The greatest leaders offer more than traditional intelligence, good education or relevant experience. Displaying composure and keeping emotional reactions in check have never been more important and some people just seem to ‘have it’! They communicate in ways that inspire us to perform at our best. What is their secret?  Why do we sometimes not get the communication results we desire and how can we communicate more effectively?

These were the questions posed to us at Kandidata Asia, by a 35-year old manager referred to us for coaching. Despite an IQ of 138 and graduating top of her MBA class she was about to lose the sixth job in four years. Something needed to change!

First we measured her EQi (Emotional Quotient Inventory) and she rated high on assertiveness, problem solving and independence but low on self-awareness, interpersonal relationships and empathy. She had strong opinions and was decisive, preferring to work on her own without anchoring decisions nor building positive relationships with colleagues and customers – which turned out to be a recipe for work-place disaster.

Her problems were rooted in her communication style. She relied on her high IQ and rational and fact-based communications, but was oblivious to how other people reacted and absorbed the information. With our help and her own commitment and work this bright manager became aware of her strengths and weaknesses and learned to be a better listener who was more in tune with others. 

Does Communication Style make a Difference?

In the modern workplace it is key to effectively communicate across different cultures, and effectively manage teams. The frequency and speed of change, along with the pressure to always improve, call for skills beyond the technical or simply good business acumen. With these different demands on organizations, a new kind of leadership is needed – more focused on communication, relationships and interpersonal skills.

While most leaders know how to present ideas and give directions, few actively listen to ensure that their teams are on board with the task at hand. How you behave, what you say and how you say it – combined with body language – sends a clear signal about you as a person and how successful you are going to be – privately and professionally.

Neuroscience points out great differences between individual mental maps and the way people perceive, filter and store information in their own, singular manner. These highly individual mental maps and each person’s unique personality colours and propels communication. Understanding and managing your communication style will have a significant effect on your leadership success.

While each person’s style is unique, research shows that we tend to develop one of two distinctively different communication styles: IQ-dominating or EQ-dominating.

The IQ Communication Style

IQ refers to our cognitive or intellectual, analytical, logical and rational capacity and is measured by standardized intelligence tests, remaining relatively unchanged through life. A high IQ does not necessarily equal success in life or business, despite being a good predictor of school results.

IQ communicators are direct and rational and view things as either black or white. They are usually factually right and focused on the content of their message rather than on the receiver, often preferring e-mail to face-to-face communication. They can be seen as cold, distant or arrogant.

Fact-based communication is great, but problems come in if the content of the message is emotionally charged. The manager who informs his staff about downsizing a division and employee redundancies, issues a message with severe emotional impact, as it will affect many people’s livelihood. How it is communicated equals reaction and to be effective, the message needs to be both factually and emotionally correct. This is where EQ comes in.

The EQ Communication Style

EQ is the emotional and social skills that influence how we perceive and express ourselves, cope with challenges and manage social relationships. It is how we make decisions, relate to other people and live our everyday lives.

EQ communicators focus on how others will understand, grasp and integrate the message. They are sensitive to people’s needs and make sure that others are on board and understand the information. They consider tone of voice and, above all, how others receive the message, sometimes at the cost of preciseness, clarity and facts. IQ communicators tend to view them as too emotional, non-specific or fuzzy.

How to bridge the gap between IQ and EQ?

There is almost no connection between IQ and EQ – a person can have high IQ and low EQ or vice versa. Both are needed in order to be a strong communicator as messages from an effective leader are both factually and emotionally correct. Getting feedback and understanding one’s communication style is the first step towards change and improvement. Remember, any kind of developmental work starts with ‘me’!

Understanding your own communication style has an impact on your self-awareness and how you manage conflicts, solve problems and handle stress. Understanding others’ communication styles impacts how you manage relationships and makes a difference in how you facilitate teamwork and interactions, helping you respond more effectively to the needs of others.

EQ skills can be improved by practicing to adapt to situations we are in – a new job or social context – or at home. But it takes practice. 

Expand your repertoire – understand your communication style and tailor communication as a strategic advantage

Emotional Intelligence is not about being soft, emotional or nice. It is about knowing how to communicate and work effectively and the ability to deal with daily challenges, including internal skills to manage and control yourself in different situations.

The EQ-i (the Emotional Quotient Inventory), a scientifically based, valid and reliable tool published in 1997, has proven accurate in measuring Emotional Intelligence. Used by over a million people in over 60 countries, the EQ-i has revealed interesting results about communication styles and what makes a successful manager and leader. While IQ has been measured for over 100 years, the ability to measure EQ is more recent and more and more companies are turning to EQ evaluations as it has been proven to support positive revenue growth rates.

Improving the way people in organizations communicate will impact the way they work together and leverage the intellectual capital in a major way.

All corporations would do well to boost their collective EQ communication skills!