Business Case for Emotional Intelligence

EQ vs IQ Image

Intellect (IQ) has long been identified as a critical factor for success in business. Financial decisions, detailed analysis, creation of strategies, defining effective processes and procedures are fundamentals in making businesses run smoothly. Smart people are needed to skillfully move the business forward, look at things in innovative ways and see beyond the present.

However, research study after research study clearly demonstrates the value of the “good boss” in building teams, demonstrating leadership attributes, retaining employees and creating positive work environments—having Emotional Intelligence. Combining IQ and EQ (emotional quotient) are proving to be powerful factors for business and personal success.

IQ predicts what profession an individual can hold. For example, it takes a certain amount of cognitive capability and functioning to achieve a higher-level college degree, pass professional tests, etc. It is a fixed capability. The limits are broader with Emotional Intelligence. People can deliberately plan a path for increasing aspects of their emotional intelligence. It increases with age and experience.

Typically, IQ sorts people before they embark on a career channeling them into a particular profession or field. Once people are in a given job, role or profession, Emotional Intelligence emerges as a powerful indicator for who is promoted, plateaus or fails. Our emotional intelligence shows how much potential we have realized by learning and mastering skills that translates into on-the-job capabilities.

Businesses all over the world are recognizing the impact of emotional intelligence on their bottom line results. The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations has compiled the following cases:

  • The U.S. Air Force used the EQ-I to select recruiters and found the most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in the emotional intelligence competencies of Assertiveness, Empathy, Happiness and Emotional Self Awareness.  The Air Force also found that by using emotional intelligence to select recruiters, they increased their ability to predict successful recruiters by three-fold.  The immediate gain was $3 million annually.
  • Research by the Center for Creative Leadership found that the primary causes for derailment in executives involved deficits in emotional intelligence.
  • For sales reps at a computer company, those hired based on their emotional intelligence competence were 90% more likely to finish their training than those hired on other criteria.
  • Optimism often leads to increased productivity.  New salespeople at major insurance firm who scored high on Optimism sold 37% more life insurance in their first two years.  
  • In a national insurance company, insurance agents who were weak in emotional competencies such as self-regard and empathy sold policies with an average premium of $54,000.  Those who were very strong in at least 5-8 emotional competencies sold policies worth $114,000.
  • At an international cosmetics giant, sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected on the company’s old selection procedure.  On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional intelligence sold $91,370 more than other people did and had 63% less turnover during the first year.
  • The most successful debt collectors in a large collection agency had an average goal attainment of 163% over a 3-month period.  They were compared to another group of debt collectors who achieved an average of 80% over the same time period.  The most successful collectors scored significantly higher in emotional intelligence competencies of self-actualization, independence and optimism.

Understanding how emotional intelligence contributes to the workplace makes good business sense.  Ongoing research supports the importance of using this framework to hire, build awareness of capability levels and to utilize the results to coach and give feedback.  It can be a differentiator in creating positive work environments that achieve higher productivity, effectiveness and results.


“You won’t remember when you retire what you did in the first quarter…or the third. What you’ll remember is how many people you developed, how many people you helped have a better career because of your interest and dedication to their development. When confused about how you’re doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing. You’ll know the answer.”

Larry Bossidy, former CEO, Honeywell