Emotional Intelligence: Vital For Successful Transformation

Jan Koster

In the business world, emotional intelligence still holds a low position on the priority list. This is unfortunate; an increasing number of organizations need to transform in order to survive, and emotional intelligence is an essential skill set for transformation to happen. Without sufficient emotional intelligence in all individuals involved, transformation is doomed to fail, regardless of how much IQ there is in the organization. And this doesn’t apply only to the “change leader,” but to all employees.

In my previous blog, I talked about transformation and which skills can help with it. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is one of the most essential. Psychologist and author Daniel Coleman, who put this subject on the map, explains that EQ is based on 5 pillars:

  1. Self-awareness: Knowing and recognizing your own emotions
  2. Self-management: The management of your own emotions
  3. Motivation: The use of your own emotions for the purpose of an objective
  4. Empathy: The recognition of emotions in others
  5. Social skills: The management of emotions in others

In his book Emotional Intelligence 2.0,Travis Bradberry argues that emotional intelligence accounts for 58 percent of the success of a career. People are hired due to their relevant knowledge and expertise. But if they want to excel in their profession, then EQ is more than just a bonus. “IQ helps you get the job, but EQ helps you keep it,” Bradberry notes.

People with a high EQ display specific behaviors, which you can find listed on various online sources. But which emotional intelligence-related characteristics, practices, and skills are most relevant for successful transformation?

Not just digital transformation

When I refer to transformation, I am talking about transformation in general, not just digital transformation. Digital transformation cannot take place in isolation. Transformation of the organization itself involves processes and culture, and emotional intelligence has a particularly great influence on these factors.

Individuals with a high EQ display the following characteristics, which play a key role in the transformation of an organization:

1. Forward-looking

They are open-minded and forward-thinking; they do not live in the past and can also easily release themselves from it. For them, transformation is a continuous process. You won’t hear them say: “Things used to be better.”

2. Not perfectionists

They don’t strive for perfection and don’t hang around too long in problem areas. They understand that perfection does not exist and that striving for it can lead to frustration. On the contrary, they see that there can always be a better situation and that (again) transformation is a continuous process.

3. Focus on the positive

People with a high EQ focus on the positive and look for ways to make life more pleasant, better, and more fun. For them, transformation is a step forward, a move towards a new situation that improves on the previous one.

4. Open attitude

They are empathic, good listeners, and are receptive to feedback. This means that they understand other points of view and are able to work collaboratively. As the driving force or initiator of a transformation, it is necessary to get the followers onboard. Listening to those involved, and consulting and involving them in the transformation process increases the chance of a successful transformation. They are then also able to make considered and sound decisions.

5. Leaders, not followers

They set an example to others. Their positive attitude and approach makes them agents for change. Others are quick to see a person with a high EQ as a leader.

6. Stress-resistant

Transformation is sometimes accompanied by uncertainty, setbacks, and unexpected events. That can lead to stress. Emotional intelligence helps people deal with it. Thanks to their strong self-management skills, people with a high EQ are better able to avoid (or put into perspective) unfounded thoughts and ideas. Furthermore, they recognize feelings of stress earlier and are better equipped to take them into consideration than those with lower EQ.

Emotional intelligence training

When people in an organization display the above characteristics, successful transformation becomes more achievable. But what needs to happen to achieve this? Employees must work on emotional intelligence!

Just as you can train the body for physical fitness, you can also train the brain. This is important as it determines your thinking and conduct. Just reading about the subject is not enough—that would be like trying to get fit by reading books about gyms.

No longer a taboo

Training the brain to achieve higher EQ remains unrecognized at many organizations. Tried and tested methods such as mindfulness and meditation are often unjustly termed “fluffy” or considered “not Western wisdom.” However, science shows that mindfulness exercises and meditation are proven methods for training specific parts of the brain and strengthening connections between specific brain cells. It’s exactly those parts and connections that are responsible for emotional intelligence.

It is time organizations set their prejudices aside and become open. A successful transformation demands this.

For more insight on emotional intelligence in the workplace, see Your Employees Wish You Were Emotionally Intelligent.


Jan Koster

About Jan Koster

Jan Koster has been working in the world of SAP since 1997. As an innovation principle, he is building the bridge between the technological innovations of SAP and the potential or desired business innovations of the customer. To build this bridge, the design thinking approach is used, focusing on innovation and assigning human meaning to technology. In his blogs, he shares his vision and experience in innovation and transformation.