How Emotional Intelligence Can be learned
Jobs to be Done interviews helped me develop my EQ in 4 years
People tend to think of Jobs To Be Done primarily as a tool for understanding the demand side of the business equation. But after doing thousands of interviews using this framework, I’ve realized the work has impacted me in profound ways. One of the most surprising benefits: I went from a below-average EQ to an outstanding EQ in just 4 years.
What is EQ?
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and understand the emotions of others.
When it comes to EQ, some people seem to just have it. You know those people who know how to move through social situations with ease? They have a deep understanding of what's causing people to do things.
For the rest of us, we need to find methods for developing emotional intelligence.
I was someone who had a very low EQ for most of my life. I realized I had blinders on. Mentors I trusted gave me the hard news. I was sitting with two of my most trusted mentors at a Chipotle. Both are extremely successful in their fields. We were having lunch and one turned to the other and asked, “What do you think Andrew’s EQ is out of 10?” The answer: “4.” The rebuttal: “You’re being nice! It’s a 2.”
This hurt but I knew they were right. Having low EQ made it harder to connect deeply with people. It was harder for me to make friends. I’d talk to people, and they didn’t feel like they were truly being heard. I would have social anxiety because I didn't know why people were doing the things they were doing. In business, understanding people helps you anticipate what they will do and what is really motivating them.
My low EQ was holding me back in all aspects of my life.
Why EQ matters
Research shows that EQ is a strong predictor of career success. A high EQ helps you build relationships, reduce team stress, defuse conflict and improve job satisfaction. For managers, a high EQ is correlated with increased team productivity and staff retention. For innovators, a high EQ helps you understand your customer and the various perspectives of diverse stakeholders.
The most successful people I know have both a high EQ and a high IQ. Having a strong EQ helps you figure out things like: How do you interact in a workplace? How do you negotiate something? Why did someone buy this thing? What did they really mean when they said that?
Someone with only IQ can be a good engineer. They can be good at building stuff. They can do the math and provide logic. But IQ-only people are not the ones who commercialize an invention. They’re not the ones who know how to sell. That requires the kind of interpersonal skills that come with high EQ.
I went on an EQ development mission
First, I read all the books about EQ starting with one I highly recommend - Daniel Goleman’s, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. I developed an understanding of the problem intellectually, but that's very different than feeling it intuitively and being able to know what to do in the moment. To really develop EQ, I had to practice in real-world situations. I had to put in the reps.
Jobs to be done helped me develop EQ in several ways.
Jobs to be done is a decision framework. It’s used in innovation for describing how people make decisions to switch from one product to another. But it has applications well beyond that. Any decision can be governed by what we call the forces of progress. This can be applied to someone deciding where to go to dinner, if they want to go out on a Friday night or where they decide to go on vacation. It can even be used to understand how someone chooses a life partner.
At Laser Ventures, we focus JTBD on designing and building new businesses or products, but it’s actually much broader than that. The JTBD decision framework can encapsulate all human decision-making.
The problem is, you can't just ask people to fill in that framework. You can't ask people why they made a decision. So much happens in the subconscious.
We use criminal and terrorist interrogation techniques to help us fill in that framework. The way we do that is we conduct phone interviews and dig into a single purchase. This could be ice cream on a Saturday afternoon, sunglasses in an airport, a software product like Slack, a wedding dress, or anything else you can think of.
We dig deep to understand what the causal mechanisms are for that product. Usually, the interviewee doesn't even know what actually drives them to make a purchase. Your job as the interviewer is to listen, ask deeper and deeper questions until underlying causal factors are uncovered.
Those causal factors are the source code for the first part of EQ: Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see the world through their eyes.
The second part of EQ is being self-aware about what's causing you to do things. Most people don’t really understand their own causal mechanisms.
How do Jobs to be Done interviews help? After doing hundreds of JTBD interviews where you're helping people unpack what actually calls them to do things, you can’t help but develop both parts of EQ.
You become a better listener and question-asker. Your bullshit meter gets honed. Over time, you build up a mental library of what causes people to act.
You then begin to question yourself. You say, “Ok, I just bought this thing. Why did I do that?” JTBD forces you to be super intellectually honest and dig into yourself.
When you do that enough, you start to understand what your real causes are. With this self-awareness, you can understand how other people are making decisions. Your EQ skyrockets.
I’ve felt the difference. Today, people tell me that my EQ is one of the highest of anyone they've met. I get compliments on how good of a listener I am. That’s something I really value. I’d never gotten that compliment in my life before studying JTBD and doing real JTBD interviews.
With an EQ, I now enjoy helping friends understand their causal factors. It always seems to be liberating for them and it's rewarding for me.
Example 1: Buying a poster
I was talking recently to a friend who made an impulse purchase of a poster. She didn't know why she bought it. She didn't need any more art in her apartment - every wall was covered. I helped her understand her purchase by asking questions and listening.
It turns out she’d bought the poster because she was in a new town, and she was with a new friend who had a big social circle. She wanted continued access to that social circle. Her friend bought art from that store, and she wanted to bond with this new friend and then continue to expand her social circle in this new place. The art she bought ended up sitting in a closet, but it wasn’t a waste because its JTBD was to help her bond, not to enhance the apartment.
The reality is that many are ashamed to admit that we all do things like this and we bury it in the subconscious. High-EQ people understand these drivers and consciously decide what to do in the moment. They bring their underlying emotions to the conscious level, often decreasing anxiety.
Example 2: Navigating a new relationship
I was with a friend who asked for my advice in her relationship. I asked her what was going on.
She said, “It's complicated.”
We've all heard that word before -- complicated. But the fact is, it's never that complicated. The complication, typically, is that they don't know how to do something they know they must do. In this case, she had told a guy she was seeing that she would go away with him. They weren't exclusive, but they were moving in that direction. Then she met someone else and started to fall for the new guy. She didn’t know what to do.
She told me it was complicated. As I talked with her, it became clear that she simply didn't know how to tell the first guy that she couldn't go away with him anymore. So it wasn’t complicated at all.
One of the things we do in JTBD interviews is unpack language. Most people think language is precise but it's not. It's highly contextual and often amorphous.
What does complicated mean? In this case complicated means, “It's too complicated for me to think of the language to use to do something, and I'm scared of hurting this person, and I don't want to be viewed as a bad person. I made a commitment and now I have to change that. What does that say about me and my values?”
Thanks to the emotional intelligence skills I’d developed through JTBD interviews, I was able to listen to my friend and help her think through a challenging personal situation.
We achieved clarity in minutes. She’d been wrestling with this issue for weeks. Once we’re able to step back and reflect on what's going on in our heads, the answer is usually very simple.
When people ask me today how to develop EQ, I’m happy to share what worked for me.
1. Learn the jobs-to-be-done framework for how people make decisions. My partner, Bob Moesta, has a book called Demand Side Sales 101 that has a great description of the framework and how to interview.
2. Practice humility. I’ve written about the Innovation Paradox, which is based on the principle that people often don't know why they do the things they do. There’s a skill to listening to people and learning what’s really driving their decisions and it’s important to know that you don’t know. People will lie to you because they lie to themselves.
3. Interview people. Get reps. Get as many as you can. We have a great example of an impulse purchase interview in our blog piece called One Tough Mother where I interview a new mom about a sweatshirt purchase.
Learning the JTBD framework and JTBD interview techniques was a significant contributor to developing a greater EQ. It feels like a superpower. It’s enriched my life and the lives of the people around me. It’s a big reason I love teaching JTBD and working with clients. I know that we are not just helping their business, but we are helping rewire their brains in rewarding ways.