Emotional Intelligence Claims

Emotional intelligence is more than 90% of what makes the difference between one leader’s success and another leader’s failure. Intelligence measured by IQ is less than 20% of what makes the difference.

This is a popular refrain of Emotional Intelligence devotees. Is it true? My experiences with a group of twelve people in a hospitality organisation strongly suggest it is true.

My Experience with Emotional Intelligence in a Hospitality Organisation

The twelve people were part of a leadership development programme. In two groups of six, they attended face-to-face training over six months consisting of:

  • Leading yourself (two days)
  • Leading others (two days) and,
  • Leading change (two days)


During the three months between the face-to-face training, each team of six was required to complete a project in their own time, which would take them out of their individual comfort zones. As a team, they had never worked together before. Their backgrounds were as far apart as massage therapy, financial control, event management, kitchen and golf course maintenance.

As part of the two days on leading yourself, they completed an analysis using the Simmons EQ profile ably administered by Bob Wall.

Over the six months of training and the following three months after the training I came to a number of conclusions from observing their behaviour and relating it to their EQ profile.

The “after you” team

One of the teams had the following profile of Assertive, Tolerance, Considerate and Sociable attributes on a scale of one to ten:
Assertive: mostly unassertive – five at or below 5, one at 6.5 (10 is very unassertive)
Tolerance: very tolerant – six at 7 or higher (10 is very tolerant)
Considerate: generally not considerate of others – four below 5 and two between 5 and 7 (10 is very considerate)
Sociable: at the extremes of sociability – three at 4 or less, three at 7 or more, (10 is very sociable)

The first three months of their project meetings were depicted by no-one leading. Everyone refused to make an assertion about what they thought should happen and who should do it.

The sociable group met separately from the non-sociable group. Whilst they were not willing to assert what they believed they were coincidentally the group who were less considerate and spent much time criticising other’s commitment.

They achieved little during those three months. All bar the project manager had a courage score of less than 5. Being risk averse as a group and generally unassertive, they did not want to challenge others at the property to get information to them on-time and in the manner they needed it.

Team selection was made before the EQ profiles were completed. If, however, their Emotional Intelligence could have been tested before selection, this team would not have been selected to achieve the difficult outcome they were given in their project.

At the end of three months they were required to make a report on their project progress. It was not pretty. They did poorly and the general manager let them know.

Their reaction to the feedback was dramatic. They changed both as a group and as individuals. The next three months were much more productive as they worked on improving their individual limitations, having experienced what impact they, as individuals, were having on the group.

The “Let ME do it” team

The other team had the following profile of Assertive, Tolerance, Considerate and Sociable attributes on a scale of one to ten:
Assertive: mostly very assertive – one below 5, five at 6 or higher (10 is very unassertive)
Tolerance: at extremes of tolerance – three below 5, three above 5 (10 is very tolerant)
Considerate: mostly inconsiderate of others – five below 5 including two below 2 and one above 5 (10 is very considerate)
Sociable: mostly sociable – one at less than 2, one at less than 5, four at 6 or above (10 is very sociable)

This team was expected to interact better because of the diversity of attributes and the combination of sociability, low tolerance and high assertiveness of most individuals. They did. They started with the speed and power of an express train. The very afternoon their project was explained to them, they started work contacting people, setting up appointments to get information and brainstorming ideas. If anything, they pushed each other out of the way to get the job done.

They all had high (greater than 6) change attribute scores and coped well with new ideas and changes in direction over the first three months. Their high work scores (five well above 5) and energy scores (five above 5 with two above 6.5) predicted they would work hard. They did.

Their mid-term project review was excellent. If we rated it out of ten, the score would have been seven or eight. The first team would have scored two or three.

With the positive feedback they received one might have expected them to power on. They did not. The general work environment outside the project was challenging. Time started to become difficult to set aside and fatigue was a factor. The low consideration levels kicked in and self preservation became the order of the day for four of the team.

This manifested itself in two ways. Two people withdrew, doing the minimum required to stay attached to the programme. Two people shifted their focus to where they thought the highest level of recognition lay on any one day. The other two, which included the project manager, soldiered on to complete the project as best they could, maximising their learning along the way. The project manager was the only one with a high consideration score.

The learners versus the deniers

The group of twelve as a whole can be split into:

  • Those who learnt a lot about themselves and who are, today, better leaders,
  • Those who learnt a little and can talk about what’s needed to be a better leader and,
  • Two who did not identify with the work required to change their profile and made no progress.


The common attributes of the two who did not learn were low consideration, very high assertiveness, low optimism, moderate work, and low detail.

When life got tough, they worked for themselves only.

Overall learning

What I learnt during this six month period was that before people can utilise their emotional skills and have the drive to improve where they are weak, they must have a sense of direction. The sense of direction must first and foremost be personal. Without a personal goal people get lost. They have nothing to calibrate their current status in life against and no creative tension to drive the formation of skills, including emotional skills.

The behaviour of people in both teams changed for the better when they had a goal to believe in and for the worse without one. The first team as a whole, improved greatly. They developed skills and improved their emotional intelligence. When they knew they had done poorly in the first report out, their goal was simply not to feel that way again.

The second team tasted too much success and praise too early. After receiving the praise most of the team had a goal of completing the project with as little disruption to their normal work hours as possible.

The project leader of the second team had a goal to learn as much as he could about financial planning, project and people management. He wanted to improve his emotional intelligence attributes where he thought it would improve his people management skills. He remained constant, learnt the most and grew the most.

What I have also learnt is that emotional intelligence does indeed have a large bearing on how people cope. Not just with day-to-day life, but more importantly in times of stress. What I also unexpectedly learnt was that the Simmons EQ profile is an accurate predictor of behaviour and competence at work.