So, what are these engineers learning that’s so important? Let’s find out: “Social scientists have recognized that success is strongly influenced by personal qualities such as perseverance, self-control, and the ability to work well on teams. Companies recognize that employees with high emotional intelligence are more resilient, flexible, and adjust easier to the fast-changing dynamic of the workplace.”
This is part of a course description for one of the of the classes I teach at Columbia University’s School of Engineering. In this course, “Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace,” I beg the question, “Are you managing your emotions or are your emotions managing you?”
It’s an interesting question to ask, considering the participants: incredibly smart and analytic individuals, who are current master’s students in engineering. These highly-intelligent individuals are accustomed to precision and metric-based evidence typical of any science discipline, not fuzzy, seemingly unquantifiable topics.
Consequently, becoming aware of and learning soft skills, which seem fuzzy and even touchy-feely at times, is a big leap for many of them—which is the point of the class. Columbia recognizes the need for this kind of education not traditionally offered in disciplines such as engineering.
The goal is to not only produce the best engineers in the industry, but also leaders who will be at the forefront of change. To achieve this, Columbia has created a Professional Development and Leadership program (PDL) for their School of Engineering and Applied Sciences which, “empowers and educates Columbia engineers to maximize performance and achieve their full potential to become engineering leaders of today and tomorrow. PDL’s core modules provide engineers with skills and perspectives needed to succeed in a fast-changing technical climate. The program consists of an array of engagements, online and in-person (e.g., courses, workshops, labs, competitions), where students develop professionally.”
This kind of learning is a necessary movement that institutions and emerging professionals are beginning to recognize: success isn’t based on just skill and intelligence, it requires the ability to communicate and lead others. Your intelligence or book-smarts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to success in the workplace. In fact, your IQ and skills are increased when your EQ—or emotional intelligence—is there to support them.
Regardless of the industry you work within, your ability to communicate and lead will determine how far you climb in your career. Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence, states, “At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces: forces grouped as emotional intelligence.”
In order to effectively communicate and lead, you must be emotionally intelligent. Employers often rank the following as some of the most desired attributes for their employees:
- calm under pressure
- resolves conflict effectively
- shows empathy to colleagues
Why would these attributes be so important to an employer? Beyond the obvious benefits of having calmer, kinder employees, higher levels of EQ indicate an ability for individuals to build productive relationships, be resilient under pressure, and strengthen through adversity—all characteristics that are essential in today’s stressful, dynamic, and ever-changing business environment.
If engineers are being guided to take this seriously, you might consider its relevance in your career. Learn more about how to increase your emotional intelligence at, www.chuckgarcia.com.
 Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, Bantam Books, September 2005.