So, How High Is Your EQ?

As a longtime college professor, I hate to admit this, but I find myself less and less interested in the IQ of others. Instead, I find myself drawn to those with high EQ.

My critics might say, “Well, that’s because Bill doesn’t HAVE a very high IQ himself, and misery loves company!” Fair enough, but let me explain.

Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman

EQ, or “emotional intelligence,” is about attributes like social skills and empathy for others. Researchers Howard Gardner and Daniel Goleman are thought-leaders in this field. In fact, I grew up in a house where we were actually taught elements of social skills and social graces. I learned how to hold my fork and sit properly, extend a hand for a firm, friendly handshake, and look people in the eye when speaking with them, while putting some “smile” and affect into my voice when engaging others in conversation. My mother used to say upon my frequent failures, “Bill, you weren’t born in a barn.”

Over the last 18 months, has explored a range of topics from Quality Customer Service (QCS), to issues of leadership, to the changing landscape and generational divides in the workplace (Generation Z). In all those posts, one common denominator has started to emerge for me, and my continuing research and service off-campus affirms it: Our culture is slowly migrating toward an era where it WON’T be your “brilliance” (IQ) or tech skills that matter most; I believe it will be “soft skills,” your EQ, and the quality of your relationships with others.


While some snicker about “Iowa Nice,” and people like Scott Siepker (whom I’ve met) have brought perceptions about Iowa and its residents national media attention, often in parody, I am beginning to believe there is something to this notion. Now, there is no working definition of these “Iowa Nice” values, something Richard Doak acknowledged in a piece he did for the Des Moines Register last year. And honestly, it could just as easily be called “Midwest Nice,” as Minnesotans are often cited as being high in EQ, too, as are some Dakotans.

My point is, as technology continues its ubiquitous growth, and our eyes continue to be fixed on a screen while our thumbs furiously work our mobile devices, who will we have working “front-of-house,” as we like to say in the hospitality industry, that area that’s truly customer-facing? Are we raising these kids, now identified as “Generation Z,” with soft-skills and manors in our homes today? Are we growing the next generation in areas of EQ in our schools? Or, given enough time, and another generational shift or two, maybe it won’t matter much. It may not be necessary to be empathetic – or to know how to shake someone’s hand, smile, and truly listen to their needs as we attempt to meet them, all while serving. I hope not.


As for me, I will continue to encourage employers to search and screen for EQ – to use tools like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder and/or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and to be even more discerning in their hiring as they look for “Iowa Nice.” I already frequently tell organizations I serve, “DON’T HIRE, unless you know the candidate has the personality you’re looking for! Your workplace culture is at stake!”

No, until my restaurant meal comes delivered by some robot (likely programmed for social graces, mind you), hire for EQ, and focus a little less on IQ. If you have the soft skills we need today, we can train you for the rest of it…

Resources: IQ vs. EQ, and Ways to Fill the Skills Gap

2 thoughts on “So, How High Is Your EQ?”

  1. Paul says:

    So true-thanks for sharing! Perhaps a new meaning of “Heart-land” 🙂

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