Emotional intelligence has gotten significant attention in business for years now, and it has plenty of cousins--cultural intelligence and successful intelligence, for example.

But according to executive coach, speaker and yogi Vish Chatterji, who has worked with business leaders for two decades within an East-Meets-West approach, the focus in the office now is shifting to spiritual intelligence or spiritual quotient (SQ). Chatterji is also the author of The Business Casual Yogi, which has been lauded by executives from companies like Sephora and Google.

Chatterji describes SQ as taking elements of emotional intelligence (e.g., recognition and control of feelings) and blending them with an awareness of personal and interpersonal energy. You can think of this energy in business terms as the vibe in the room, sensing that something is "off," or naturally grasping how people feel about ideas. 

Having good SQ can make you resilient through challenges and help you adopt a positive, long-term company view. It can improve empathy, relationships and morale, and it can let people reach a deeper place of valuable creativity. 

The telltale sign of good SQ is a sense of calm even in difficult situations. Other indications can include 

  • True compassion
  • Listening to customer needs exceptionally well
  • Keeping sight of the big picture goal without getting lost in details or overreacting to ups and downs.
  • Recognizing the need for rejuvenation.
  • Trying to see what in you could be an issue, rather than focusing blame on others.
  • Being fully present for and avoiding biases in conversation.
  • Accepting that not everything is in your control.
  • Recognizing potential in others and helping them manifest it.

Chatterji says that the shift toward SQ is evident first in that companies are seeing an explosion of mindfulness practices, including corporate trainings--these stem from meditation, a spiritual practice. Leaders are tying their company's mission to personal missions, as well, and they're encouraging recognition of success beyond the bottom line. Leaders such as Arianna Huffington and Steve Jobs (the latter of whom spent time with noted Indian spiritual leader Neem Karoli Baba) have or currently are leading these shifts.

It's a mental health element, however, that perhaps might be driving the SQ trend most significantly.

"Extreme overwork, demands on people's time and attention, and technology overload has lead to a breaking point," says Chatterji. "As people are trying to find recuperation techniques, along with a yearning for more balance, mindfulness practices have become very prevalent, which naturally elicits improved [SQ]. Companies are also realizing that they can get more innovation output from employees that are balanced and spiritually intelligent."

Growing your own SQ starts first with the realization that you have a deeper level of existence. The next step is to engage in any and all practices that improve self-awareness and connection. That can mean "vogue" or formalized options like yoga, but any activity that connects you to your deeper layer of being on a regular basis (e.g., dance, painting) can work.

Chatterji also says leaders need to understand the following points to excel through the SQ trend.

1. Communicate the connections between your personal and company missions.

SQ gives clarity about what your personal mission is and how that aligns with your company mission, which can help prioritize high-impact work. 

2. Have a regular downshifting practice.

Being "always on" contributes to frustration and burnout in the office. Design your operations and schedule so that you and your team can get quiet and cultivate living with more presence and awareness.

3. Take what the experts say with a grain of salt.

Spirituality is not one size fits all. Every worker on your team can have different beliefs, needs and sensitivities. So give options, test out different approaches and learn for yourself what works for you.

Embracing SQ as a leader is not without some risks. Workers on your team can confuse spiritual practices and religion. Employees who hold deep religious beliefs may be upset, or or confused, so there's a real need to be sensitive to different ways of thinking, and to ensure that all workers feel free to connect with spirituality in whatever safe way they feel is appropriate.

Remember, too, that your entire concept of spirituality, purpose and connection is likely to evolve as you expose yourself to what others do and think. Be accepting and grateful for what you observe, feel and understand as you go.

Additionally, there can be a tendency to see people with good SQ as being enlightened and therefore somehow barred from negative emotional responses or mistakes. But spirituality is not synonymous with perfectionism, and as with other forms of intelligence, not every day is going to fire on all cylinders. Be self-forgiving in those instances. The chance to start over, try again and reconnect, after all, is always at your fingertips.

Published on: Dec 23, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.