The January 2013 McKinsey Quarterly publication posted an article by Susie Cranston and Scott Keller called,Increasing the Meaning Quotient of Work. They argued that the most successful and best performing people have IQ (intellectual quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), and MQ (meaning quotient). 

“While IQ and EQ are absolutely necessary to create the conditions for peak performance, they are far from sufficient, the authors said. (When a business environment MQ is low, employees put less energy into their work and see it as (just a job) that gives them little more than a paycheck.

Executives interviewed in the study said that when employees and teams have IQ, EQ, and MQ, they are five times more productive. Furthermore, when asked to locate the bottlenecks to peak performance in organizations, more than 90% of them chose MQ related issues.

Let’s compare these findings with a survey I’m conducting on my website,, where so far, almost 1,400 respondents have completed it. The survey’s aim is to identify the habits and characteristics of the happiest and most effective people. You may find the parallels interesting.

Overall outcomes of the survey

My premise has always been that it is happiness – not productivity – that leads to a life of success. The survey identifies key findings, key outcomes, key characteristics, and the key habits for this group cohort. Here are the findings so far on those identified as happier people:

  • Personal productivity: 14% higher
  • Effective relationships at work: 20% higher
  • Job satisfaction: 45% overall
  • Income: Double for the happier group

It’s important to note that the data is suggesting that the happiest group earn more income, but that not more money means more happiness. It’s the characteristics and habits of the happiest that lead to more income – not the other way around.

This brings us to the next question: How and why does this happiness, productivity, and satisfaction happen? Let’s break it down.

What are the characteristics of the happiest people?

I only mention a characteristic if it is a majority vote and if it is at least 25% greater than the comparison group:

  • Forgive and let go: 43% higher
  • Life purpose: 34% higher
  • Let go of discouraging events more effectively: 45% better
  • Content with life: 78% higher

For example: On the key question of comparing the very happiest to the below average in happiness, we find:

Seventy-eight percent of the happiest people have a life purpose, and the gap between the below-average happiness group is 34%. So, this means that the majority of the (above average) happiest people practice it, and this is greater than a 25% difference with the below-happiness group.

Personal habits of the happiest people

The same variable applies as above (a majority vote and if it is at least 25% greater than the comparison group of below-happiness people).

The personal habits of the happiest are as follows:

  • Regular exercise: 27% higher
  • Daily planning: 30%
  • Reading for personal improvement: 27%
  • Regular service to others: 26%
  • Financial savings: 32%

All of the characteristics of purpose, forgiveness, letting go, and contentment are what the McKinsey article highlighted – emotional and meaning quotient items!

What can we learn from these findings and what should we do?

On a personal level:

  1. Understand that it’s a combination of habits that contribute to higher levels of happiness and improved life outcomes. It’s not just one habit.
  2. Pick one of these habits to start improving on. Set a goal, track it, share it, and improve it.

On an organizational level:

  1. We need more emphasis on an emotional and meaning quotient in personal development if you want employees with higher job satisfaction and effectiveness. More training and development in both areas is essential for businesses.

Let me share with you two application ideas for businesses.

  1. Leaders, when you pitch your vision, make sure you share the why. Make sure and share how this creates meaning to your employees and your community.

For example: 

My very first client as a young consultant was a sawmill supervisor named Greg. He was a great athlete and loved to compete and win. He and I spent a few night shifts at the plant trying to figure out how to advance performance there. Greg had worked at the plant for over 30 years and had advanced from supervisor to superintendent to plant manager. That plant went on to be one of the top performing sawmills of its category in North America. He did at least two things that were extraordinary: (1) He always had employee and management meetings. (2) He rarely skipped a weekly employee meeting and his monthly management business review in all those 30 plus years. Talk about consistency!

Everybody is always trying to create some stability and sustainability for performance in their business. Try learning this lesson from Greg. Never skip a performance review and business discussion. Become a great communicator on multiple levels of meaning (MQ). Greg talked to his employees about things that would draw them into the business and care about its performance. He shared the details of financial and production performance to the union employees on a weekly basis. As a result, the plant took great pride and meaning in trying to become the best sawmill. He tied in customer feedback into his meetings. He shared the good and the bad. He built pride, meaning, and loyalty to the site. I think it was one of the reasons he never left despite being offered other positions at other plants. My favorite line he ever said was in a weekly employee meeting when he passionately shared with his employees that they don’t just make lumber. They provided shelter for those less fortunate and he would talk about progress with the Habitat for Humanity project in the local town that the company donated to. He talked about how their product helped people live their dreams of being a homeowner. Greg established a culture of meaning and pride by connecting the company’s product to how it benefited society, the customers, and themselves.

  • Hire leaders with emotional intelligence. At RLG International, we do a lot of work with capital projects. All of our research including within the benchmarking firms called IPA (Independent Project Analysis) suggest we need more leaders with emotional intelligence to lead our large mega capital projects.  The track record for mega construction projects is not good. Research is pointing to the difference leadership makes, and particularly leaders who have emotional intelligence – those who are open and listening to all stakeholders’ concerns. Some of these senior project directors are running projects with 20-40 billion-dollar budgets. They have thousands of contractors working the projects. 

In one IPA study of 56 mega capital projects, only seven of the projects met project goals.  Of the seven key characteristics listed in those projects was great leadership. One of the key characteristics of great leadership was emotional intelligence. You can imagine when you’re working with seven to 12 different organizations and thousands of employees how much emotional intelligence weighs in. You have to be able to listen to various concerns and worries and deal with it in a mature and open way. But I know there are applications to all sectors and business, not just capital projects. The truth though is that we need more leaders from all facets of business with emotional intelligence.

I hope this has given you a few ideas on what you can do to work on your personal and professional meaning quotient and emotional quotient. Thank you to all of the respondents, and I’d love to get to 1,500 respondents and beyond. If you value this knowledge, please go to the website and fill out the survey. So far, the respondents have shared that taking the survey has given them ideas for their own personal development journeys.

Additionally, on September 15, 2020, my book, Live Your Purpose – A Step-By-Step Guide to Enhance Your Meaning, Purpose, Fulfillment, And Happiness will be online for sale at Please go to my website to subscribe, and I’ll send you a link to download the book for free.

Until next time, live a life of sustainable Continuous Improvement.