The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

July 9, 2017

What If You Took an EQ Test and Flunked

If you haven’t been under a rock for 20 years, you know that Emotional intelligence is THE crucial trait for the 21st Century leader. But what if you take a test to determine your self-awareness, self management, and relational abilities – and don’t do well?  Superstar blogger Jeff Haden, a regular Boss Show guest, comes clean with his test results …

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Voiceover: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. Now a show for anyone who is or has a boss, this is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.
Jim: Today on The Boss Show we’re talking about, in a way we’re talking about emotional intelligence but we’re looking at it through the lens of our guest, Jeff Haden, who took an emotional intelligence test and then wrote a blog …
Steve: And failed.
Jim: And then wrote a blog that said, “I took an Emotional Intelligence test and found out I’m kind of a jerk.” I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development and the author along with my co-host of the book, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face.
Steve: And you’re The Business Guy and I’m The Psychology Guy. My name is Steve Motenko, co-author of that same book. Actually, Jim wrote it, I kinda helped him write it. And I’m a leadership coach here in the Seattle area, and you are listening to a show that we intend will give you a little bit of workplace wisdom with heart and humor along the way.
Jim: So today, before I introduce our guest, Jeff, let’s just do a 60- to 80-second primer on emotional intelligence. Most of our listeners may have heard of it, but basically it’s a concept that came out about 20 years ago now. A guy named Daniel Goleman wrote about it in The Harvard Business Review, it spawned a number of books. It’s now the source of a lot of personality-based assessment tools, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a big deal. The reason it’s a big deal is because Goleman’s research led to the, I think, strongly held belief of many people now, that just having a high IQ isn’t enough, you’ve got to have this relational skill, this relational intelligence, emotional intelligence, whatever you want to call it. Goleman broke it down depending on which iteration you look, there’s four basic elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.
So, Jeff Haden, one of America’s favorite bloggers, 30 million people read his blogs every year. He blogs with Inc magazine and LinkedIn. He’s the ghost writer of over 50 books and he’s a regular guest on The Boss Show. Jeff, welcome.
Jeff: Gentlemen, how are you doing? I would ask, well excuse me, I would care how you were doing, but I’m not emotionally intelligent. (laughter) What the heck.
Jim: Yeah, I was really a little concerned with that, with the footnote on your test results that said, “Doesn’t give a damn about anybody but himself.”
Steve: Let’s start out with a quote from your blog. It said “Emotional intelligence can lead to better performance, better pay, and greater overall success. It can improve your relationships and even prevent you from being manipulated, but here’s the thing. Just like most of us feel we’re above average drivers, which means that half of us are wrong, most of us also tend to think we have high emotional intelligence.” So Jeff, you took a test. Tell us about it.
Jeff: Yes I did. It was mainly for fun. But I was kinda curious to see how I shook out. And the test I took was focused on people who are in leadership positions, so it was trying to assess your emotional intelligence as a leader, which is appropriate obviously for you guys’ show. And so I scored relatively well, relatively meaning relative to my other scores. Not necessarily to world class leaders. But I scored well in categories like independence, which does make sense because you know I work for myself now. So if it is to be, it’s up to me. And that makes sense. I did well on impulse control, which I also thought made sense because I do have goals, and I think half of achieving goals is actually sticking with things.
Steve: Yeah we talked about your push-ups goal on what on our previous shows, right?
Jeff: Yeah, part of it is just the willingness to stick with it, so that I did well on. And I did well on flexibility, which the way it was defined in the test I took wasn’t … It was more about if something happens, or if something changes how quickly do you adapt, how quickly do you move on, how quickly do you go to what’s next, and I think I do well there too. The places I did poorly (laughs). Social responsibility.
Steve: Give us the quick run through on the three and then we’ll explore after the break.
Jeff: Sorry. Social responsibility, which great. Assertiveness, which that was more about speaking up and voicing your opinions in situations where not necessarily would you be expected to, and then self-regard. Which means obviously, I don’t think very highly of myself, which we can delve into a lot more here in a minute.
Steve: Yeah, because you just apologized a second ago when you shouldn’t have, so that was an example of that, so. First of all, I was surprised that social responsibility was on this assessment. The person you talked to about your results said it’s a key area, so that in itself is interesting. Just to, to launch the rest of the conversation without us doing a huge peel apart your brain and-
Jim: Psychoanalysis.
Steve: Yeah, how did you feel in general, as you look back now at taking this test. So you took this test. Was it a helpful experience for you really, at the end of the day? I mean, are you glad you took it?
Jeff: I am glad I took it, and I do think it was helpful in that it made me sit and at least think about things. I guess my first question for you guys is, what is the value of a test where basically you’re just responding to a questionnaire to take 10 or 15 minutes. And of course you’re responding based on the framework or the perspective of wherever you are at that moment. Like for instance in self-regard, I scored fairly low. Which surprised me and didn’t. It surprised me because in some ways I have a pretty big ego. But it didn’t in that I’m always looking at whatever results I do achieve from a standpoint of okay how can I do better than that? And so that’s how I tended to answer questions. [inaudible 00:05:57] says hey are you satisfied with your progress on something, well yes but not really because I always think I could do better. So I guess my question for you is, how much if somebody in your audience takes one of these, how much credence should they give it, and what do you think it’s value is to a person?
Jim: So, we ought to get a psychometrician on the show, I am not one. I always question the scientific validity of psychological tests that claim to be scientifically valid. What really concerns me, I’ll say about a self-rated assessment is that how can you possibly rate yourself objectively, fairly, on something like emotional intelligence? These four quadrants or criterias of emotional intelligence. Your own self-awareness, how well you manage yourself, your relationship awareness especially and your relationship management. How can you really objectively, verifiably rate yourself? Don’t you really need somebody else to tell you how well you’re showing up? Because emotional intelligence is all about relationships. That’s my concern.
Jeff: Well, that is one of the things that I was told when I took this was that the greatest value to it would be to have people close to you who know you to also take it, like responding to how they perceive you.
Jim: Right, I think the thing to do with these sorts of assessments is to consider them as part of a process rather than as an end unto themselves. You know, if we run into companies where they make a big deal into doing behavioral assessments, or whatever. And unless those are done in the context of a general effort for the person to improve their skills and their abilities and grow as a human being, they probably don’t have a lot of value and they are pretty subjective. Now having said that, there are some assessments that are more subjective than others. And we talked about this on a previous show about the disc assessment in there’s a term call a validated assessment, which is an assessment that is required to undergo the rigor of science and demonstrate that it actually predicts the behavior that it says it’s going to predict. And I don’t sense that the one that you took, Jeff is what’s called a validated assessment. So naturally, the answers that you gave were through your own lens, through your own ladder of inference, through your own limited self-awareness. And that’s not to say it doesn’t have value.
Steve: We in our leadership workshop, early on in the workshop we ask people to essentially do an emotional intelligence 360 survey, meaning getting ratings from coworkers, who work with you closely on your emotional intelligence. In the particular way we frame it. And what I think interests me the most about the results that come back is when the participant in our workshop does a self-assessment on these same qualities, and that self-assessment is not aligned with the assessment that comes back from their co-workers, then you got a real problem. And that real problem is in self-awareness. So if you rate yourself, and your ratings don’t match the ratings of people who know you well, then you have a self-awareness problem, which is one of the primary domains of emotional intelligence.
Jim: Yeah, hold on Jeff, Steve and I talking here for a minute. My pushback on that is that the people who are assessing the individual. We assume that they’re posture of observation, their perspective of observation is objective. And it’s also not, right? So Jeff you just did, I guess the question for you is, you had leadership positions many time in your career. Did you ever get 360s? Did you ever do anything like that when you were in leadership positions?
Jeff: Yeah, they tended to be more the performance evaluation style, rather than emotional intelligence related, and they tended … It turned out that stuff that I would get back was stuff that I kind of knew but had either decided to ignore, or was trying to downplay in my own mind as important. You know what I mean? But I recognized it. I had never done anything like this. And I guess that’s to me is the big question to things like this. Because it is so subjective, both from me filling one out or if I had people do one on me. What-
Steve: But life is subjective.
Jeff: What do you do with these things?
Steve: So life is subjective, and I think we just need to do the best we can.
Jim: And here’s how I’d answer your question directly, Jeff. What you should do with it, and this is an assignment for you, is to take that assessment and do what the survey administrators said. Send it to people who know you well, and see how well their responses match up with yours. To me, that’s where the real learning is. And once you see the gap or lack of a gap between what people who know you well say about you and what you said about yourself, then you can kind of coach yourself or get someone to coach you. I’m only $500 an hour, by the way. Into a higher level of effectiveness, however, in whatever domain you want to work on.
Jeff: You know, that’s, I actually was offered that so …
Jim: For probably less than $500 an hour.
Jeff: Yeah, and down the road, we can always come back and talk about it again, and I can say, okay, here’s what I learned this time. Which I think would be really interesting. The tricky part for me on this is that had I taken this test ten years ago when I was running a plant, I would have answered a lot of the questions differently because my focus was on how do I lead teams, and how do I get teams to perform well? My focus isn’t on that anymore. And so I answered the questions based on me now. You know had I answered it based on me then, as I remembered it, it probably would have been different [crosstalk 00:11:57].
Jim: Yeah, I think that brings up an interesting question which is, kind of how situational is our emotional intelligence and our leadership based on our surroundings and what we feel is needed from us? Jeff, you mentioned that you felt you might have got a different result if you had taken this ten years ago when you were still actively managing a business. Well I had a somewhat similar experience in that I took a Myers-Briggs assessment and I tested, and this was when I was in the heady days of kind of my executive career. Vice-president of a large company. And I tested as an ENTJ, which is kind of the classic, executive Myers-Briggs profile. One of the monikers for it is the field marshal.
Jeff: That was me.
Jim: Yeah, okay. And then I took a Myers-Briggs probably about ten years later, and I tested as an INFP, which is almost the exact opposite of an ENTJ.
Steve: So three of the four qualities were the other side.
Jim: Yeah, it couldn’t be more different. And the fact is I was acting into the role of an ENTJ because I sensed very strongly that that’s what the organization needed from me. And I think that looking back on that, I can say that that probably is what the organization needed from me at that point. And then when I got into consulting work, and training work, and the work that I do now, I think I was able to relax into a more natural, authentic style for me, because I did eventually burn out in that ENTJ role. That was not my authentic behavior. So even though I was doing a good job play acting at it for a while. It did eventually catch up with me.
Jeff: You know, that’s interesting because that is my experience exactly. There were certain ways that I knew I had to act and perform, and I did. And I could do it really well, but there’s energy that you expend when you’re forcing. Not forcing, but you know what I mean. And I got to a point where I looked around and thought wow, I don’t want to do this. And that’s why I changed careers [crosstalk 00:14:02]
Jim: Yeah, and I think that comes back to a really fundamental question about these sorts of assessments in general. I mean, curious to what Steve has to say. Because I think there’s a real interesting question for me about this is how much do we … how much energy do we put into changing ourselves as opposed to becoming comfortable and authentic with who we actually are? And I think it’s probably an interesting question for a lot of people. But I don’t know what the psychology guy has to say about it. I mean, because you can drive yourself nuts trying to fundamentally change who you are as a human being. And I’m not sure how healthy that is.
Steve: Yeah, I don’t think you can ever fundamentally change who you are as a human being, you can always grow, develop, expand your repertoire of behaviors. But fundamentally changing who you are I don’t think that’s in the cards for us. How I would answer the question is what does the situation need? What is called from us in a given situation and a given culture? That ought to determine how we work on ourselves. What’s important for us to work on ourselves. And Jeff, to you I’d say of the results that you got, given that you’re not leading people, given that you’re self-employed and leading a largely solitary lifestyle, because you are such a loser, although I may be exaggerating that just a bit. What of the … Which of the results that you got would you want to work on that your situation demands or calls for?
Jeff: Ooh, that is a really good question.
Jim: And you’ve got a whole minute to answer it. (laughs)
Jeff: Oddly enough, I would probably go with the self-regard one. Even though I did say that on the one hand that I have the big ego, but at the other time I’m always looking for improvements. But I don’t celebrate success at all. Like even for a moment. No matter what it is, it’s like well okay that’s good, but … You know, I’m the king of that but. And so that one I think is a really good one. And of course that also lends itself to how probably I treat other people as well. You know, maybe I don’t celebrate other people’s successes to the degree that I should. You know, because that’s kind of my default position.
Jim: And it’s really a human [crosstalk 00:16:13]
Jeff: And from a leadership point of view, that would be a big thing.
Jim: Yeah, for sure.
Steve: It’s really a human default position because we’re hardwired to be constantly scanning the environment for threats. So we’re hardwired, we’re programmed to focus on negative things because it’s in our survival, it’s a survival orientation to do so. And to ignore positive things because there’s no survival motive for that. And so understanding that can help us weigh the balances more evenly. You had a thought based on what I said earlier about how leaders should determine what they want to develop on based on what the situation calls for.
Jeff: Right, you were talking about how like we were saying that depending on what the situation calls for, you may push yourself to act in certain ways in order to accomplish what you need to accomplish, but that that doesn’t come naturally to you. And I was thinking that an emotionally intelligent leader should be good enough at reading the people that works for them to be able to say, okay what is the best spot for me to put this person in that naturally plays to their strengths? That causes them to be as effective and as authentic as they could be because that means that they will perform better.
Steve: So yeah, this, one of the nuances of emotional intelligence is that the emotional intelligent leader has to understand the nuances of other people’s skills and emotional intelligence and the notion that they’re going to be good at some things, and not so good at others, and place them in situations and job responsibilities that capitalize on their current abilities.
Jim: And let’s face it, any quality relationship inside or outside of the workplace involves a dialogue between two people about their emotional intelligence. Their blind spots, their strengths, their weaknesses. I mean, I’ve been married 40 years, and a lot of that time has just been a process of discovering the other person’s strengths and weaknesses from an emotional perspective. So any good relationships calls us to do this, right Jeff?
Jeff: Yeah, so on that [inaudible 00:18:24], excuse me to a good question. If you’re thinking about emotional intelligence as leaders, what do you guys based on all the people you’ve worked with, and your coaching and everything else. What are the key things an emotionally intelligent leader needs to be able to either display or to learn to do?
Steve: So I wouldn’t say, I wouldn’t rank them in order of importance, but I would rank them kind of chronologically. What I mean by that is self-awareness. The first of the four domains of emotional intelligence that Daniel Goleman lays out, comes first. Self-awareness comes first. Because if you ask someone to work on relationship awareness or relationship management, without a baseline understanding of how they’re perceived, of how they show up in life, then that work is not going to be very successful. So you have to … and when I say self-awareness comes first, the way to get self-awareness is not from yourself. It’s from other people.
Jim: Yeah, and I’m not going to disagree with anything Steve said, I’ll just put an and to it. And that self-awareness has to lead you towards a journey of wanting to get better. Of wanting to put your ego aside in the pursuit of leading other people.
Steve: And you do that in the context of relationship awareness.
Jim: You do that in the context of relational-
Steve: That’s what calls you to be more self-aware.
Jim: Right, so you know, Jeff, you’re asking what do I think is most important. Is I think it’s the ability of a leader to put their ego aside in service to the organization, and in service to the people they work with.
Jeff: There you go. Well isn’t that a leader’s job?
Jim: I hope so. (laughs)
Steve: Yeah, not all leaders believe that.
Jim: We don’t have a good national example of this, right? We have a president who has an extremely high self-regard and that brings up the issue, which we don’t have time to discuss, which is sometimes your greatest strength becomes a weakness if it’s carried too far and sometimes your weakness can actually become a strength if you’re aware of it.
Steve: And we’ll get letters and phone calls on this, but his self-regard is actually based in a total lack of self-regard.
Jim: Insecurity.
Steve: His apparent self-regard is not true self-regard.
Jim: Jeff, thanks for being on the show as always-
Jeff: You’re welcome.
Jim: Really enjoy having you. Steve, I guess we can put an exclamation point on this by saying while it’s possible to be too self-involved and too putting yourself up under the spotlight or microscope too much. Certainly a healthy self-awareness and a health understanding of how our emotional life shows up in our work and how it causes us to either rub well or rub poorly against other people is an absolute foundation of any leadership career or any … the part of leadership. Leadership starts with an understanding of ourselves and our ability to lead ourselves.
Steve: Yeah, and I’d say life starts there.
Jim: Yeah, right. [crosstalk 00:21:19]
Steve: A successful life can be defined that way. Daniel Goleman specifically in regard with the workplace, the emotional intelligence guru said that emotional intelligence is twice as important for determining success as any other quality.
Jim: Boss Show is produced by Path Forward Leadership and our sound engineer has been Kevin Dodrill.
Steve: If you missed any of the show you can get all of it online at and it’s also where you can go to subscribe to our podcast or to contact us for any reason.
Jim: Thanks for listening!
Steve: And don’t forget, rule number six.

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