EMOTIONAL intelligence or EQ is the ability to use emotions effectively. Author Daniel Goleman, in his best-selling book "Emotional Intelligence", laid out a powerful argument that factors such as self-awareness, self-discipline and empathy determine personal and professional success.

Some people just know how to get along with others; some people are more self-confident, and some are great at inspiring people. All these come from a set of skills called EQ.

Additional EQ skills are identifying and changing emotions, motivating yourself and empathising with another person. Everyone has emotional intelligence - but for most people, it is an underdeveloped area and an untapped resource.

"Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth," wrote psychologist John D. Mayer and Dr Peter Salovey, dean and professor of psychology at Yale University, who co-developed a popular model of emotional intelligence.

Everyone can learn the EQ skills to build more successful relationships. The challenge is to see the value of emotional intelligence, then to begin using these EQ skills on a daily basis. Says Dr Salovey: "Yes, we can control emotions. The trick is doing it in the right way at the right time."

This is not a new idea. Around 350 BC, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote: "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not easy."

Goleman estimated that 90 per cent of the difference between a "good leader" and an "excellent leader" can be attributed to EQ. The primary reason people leave a job is relationship-based. One of the key factors is the quality of the relationship between the employee and his manager.

As leadership guru Richard Leider says: "People don't leave companies, they leave leaders." At the core of relationships is EQ.

A sales maxim is that "relationships are everything". Some of the EQ applications in business that have increased revenues are:

* Improved customer service through recruiting higher EQ customer service providers;

* Increased sales performance through recruiting and training more emotionally intelligent salespeople; and

* Superior leadership from developing and recruiting emotionally intelligent executives.

Organisations that have a service and EQ-positive climate, where employees feel a strong sense of relationship and are emotionally engaged, have significantly higher profitability. EQ appears to be the key reason for this competitive advantage.

The Harvard Business Review 2003 examined the data on emotional intelligence with the following conclusion:

"If emotional obliviousness jeopardises your ability to perform, fend off aggressors, or be compassionate in a crisis, no amount of attention to the bottom line will protect your career.

"Emotional intelligence isn't a luxury organisations can dispense with in tough times. It is a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success."

Emotional intelligence is emerging as a critical factor for sustaining high performance and motivation.

Increasingly, businesses are turning to EQ, seeking a win-win solution to challenges in customer service, loyalty, employee retention, productivity and leadership.