Define unintelligent? We’ve already dealt with troublesome colleagues in previous posts. The psychopath in the board room, or just the angry so-and-so at the next desk. Today we’re going to look at another of life’s little interpersonal challenges – those with precious little EQ: The Emotionally Unintelligent.
As a leader of people you will come across all sorts of individuals, some will be helpful and attentive, others self motivating, then there’s the quiet ones who keep to themselves, but you can always bet on there being at least one ‘low EQ’ in almost every office. If you have a team player who is struggling to play well with your team, an individual who seems to thrive on conflict and chaos and it’s your job to lead them, then it’s perhaps time to consider stepping in to help them improve their EQ.
One can define 'unintelligent' in any number of ways, but perhaps The Emotionally Unintelligent is best described by the phrase… “doesn’t play well with others”.
Dealing with people who have poor EQ is never easy. Training might help in the short term, but whatever the cause of their lack of empathy it is likely to be deep rooted. Likewise, incentives or punishment will only produce short term changes. The only real way to deal with a person with an EQ deficit is through diligent, expert one-to-one coaching and even then it won’t be quick and it certainly won’t be easy.
The bank of evidence showing that Emotional Intelligence is a key performance differentiator is undeniable but many executives fail to hone their own skills or leave it until it’s too late to easily rectify. And remember, those who most need to develop their own emotional intelligence are also the least equipped to actually realise it. So, don’t hold your breath waiting for your ‘low EQ’ colleague to declare their own training need, the people that know best will be the people they work with.
Generally we as a species don’t like change (despite our skill for it), however, people who score low on Emotion Intelligence hate it. To make such a change they have to really want to change and to do that they will need to know why.
There’s no way round it, unless you want to find a nice head sized bucket of sand to dig yourself into until they eventually cross every line in the book, usually destroying the team on the way, you’re going to have to have that awkward chat.
Now there is some good news, before you launch head first into the mire. Have a chat and find out what motivates or inspires them. Even the most toxic individuals have dreams. Once you’ve established what they want, it’s time to face the eerie music. Present them with a long term goal with their aspirations firmly planted at the end and then show them the obstacles that might stand in their way, usually their behaviour and attitude. If they can begin to see that to achieve the end game they really must change, and more importantly that they want to make that change, then you can set out the plan and begin coaching them towards it.
It won’t be an easy road, but then the easy road often tends to be the dullest. If you are able to coax them to change and help them gain or regain a little of their Emotional Intelligence, then you will have given them valuable life skills that will stay with them and help them develop as a person. In short, you will have a made a real difference to their lives and making that difference can feel really good. Everyone’s a winner!
For those who still have trouble spotting ‘low EQ’, here is an interesting and entertaining shortlist of general characteristics by Dr. Jean Greaves, co-author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0: Four Signs You Have A Low EQ