Why Leadership Training Should Focus on the Human Quotient (HQ)

The Human Quotient (HQ) is a metric for workplace success that is useful in executive coaching and leadership development programs. HQ is an evidence based model for leadership development that is defined as “proactive” divided by “reactive.” The numerator and denominator both have critical cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal components. Leaders with high HQ are far more proactive than reactive in all three domains.

The cognitive piece involves enhancement of proactive thinking processes (including self-reflection and strategic visioning) and minimization of self-limiting beliefs and tunnel vision. Compelling research in cognitive psychology suggests that individuals can do what existential philosophers have always said they ought to do: take responsibility for choosing their belief systems and core values. There is empirical evidence that individuals can develop such as capacities as “self-reflective awareness” and “divergent thinking” — and not be constrained by past habits of thinking and conventional belief systems.

The behavioral piece of HQ involves a proactive increase in emotion regulation and self-management, which are essential skills when people must stay calm and think clearly under conditions of stress and uncertainty. The enhancement of self-management must be coupled with elimination of reactive behaviors such as eye rolling, raising one’s voice, and other manifestations of irritability. Mindfulness strategies (such as meditation) are teachable tools for enhancing the behavioral aspects of HQ. Mindfulness — which can defined as nonjudgmental, present moment awareness of sensory experiences such as breaths and sounds — empowers people to pause and choose a well considered course of action, rather than react in a manner that is ill-advised or destructive.

The interpersonal piece of HQ involves enhancement of empathy, collaboration, active listening, dialogue and effective communication (verbal and non-verbal), along with elimination of destructive communication and relational patterns. Supportive evidence for the interpersonal component of HQ comes from research on emotional intelligenceempathy studies, and related areas. Emotional connectedness among team members in workplaces can produce astonishing results. Google’s Project Aristotle revealed that positive interpersonal relationships were in fact the most reliable drivers of its own teams’ levels of success.

The cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal dimensions of HQ are self-reinforcing. When these three dimensions of HQ are integrated and developed in employees, highly effective leaders emerge and companies grow. The HQ model can be applied usefully in executive coaching and in corporate training programs. In the former, the executive coach empowers and guides the client to implement a developmental action plan that specifies the client’s challenges, goals, tactics to achieve the goals, and measures of success. The cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal aspects of HQ are essential components of the development plan and the coaching process itself.

In HQ based training programs, the facilitator starts by presenting the group with the core concepts and scientific basis of HQ. The group members then spend most of the training in breakout groups engaging in structured dialogues that help them to practice HQ skills such as open-ended inquiry, careful listening, and creative thinking about alternative approaches to their problems and challenges. When team members pause from their frenetic daily routine and ask each other open-ended and agenda-free questions that promote novel forms of dialogue, they deepen their personal and emotional bonds — precisely what Project Aristotle revealed as the foundation of team success.

Google’s Project Aristotle study and other research programs are driving a movement toward corporate training and coaching programs which embrace the principles of HQ. HR departments have begun to deliver these types of training programs to support the growth of HQ within companies and organizations. The evidence based HQ model draws on the key aspects of contemporary leadership science, which can be presented in corporate settings in a practical, engaging, and results oriented manner.

(This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post