Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence

In my ten years as an executive coach, I have never had someone raise his hand and declare that he needs to work on his emotional intelligence. Yet I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard from people that the one thing their colleague needs to work on is emotional intelligence. This is the problem: those who most need to develop it are the ones who least realize it. The data showing that emotional intelligence is a key differentiator between star performers and the rest of the pack is irrefutable. Nevertheless, there are some who never embrace the skill for themselves — or who wait until it’s too late.

Take Craig (not his real name), a coaching client of mine, who showed tremendous potential and a strong ability to drive results for his company. The issue with Craig was the way in which he got those results. When asked to describe him, his colleagues would say things like: “he’s a bull in a china shop;” “he has sharp elbows;” and “he leaves dead bodies in his path.” His approach to executing projects was not sustainable as he wasn’t able to motivate, attract and retain good talent. His direct reports pointed out how frequently Craig seemed oblivious to how he demeaned others. His boss commented on Craig’s impatience and his propensity to lash out at his peers. When I shared this feedback with Craig, he seemed taken aback and was convinced that I had heard wrong. He didn’t have the self-awareness or empathy that are hallmarks of emotional intelligence.

Here are some of the telltale signs that you need to work on your emotional intelligence:

  • You often feel like others don’t get the point and it makes you impatient and frustrated.
  • You’re surprised when others are sensitive to your comments or jokes and you think they’re overreacting.
  • You think being liked at work is overrated.
  • You weigh in early with your assertions and defend them with rigor.
  • You hold others to the same high expectations you hold for yourself.
  • You find others are to blame for most of the issues on your team.
  • You find it annoying when others expect you to know how they feel.
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