Final Score

The True Test

EQ is something every boss can use to get the troops working hard, smart and with commitment. So how high is your EQ? Although EQ-testing instruments have been flooding the marketplace, no formal measures have been scientifically validated, says Sosik.

Instead of taking pen to paper to test yourself, Addesso recommends a simpler, more direct method. "Ask yourself fundamental questions," she advises. "Do you feel in control of your emotions? Do you lose your temper easily? Do you often say `I wish I hadn't done that'? Do people's reactions to you puzzle you? Are you taken by surprise a lot? Do you feel misunderstood?"

More generally, are emotions a mystery to you? The more emotions are integrated into your daily life, the higher your EQ is likely to be. But whether you score high or low, the good news is that we all can raise our EQ, says Riggio.

What are the steps? "The initial requirement in raising your EQ is the desire to change," says Addesso. "Once you make that decision, you've taken a large step toward learning new skills."

Step two, says Robert Reiher, a La CaƱada, California, developmental psychologist, "is learning to reflect. You won't have high EQ until you learn to reflect on what's going on inside yourself. And if you don't know what's going on inside yourself emotionally, you cannot know what's going on inside others."

"Listen to what you're telling yourself," says Christopher Neck, a management professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, and author of Medicine for the Mind (McGraw Hill). But don't assume what you hear is immutable. "You can change it. You can tell yourself something different--and that means you can change and regulate your moods."

Therein lies the next step in an EQ-boosting regimen--emotional control. "Emotional control is a key skill for successful leaders," says Riggio. He offers this scenario as proof: You've just been turned down for a bank loan. "Do employees take one look at you and say `Uh-oh, it's going to be a bad day around here'? If they do, it detracts from your effectiveness as a leader."

Of course, not all emotions should be hidden from your staff--that would be a step backward. "But when you can control which emotions you show," says Riggio, "then you are that much more polished a leader."

Step four is practicing empathy. There's no mystery about how to strengthen empathy. "It boils down to practicing active listening skills," says Sosik. "But it takes concentration to pick up on the emotions that are coming across in a conversation." For instance, if an employee says "That customer is picking on me," don't just focus on the facts--delve into the underlying emotions. Is he pouting? Mad? Explore the subtext because there likely is one.

This probably won't be easy in the beginning unless such dialogue is part of your nature. So expect stumbles at first, and trust that employees will read your sincerity and respond to it, even if finesse is lacking.

Some of the emotions you pick up on may strike you as foolish--but hold your fire because the last step in raising EQ is to validate the emotions of others, says Addesso. That means acknowledging their emotions, even if they are different than what you'd feel in the same situation.

This doesn't mean you need to surrender to their every emotion. "Many executives make that mistake," says Addesso. "If an employee bursts into tears during a performance appraisal, for a lot of managers, it's all over. They say, `Don't think about any of this. It's fine. Get back to work.' That's a big mistake. Be sensitive to others, but don't let their emotions rule you."

Is that displaying low EQ? Not at all. "Validating others' emotions isn't the same as catering to them," says Addesso.

Don't expect your EQ to soar immediately. But the payoffs of investing in and cultivating your EQ are enormous. "Research shows [business owners] with high EQs can get results from employees that are beyond expectations. They will work harder, especially in the kind of turbulent times that characterize today's business climate," says Sosik. "To succeed nowadays, you need to keep your cool, manage conflicts and bring others together behind you. That's what EQ lets you do."

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This article was originally published in the July 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Final Score.

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