We have all heard about doctors who lack “bedside manner.” Clearly, you must be intelligent to become a doctor, but what separates successful doctors from the rest is their ability to account for their patients’ emotions. This is called emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence plays a big role in any organization, and the world of finance is no exception. I had a coworker once who was very abrasive with others when she would review business loan requests. She would berate the loan officer over deficiencies she saw in the loan structure, and she would embarrass underwriters for not providing strong arguments or lacking details. Everybody in the company hated this person! I could see she was clearly smart, and I tried to learn as much from her as I could, but it was very challenging to maintain a basic friendship with her. I had never met someone who lacked so much emotional intelligence!
Ultimately, anyone with emotional intelligence will likely have a competitive advantage over their peers, and emotional intelligence can be learned and gained through maturity. However, emotional intelligence can also be innate, and we can all think of examples of people who appear to manage relationships naturally and seemingly effortlessly.
In commercial lending, relationship managers must have well-developed emotional intelligence, since their livelihood is largely based on their ability to maintain relationships with their business clients. Underwriters, on the other hand, are discouraged from becoming emotionally attached to a project or clients. That means the less emotional intelligence an underwriter has, the better he or she will function in their role, right? Wrong!
Underwriters and analysts need to have emotional intelligence to be successful too! Just think about the doctor with bedside manner. It is not enough to identify potential issues, but the issues must be communicated with tact and respect for all parties involved. Likewise, relationship managers may exhibit great emotional intelligence with their clients, but the most successful ones show the same qualities in dealing with underwriters internally when issues arise. Some lenders can show great disdain towards underwriters and feel it is their job to protect their clients from them!
I think mutual understanding tends to be the best conduit of emotional intelligence. In finance, I think this works best when we all agree we just want to advance our careers, and we need every person around us to help with that goal. The more people that contribute to scoring a big win results in more people who felt they have won something. There is an advantage to being part of a team and having a wide base of stakeholders.
Those who are obsessed with winning alone rarely get very far, and it is not hard to see why. A desire to go it alone usually results from lack of emotional intelligence, which means others don’t want to be around you.
Having a high IQ is not enough in any profession. It is your emotional quotient (EQ) that will also be key to your success. Intelligent people can dream and design big ideas, but it takes teams of people to execute big projects, which means having emotional intelligence is critical if you truly want to have a hand in making the world go round.