We've now all heard enough about emotional intelligence that we know it must be part of our repertoire as a leader, co-worker, parent, and friend. But emotional intelligence isn't as straightforward as other leadership skills. It's not like strategic thinking or vision, which you either have or you don't. Emotional intelligence can more readily be built, as long as you know what knowledge to apply.

To up my own game, I took an emotional intelligence test at blueeq.com. According to the website, the test is designed by a team of industry experts, social and behavioral scientists, and instructional psychologists, and validated by independent psychometricians. 

Here's what I learned about EQ, and myself.

First, I'm betting that few of us are as emotionally intelligent as we'd like to think. I consider myself a very high-EQ person, yet I scored only 75 percent. When I dug in, I found several nuanced areas ripe for improvement that I wouldn't have otherwise considered.

I also learned there are five core skills that lead to emotional intelligence, none of which I scored high enough on to have "mastered," according to the test. I'll summarize each, share how I did, and offer the very best tips from the test on how to improve each area.

1. Self-regard

The test defines this as respecting yourself, having confidence in your abilities, and believing in your own self-worth and inherent value. High self-regard means you have courage and confidence to take on new challenges and you can lead/influence others because you're secure and accepting of who you are.

I scored highest on this skill (79 percent) and yet I learned I can still do better in a common area--being crystal clear on all my shortfalls and in admitting mistakes (even finding humor in them), while at the same time embracing what my strengths are (and not just dismissing them, as I tend to do).

The test also illuminated the importance of rejecting harsh and inaccurate criticism for building self-regard. I tend to accept all criticism as valid rather than choosing who gets to criticize me.

2. Self-awareness

This is defined as recognizing your personality and temperament, knowing how your behavior is received by others, and being aware of your own motives, beliefs, values, and feelings.

I scored a 75 percent here, which was, again, lower than I would have thought. The key here is to care enough about how your words and actions are being received that you're willing to take feedback and modify as needed. And you won't find out how you're perceived by others if you don't bravely ask, which I need to do more often. 

Also critical here is to work hard at being aware of your "motives in the moment." In doing so, you can cut off low EQ behavior before it happens.

3. Self-control

Those with high self-control are excellent at controlling their emotions (especially under stress) and keeping their impulses in check.

I scored lowest here with 71 percent, which surprised me at first, until I realized that self-control includes keeping your cool with rude or inept people. That's where I (and many others) have work to do. As I get older, I have less and less patience here. But high emotional intelligence means being intelligent with your emotions--at all times.

4. Social perception

This means recognizing and understanding others' emotions and intent and being aware of social dynamics around you. The single most important tip for improving here is to focus on the person versus the task--focus on what he or she is saying and not saying and watch and listen with the sole intent to comprehend.

This requires being fully present in the moment and asking questions to clarify people's emotions and feelings. Having empathy is king and queen here. I did reasonably well in this area, but I know that staying present so that I don't miss important "clues and queues" requires constant effort for me.

5. Social effectiveness

This is defined as shaping outcomes through positive interpersonal influence, including helping others manage their emotions. The test offered much advice here as many people struggle with this area. Key to being socially effective is being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others; compromising, tempering strong opinions, and giving others permission to challenge you; complimenting others and showing appreciation for what they do; and just connecting with others on a personal level (including being approachable).

I scored 77 percent here but know there's always work to do in being sensitive to others' state of mind.

So I hope all of this improves your IQ on EQ. It's one test you should strive to blow the curve on.