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Balancing EQ & IQ in Your Organization: When IQ Isn’t Enough

Posted by Lauren Kendall on April 3, 2018
Individuals with chart-topping IQs are the brainpower behind leading organizations, using their intellect to keep businesses ahead of the competition and maximize returns.

Many of our clients hire the brightest minds from elite companies and academic institutions.

While these high IQ individuals can bring tremendous value to their work, they may lack emotional intelligence (EQ).  EQ is defined as “the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.”[i]

A shortage of EQ manifests in organizations in many ways, including a poor culture, high turnover, cold working environment, low loyalty, a lack of information sharing, and no mission focus.  On the other hand, a shortage of IQ means a direct hit to their bottom line – for instance, a hedge fund can’t operate in a highly competitive environment without the people that navigate and master the markets on a daily basis.  Maintaining a balance can be difficult, but it’s necessary to keep these organizations running full steam ahead.

Building a Team That Lasts – Addressing Management Challenges

When working through cultural issues, organizations that hire high IQ individuals (financial services, technology, and asset management companies, for example) will most likely come face to face with EQ/IQ issues.  In many cases, overcoming a cold working environment or addressing high turnover means behavioral or managerial matters are in need of addressing.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple fix.  Our clients have utilized research that proves that there is a positive correlation between age and maturity and the ability to improve EQ[ii] and trial and error to resolve the discrepancy between EQ and IQ in their organizations.  Here are some strategies that have worked for them:

Best Practices for Solving an EQ/IQ Imbalance

  1. Create a management development program – Management tracks set the expectation for high IQs that management will be recruited through an established program. Those who are interested in management can raise their hand to be considered.  Career development conversations can then take a different shape – management is no longer the only option for growth, but an option to be considered among others.
  2. Pull more high EQs into management – The management development program also gives high EQ talent the skills to understand what it takes to manage people and the nitty gritty details of a high IQ job. High IQs begin to feel that their superiors actually know what they do every day, which gives managers credibility right out of the gate.  Not only does this fill the management gap, it sets expectations around career development for everyone in the organization.
  3. Establish different career paths for high IQs – High IQ individuals have a high theoretical motivation which sometimes correlates with a low motivation around developing others. Although there are certainly exceptions, management is often not the place for them, so the “typical” career path of promoting high IQs to managers probably won’t make them happy in the long run.  Instead, high IQs want to be involved in game-changing projects, to conduct interesting research, and to work in support of compelling missions.  Instead of being promoted to manager, they want the opportunity to expand their skill sets and work alongside some of the best minds in the industry.  Creating career paths that factor in these considerations goes a long way in retaining high IQs.

Balancing EQ and IQ is not easy and finding the right equilibrium for your organization may take some experimenting.  In our experience, the imbalance happens frequently enough that candidates are on the lookout for signs that firms are experiencing it during the hiring process.  If your hiring managers aren’t versed in understanding the nuances of company culture well enough to assemble a team for the long haul, you may be missing out on or losing great talent.

How does your business maintain the balance between EQ and IQ?   We’d love to learn any tips or tricks you’ve picked up over the years.



[ii] Singh, Dr. Dalip. “Emotional Intelligence at Work, Third Edition.” © 2006, Response Books.