Justin Bariso, Founder & Principal, EQ Applied

Justin Bariso is an author, speaker, and the founder of EQ Applied, the company that uses simple frameworks to help individuals and teams to grow and practice their emotional intelligence. Discover more at eqapplied.com.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Justin shared his insights on the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in today’s business world, the inspiration behind establishing EQ, Applied, personal role model, favorite quote, future plans, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) isn’t a new concept, it’s always been there. So why has it become so important in today’s business world?

I can think of at least three key reasons. For one, even though the concepts of emotional intelligence are simple to understand, they’re very challenging to practice. So those who have high emotional intelligence usually stand out in a crowd. That’s why we often say that IQ that gets you the job, but EQ gets you the promotion. And you could say the same for reaching any business goals, also as entrepreneurs—so much of good business requires people skills, and that’s what emotional intelligence is all about.

The second reason has to do with a new audience that is just learning these skills. You’re right that EI is not a new concept, and time hasn’t changed its value. But you constantly have young people entering the workforce who don’t know much about it, because unfortunately it’s still not taught much in school. And truth be told, there are so many from every generation who don’t know much about it—I get emails form them all the time.

The final reason is a positive one: Today there’s just so much more appreciation for mental and emotional health than what we’ve seen in the past. That actually increases the value of EI in the eyes of many.

How much of EI is already determined before adulthood? Also, when it comes to the gender, does the research show any specific pattern like women tending to score higher for example?

Those are difficult questions to answer. There is certainly research to support that much of personality and social skills are determined at an early age. But there’s a growing body of research that shows just how plastic the brain is, and how much we can learn and adapt, even well into adulthood.

Regarding gender, again, there’s research to support men and women handling situations differently in aggregate (for example, how they handle feedback). However, it’s important to remember that different facets of emotional intelligence sit on a spectrum. Meaning, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and a strength in one area can be a weakness in another. That complexity, among other factors, makes emotional intelligence difficult to measure.

What was the inspiration behind establishing EQ, Applied? How do you help business leaders and professionals use emotions to work for them, instead of against them?

My inspiration was finding and filling a gap in the emotional intelligence literature. My goal in the beginning was simply to make emotional intelligence easier to understand through my writing, with real-life examples that people can relate to.

Since then, I’ve found that there’s a lot of value in providing people with frameworks they can use to apply what they learn. So, EQ Applied has really grown into an educational company, with a focus on online courses. Again, the concepts are not hard to understand, but they are challenging to practice. So those frameworks make it a bit easier.

Not easy, mind you, but definitely easier.

Justin, are there any meaningful events in your backstory that helped shape your career path?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, my Mom and Dad are quite different in how they handle emotions. They’re also culturally very different, with my Mom being Portuguese-American and my father being a first-generation American immigrant from the Philippines. So, from an early age I learned very different skills and cultural values from both of them.

Then, I followed a very different career path: I worked 13 years as a volunteer at a very mission-driven nonprofit: The world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My first job there was quality checking Bibles as they came off the production line…and later I worked managing teams in various departments.

I learned much of the practical side of emotional intelligence in the workplace—management and motivational skills—in those years. That gave me a very different perspective and skill set that benefited me when I started my own business, coaching and consulting for corporations and small businesses.

Please brief us about your book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence. Do you have any special message for our readers who are predominantly business leaders, CXOs, and entrepreneurs working in diverse industries?

EQ Applied is a great starter for those who have heard of emotional intelligence but aren’t sure how to develop it in their own lives. I’m a storyteller by nature, so I use stories from the news and from my own life to bring the research to life. I also try to make any advice as practical and actionable as possible, so people can put it to work right away.

Re your readers, I’d say it doesn’t really matter what industry you work in, emotional intelligence will benefit you in every line of work. And it benefits you at home, too, that’s what’s so great about it. You practice at work, and that can make you better for your family. Then you practice at home, and that can make you better at work. The key is to start practicing…because it takes time to change and improve habits.

Apart from EI, what other top skills should aspiring professionals develop to succeed in the current business world?

First and foremost, critical thinking. After that, industry-specific knowledge.

What is your favorite quote?

“Love never fails.”- Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:8

Who is your role model in life and why?

Jesus Christ. He set the standard in how I want to lead my life. And as a Christian, he’s my exemplar.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Right now, I’m still very much hands-on with running and growing EQ Applied. In five years, I’d like to get it to a place where I’m simply guiding the company’s strategy from a high-level, with others handling the day-to-day operations.

That would enable me to spend more time with my wife and four children, who mean the world to me…and also more time with my volunteer work.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Strike the word failure from your vocabulary. You will stumble, sometimes you’ll fall…but each mistake is a learning experience and can make you better, if you let it.

Also, remember that everything takes longer than you think it will. It’s fine to research and plan, but so often things will go differently than you think, so it’s best to just get started and adjust as you go. Just keep trying, learning, and improving.

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