed targets by the same margin.

These are impressive statistics. So, can EI competencies be learned?  YES, according to Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. here are their five keys to increasing your EQ.

* The ability to quickly reduce stress
* The ability to recognize and manage your emotions
* The ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication
* The ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges
* The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence

See their entire article at this link…

Fortunately, there are a myriad of coaches, consultants, assessment tools and and online resources available for increasing one’s EI.  The point is that it is not only good for business, but it will improve the overall quality of the lives of those who choose to focus on increasing their EQ.  So what are you and your organization waiting for?


Scottie O’Toole is the owner of Onward and Upward Coaching, as well as Senior Manager of Human Resources Development of CP Kelco, a J.M. Huber Corporation company based in Atlanta, GA. Her practice is focused on people who are interested in improving their career situation, whether it is due to downsizing or simply because they have an itch to make a change. You can find her on Linked In.