Author Jen Shirkani speaks about emotional intelligence at the Cayman Islands Institute of Professional Accountants' annual summit. - Photo: Ken Silva

Accountants took a break from crunching numbers to learn about emotional intelligence and other skills Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cayman Islands Institute of Professional Accountants’ annual summit.

Jen Shirkani, author of the book “Ego vs. EQ,” spoke about emotional intelligence both days, defining the term as a set of skills that includes one’s ability to recognize one’s own impulses and moods, to read situations accurately, and respond most appropriately depending on the situation or person they are dealing with.

Such skills are often overlooked by businesses in favor of technical skills, but can be crucial to advancing one’s career and turning a profit, according to Ms. Shirkani.

Ms. Shirkani explained that emotional intelligence obviously helps with sales or other areas of business that rely heavily on human interaction. Having emotional intelligence is also key to keeping employee morale high in an office, which can improve a business’s bottom line.

The speaker provided evidence to support her assertions. According to Ms. Shirkani, the professional services firm Grant Thornton UK incorporated emotional intelligence into its leadership training program, and reported a “35 percent revenue increase and a 16 percent lift in client satisfaction.”

A study at a large U.S. accounting firm found that partners there with “significant strengths in self-management” and strong social skills contributed more to the firm’s profit than partners without those skills, Ms. Shirkani said. Employees with higher emotional intelligence quotients also make more income and successfully choose careers that keep them engaged, she added.

Methods to measure emotional intelligence include the “EQI 2.0” survey, where a person answers 133 questions and receive scores on various aspects of their emotional intelligence. There are several other surveys and methods to measure emotional intelligence.

The good news for people with low emotional intelligence is that – unlike IQ, which is largely genetic – they can be trained to improve this skill set, according to Ms. Shirkani.

Ms. Shirkani told the audience about when she was coaching a manager of a business to improve his emotional intelligence, using the story as an example of how bosses should not interact with their staff.

She said the boss had multiple employees quit on him, including his entire office team quitting together while he was on vacation.

“When I asked him, ‘Why do you think your turnover is so high,’ and he said, ‘You know, it’s so hard to find good people these days,’” Ms. Shirkani said.

However, the speaker said she identified one of the major problems when she saw him interact with one of his employees, angrily berating them when some paperwork was not ready. This was juxtaposed against how he treated his customers, with courtesy and with a personal touch.

Ms. Shirkani said the employees likely hated their boss because they saw how he treated them versus how he treated his customers.

“We can deal with a jerk who’s a jerk all the time to everybody, because we don’t take it personally. But once they saw that he could be gracious and patient … it killed his credibility every time.” she said. “So we have to realize, people are watching us.”

Ms. Shirkani was one of a full slate of speakers who made presentations during the two-day summit.

Other presentations included Deloitte expert Andres Gil speaking on cybersecurity and data privacy, PricewaterhouseCoopers director Chris Bailey speaking on managing effective teams, IBM executive Jim Collins speaking on how artificial intelligence is reshaping financial services, and Kalar Consulting founder Manj Kalar speaking on new industry standards.

Remarks were also made by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Finance Minister Roy McTaggart.