In a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 2600 hiring managers and human resource professionals nationwide, 71% said they value emotional intelligence in an employee more than IQ and 34% said they are placing even greater emphasis on emotional intelligence when hiring and promoting employees post-recession.  And 59% said they would not hire someone who has a high IQ but low EI, while 75% said they would promote a high EI worker over a high IQ candidate.

Why do these hiring managers value EI so much?  Because, they said, the high EI employees:

  • are more likely to stay calm under pressure
  • know how to resolve conflict effectively
  • are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly
  • lead by example
  • make more thoughtful business decisions

What behaviors do these managers look for that indicate high EI?  Employees who:

  • admit to and learn from mistakes
  • keep emotions in check
  • have thoughtful discussions on tough issues
  • listen as much or more than they talk
  • take criticism well
  • show grace under pressure

Another recent announcement was the inauguration of the USF SELECT program, in which a small group of incoming University of South Florida medical students are being admitted into an elite program based on an evaluation of their emotional intelligence.  The SELECT program is based on the expectation that "students with higher emotional intelligence can become more engaged, compassionate physicians who work effectively with teams and can lead change in health care organizations." Although this is the first time USF has used emotional intelligence as a gauge of leadership potential, the goal is to eventually incorporate EI training into the curriculum for all medical students, a trend in medical school education that is spreading rapidly.  

The SELECT program will include peer and faculty "coaching" groups intended "to help them cultivate this skill set of emotional competence," according to the USF Vice Dean Dr. Alicia Monroe. 

In order to choose the incoming SELECT class, faculty submitted applicants to a 90-minute "behavioral event interview," a method of interviewing that is often used in the business world and is starting to be used by some law firms, but is rarely part of academic medicine applications. Students were asked to recall how they reacted to specific quandaries or important events in their lives and what they learned from each situation. Teleos Leadership Institute staff trained the SELECT faculty to look for "a grounded explanation in students’ lived experiences," Dr. Monroe said. "To see, through this, how the students articulated the way in which they reason, problem-solve and use self-awareness to interact effectively with others, to communicate empathy and to manage relationships.."

In asking how he viewed the relevance of the EI screening, one of the successful candidates stated that "Once we become more aware of how we interact on an individual level, we will be prepared to collectively lead efforts for systemic changes in healthcare delivery. This is the big picture and it is still abstract, but I hope this program sets us up to do just that."

Halfway around the world, the new Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s department is providing emotional training workshops and personal coaching to her cabinet and staff.  "The fundamental purpose…is to foster enlightened and responsible leadership," according to one of the providers.

What is the common thread here?  Emotional intelligence is no longer a "squishy" concept that starry-eyed granola eaters and new agers proselytize.  We lawyers are about to be set back in our perennial competition with doctors by their realization that EI conveys real advantages, something corporate managers are already well aware of.

Will lawyers get the message?  Or are we too smug in how enlightened we are already?