Industry Watch

Monica Seme, principal consultant for Superior Insight Consulting

Emotional Intelligence

Good leaders are only a test away from becoming even better

By Justin Hanratty

Emotional Intelligence is all the buzz among business leaders today. What is it? How can it help your business leaders? What results can be expected?

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Monica Seme, principal consultant for Superior Insight Consulting, to answer these very questions. I also spoke with Russ Becker, the CEO of APi Group, regarding his experience while implementing Emotional Intelligence with his key leaders.

MNBIZ: What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)?  
There are a lot of definitions out there, but the best explanation is from Multi-Health Systems, the company I use for all EQ-1 assessments:

Emotional Intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we:

  • Perceive and express ourselves
  • Develop and maintain social relationships
  • Cope with challenges
  • Use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way

MNBIZ: Why have EI assessments become so popular?
Studies have shown that IQ, or cognitive intelligence, is a relatively small predictor of success. Yet, research continues to show a direct link between high performing leaders and high emotional intelligence. Our EI relates to how well we respond to challenges, make decisions, manage stress, navigate through change and build relationships — all key leadership skills. In team trainings, I ask participants to describe their best and worst bosses. EVERY time, 99% of the words used relate to how that boss made them feel — they are emotional words rather than IQ related. As more organizations become aware of this, the more they will start to recruit and develop leaders within their organization with high EI.

MNBIZ: What is the typical process for implementing EI?
I can only speak to the EQ-I, but it’s an online assessment that takes about 10-20 minutes to complete. Companies use EQ-I in a variety of ways, such as leadership training, individual development planning, team-building and talent selection. The assessment and interpretation is provided by an EI certified coach.

If an individual team member is participating, the coach will spend an hour with the participant and explain the results. We look at the subscales as they relate to specific organizational and developmental goals. What does this person need to accomplish? What are her goals? Which competencies are strengths that can be further developed to achieve her goals? What is limiting her abilities? We can then create a very specific action plan and strategy around competencies, the real work the person does and the outcomes she needs to achieve.

If an executive team is participating, the coach will meet with individuals one-on-one and then aggregate the data for a whole executive team analysis. The coach will use the aggregate data to help the team understand what it is doing well and what is holding it back.

Dramatic results

I also talked with Russ Becker, CEO of APi Group, who discussed his organization’s results from implementing EI assessments with 60 of its key leaders.

MNBIZ: Why did you decide to use EI training?  
I took the assessment myself and found it to be extremely helpful. It only made sense to bring this level of insight to key leaders within our organization. It gave our leadership team another data point to measure emotional context.

MNBIZ: What was the overall reaction?  
They were excited for a training opportunity unlike anything we’ve had previously. It opened people’s eyes to their authentic, emotional self. It is useful to have a better understanding of our own emotions such as stress tolerance, empathy and problem-solving skills.

MNBIZ: Did you have any unexpected results?  
Yes, one of our top leaders received his scores and became defensive, just didn’t believe it.  However, during his coaching with Monica, he had an “aha” moment. We have seen a dramatic change in his leadership since training — he is more effective, more compassionate, a stronger leader. This one change alone made the cost worth it!

Overall, Russ received positive feedback from his staff. They appreciated receiving clear information to strengthen their individual and team leadership capabilities. Ultimately, the feedback was so positive that APi decided to roll out the assessment to another sub-set of leaders by June 1st.


Justin Hanratty is the CEO of Hanratty Associates, an insurance and employee benefits administrator company based in Plymouth, Minnesota. He is a (Real) Power 50 alumni, and a citizen reporter for Minnesota Business.