IQ Versus EQ

In the technical training world, the focus is primarily on the transfer of knowledge and skills. The hope is that by strengthening knowledge and skills, performance will be improved.

But there has been a movement over the past decade that shifts some of the focus away from pure knowledge and skills transfer and toward the development of “emotional intelligence.”

In the literal sense, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is pretty straightforward. It is a measure of how one performs on a standardized group of tests versus the norm. (The norm being set at a score of 100.)

In an expanded sense, and especially when looking at the field of vehicle maintenance, IQ can be thought of as “raw talent.” It is what the employee brings to the table in terms of skills, knowledge and abilities.

A study of Harvard graduates in the fields of law, medicine, teaching and business found that scores on their entrance exams – a surrogate for IQ – had zero or negative correlation with their eventual career success.¹

You probably know of a few people in your life who always did well in school, went to a fine university and graduated with honors, yet years later are still struggling to find a suitable job or career path.

Conversely, there are hundreds of stories about people from mediocre academic backgrounds who went on to have enormous success in business. Many behavioral experts have attributed this phenomenon to EQ (Emotional Quotient).

According to Daniel Goleman’s book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, EQ determines a person’s “potential” for learning practical skills and developing abilities based on five elements: self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy and adeptness in relationships. “Our emotional competence shows how much of that potential we have translated into on-the-job capabilities.”²

You have likely seen it in your shops: Of two people with seemingly equal product knowledge and technical skills, both hard workers, one clearly outperforms the other. In some sense, this means that although both have knowledge and skills, the one with the higher EQ is likely more “trainable” – in both self-paced and structured learning environments.

It is not that high-EQ people have unlimited skills and abilities, it is that they are more aware of their limits and gaps, and seek to improve.

Both high-IQ and high-EQ people will occasionally fail at a task or receive negative feedback from a superior. Where a high-IQ person might treat this as a slap in the face, the high-EQ person has the ability to step back and look honestly and logically at what actually happened. Thus, their road to corrective action is much straighter and shorter.

Ask yourself if your employees have the following attributes:

Self Control: The IQ-only employee gets frustrated when things don’t work as they should, or a particular diagnostic problem is outside the norm. Those with higher EQs can manage emotions and impulses effectively, coming up with creative solutions to the problem.

Trustworthiness and Conscientiousness: The high-EQ employee displays honesty and integrity. He/she is dependable and responsible in fulfilling obligations, and strives to provide an “honest day’s work” for their pay.

Adaptability and Innovation: A person with a higher EQ is flexible in handling changes and challenges, is open to novel ideas and approaches and rapidly absorbs new information. The IQ-only employee is usually resistant to change, and prefers to work within rigid or systematic structures.

So, it would seem from this discussion that EQ is more important than IQ? Not so fast. There have been additional studies done that counter, or at least question, the argument that “EQ crushes IQ.”

There is certainly no substitute for raw talent in the vehicle maintenance field, where critical thinking and psychomotor skills are crucial. Many experts assert that without a reasonable level of IQ, even a person with high EQ will be unable to use it effectively.

It is perhaps safer to say that, when IQs are close, EQ can be the deciding factor.

Can EQ be learned? We’ll save that question for the next issue.

¹ Tymson, Candy. IQ vs. EQ. Article at

² Goleman, Daniel. Working with Emotional Intelligence, 1998, Bantam Books.

Stephen Howe is employed as a field trainer by United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company, with approximately 600 locations in North America and an a rental fleet worth more than $3.5 billion. He is a past president of the Automotive Training Managers Council - a global non-profit organization dedicated to sharing best practices and recognizing outstanding training in the automotive and heavy vehicle industries.