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The Emotional Intelligence Factor

Published December 21, 2017

In the ever evolving QSR industry, the need for top talent has never been greater for every discipline that operates and supports our restaurants. Every organization is looking for the next generation of leaders to take their company into the future. Succession planning has become increasingly more important as restaurant companies plan for growth. There are many moving parts that need to be working together to get your brand ready to scale, but none more important than in the area of building the right people culture, with the right leaders in position.

HR departments everywhere have spent years developing excellent interview guides to gauge the viability of a candidate to contribute at a high level in the key performance areas. However, as much as we pay attention to job fit, technical skills, and leadership abilities, we need to be measuring emotional intelligence in candidates.

Oftentimes Emotional Intelligence, also known as EQ, gets glossed over in the restaurant space because those soft skills aren’t always considered in the final analysis of the results that are achieved. We’re a PNL driven business and a bottom line focused industry, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But how we get those results is as important as getting them.

EQ is defined as a person’s ability to empathize with others: identify, evaluate, control and express emotions; perceive, and assess others’ emotions; use emotions to facilitate thinking, and understand emotional meanings. Consider these qualities. How important is the ability for our future leaders to master the art of emotional intelligence? Huge. It’s a non-negotiable for future leaders to be able to display a high level of EQ and lead their teams well. No matter the raw talent, if a leader is a bull in a china shop, the environment they create inside of their organization will not be conducive to achieving sustainable high performing results.

Emotional intelligence is the other side of the balance beam, just across from a strong people culture. Having leaders with the right level of EQ will help build that culture while driving operational results, which sits in the center and helps achieve the balance we all need in our organizations.

There has been a shift in the workforce. The millennials are the next generation of leadership in our industry and we need to tap into their desire to be valued, their need to be a part of something that is bigger than just them, and the ability to play to their strengths. As the father of 5 millennials, and two of them working in the QSR segment, I’ve had a front row seat to their development and what they are seeing through eyes and it’s been incredibly powerful. The power of emotional intelligence has never been more on display than in this next generation of leaders, and we would all do well to cultivate it, coach it, and embrace it.

Harvard Business Review identifies four competencies of Emotional Intelligence; self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Inside of each of these important competencies are areas such as emotional self-awareness, empathy, organizational savvy, positive outlook, high achiever orientation, adaptability, emotional self-control, inspirational leadership, teamwork, coaching and mentoring, influence, and conflict management.

What do all of these examples of emotional intelligence competencies have in common? They can’t be taught. They can be coached, but if a candidate doesn’t have self-control and empathy, then there is little chance that coaching will help. They simply don’t possess those important attributes. We should not compromise because a candidate comes in with a certain level of “experience” but don’t possess the right level of EQ we need for a given role. I believe that leaders who are more successful in an organization long-term have a high level of emotional intelligence and have mastered the four competencies associated with EQ.

As an industry we need to be looking for these qualities in the candidates we are interviewing, both internally and externally. If we do, we have a much higher chance of cultivating successful talent in our organizations for years to come. We know the war on talent is only going to increase in the future, so let’s make sure we are ready for that future by ensuring we have the right leadership to create the right experience for our guests and operate great restaurants.