EQ meets Change Management

Is it a real thing and why is it necessary for change management?

When people hear “emotional intelligence (EQ)” they think of all kind of things: soft skills, group therapy, interventions, a skill that one can learn amongst others.

I’d say part of the above is true, part isn’t.

Let’s start from the beginning. I had the pleasure to attend a mind-blowing talk on EQ whilst in Las Vegas for the Microsoft Inspire. The speaker had great energy and was able to explain what EQ is, how one can train it and why it is so crucial in such a short time, that it stuck with me and I knew I needed to go into a deep dive. And so I did.

The good, the bad, the ugly

Let’s start with a short example, in order to make it easier to understand:

Think of a person in your business life, no matter if present or past, whether you worked in the same team, if he or she was higher or lower ranked, that brought out the very best in you. What did the person do to bring out the best in you? Take 10 seconds to take down 2-3 characteristics or criteria that come to mind.

Now the bad: think of a person in your business life that brought out the worst in you. How did he or she do it? What were the criteria? Again, take 10 seconds to jot down 2-3 points.

Let’s reveal the list. I assume that when you thought of the “good” person, you might have taken down things such as: understanding, supportive, trustworthy, respectful, challenging or similar. For the bad: most likely things such as: egoistic, micro-manager, not trustworthy, mean, unkind.

The list can go on, but one thing I am pretty sure of, you will not have thought about their technical skills or rank in the first case. For our emotions, it does not matter, whether the person finished three university courses, whether he or she has a high IQ, it’s HOW they make us feel, that we remember.

What is EQ?

As mentioned above, EQ can be a lot of things, but let’s start with the things that it definitely isn’t: group cuddles, an intervention or therapy. Some people may not yet take this topic serious, but rest assured, having a high EQ will change your life – work and private.

So now that we know what EQ is not: what is it?! EQ is a skill you can learn, it is the basis for any “soft skills” (I put that word in brackets, because I hate the term. These skills are far from soft, they are crucial!), it is a form of self-management and raises social awareness – in short: it is the key to success.

Why is EQ so crucial?

Let’s keep this to business terms and think of some tasks or crucial skills you have to use every day: time management, conflict management, empathy, punctuality and pretty much any other skill you can think of. EQ is the basis for the successful use of these skills. If you have a high EQ, you will most likely be successful in the use of those skills, and your colleagues will know and feel it.

Now think of the “good” person from your list. I am pretty sure, they will have been good in those skills.

What is the difference between EQ and IQ?

One might think, that people with a high IQ also have a high EQ, but far from it.

IQ is something you are born with. It cannot be changed, unless you have a brain injury, but otherwise you are born with a certain level of IQ and keep it for the rest of your life.

For EQ this is different, there are strategies and possibilities how to raise your level of EQ and how to learn to become better.

I am going to show you one short exercise which trains one side of EQ: awareness and seeing things in retrospective.

How to train EQ

Awareness is a key factor to EQ, if you are not aware of your own emotions, how you react to them and what that can do to others, you will have to work on that. What triggers certain emotions? And how do you let those emotions change the way you work and treat the people around yourself?

Let’s go for an easy task: cross your arms in front of you. Which arm Is on top? For me it is always my right arm. Now change your arms and put the other one on top. Feel any different? It does for me, and it feels wrong (and it takes me a while to figure out how to do it!). But you’ve done one thing now: you are aware of how it feels to cross your arms. You have done something deliberately and are aware of the consequences.

You can do this a thousand ways: instead of just running into the office in the morning and heading straight to your desk and firing up your computer, get in a couple of minutes early and say hi to colleagues that you don’t normally have so much contact to. Wish them a nice day (sincerely!) and notice how that makes you feel. Notice how it makes THEM feel. Easy task with a potentially large ripple effect.


Once you’ve done that and have had a short interaction with your colleague, at the end of the day, take 2 or 3 notes on how it made you feel and what you might have done differently in hindsight.

That’s a great way to view things, once they have sunken in and you can see what your actions brought with them and what you would like to do differently the next time.

Change Management and EQ

Change Management is the key to any successful project. People need to stay on board, so the project will be a success.

There are two options here: you can simply force them to do what they’re told and hope they will do so. Is this going to be a success? Presumably no. People are more likely to quit their job, or don’t interact in the project at all.

The other option: show empathy, understand their fears and uncertainties, manage conflict situations and be respectful to anybody (this should be a non-brainer anyways.)

In the end

There are probably 1000 techniques and ways to train EQ and become better understood and more efficient. If you are interested to find out more, please feel free to get in touch!

Now I am interested: please comment one “good” criteria and one “bad” criteria in the comments, without naming the person you thought of! I would love to see, whether my assumption was right!

For me it was: supportive and challenging (good) and hot-headed and micromanaging for the bad. [FS]