Why PQ Matters More than IQ and EQ

In Blog, Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine30 Comments

Daniel Goleman made a compelling and accurate case nearly two decades ago that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was more important to leadership effectiveness and performance than IQ.  But most attempts at increasing EQ have resulted only in temporary improvements.  The reason is that a more foundational and core intelligence has been ignored, which is a pre-cursor to high EQ.  In my lectures at Stanford University, I define this as Positive Intelligence (PQ).  Without a solid PQ foundation, many of our attempts at improvements fizzle due to self-sabotage.

Your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy, involved in self-sabotage.  To illustrate, when your mind tells you that you should prepare for tomorrow’s important meeting, it is acting as your friend, causing positive action.  When it wakes you up at 3:00 a.m. anxious about the meeting and warning you for the hundredth time about the many consequences of failing, it is acting as your enemy; it is simply exhausting your mental resources without any redeeming value.  No friend would do that.

Your PQ is the percentage of time your mind is serving you as opposed to sabotaging you.  For example, a PQ of 75 means that your mind is serving you 75 percent of the time and sabotaging you about 25 percent of the time.  Compelling evidence from a synthesis of research in psychology, neuroscience, and organizational science shows that with higher PQ teams and professionals ranging from leaders to salespeople perform 30-35 percent better on average.  What’s more, they report being far happier and less stressed.

3 Strategies to increase PQ

I have coached hundreds of CEOs and their senior executive teams on the tools of Positive Intelligence. I take them to the frontlines of the unceasing battle raging in their minds. On one side of this battlefield are the well-disguised Saboteurs, who wreck any attempt at increasing either happiness or performance. On the other side is the Sage, who has access to one’s wisdom, insights, and often untapped mental powers. The Saboteurs and Sage are fueled by different regions of the brain.  We are literally of two minds and two brains.  This suggests three strategies to increasing your PQ:

Strategy 1.  Weaken your Saboteurs:

The Saboteurs are the internal enemies. They are a set of automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs, and assumptions that work against your best interest. They come in ten varieties, with names like the Judge, Controller, Victim, Stickler, Pleaser, and Avoider.

Saboteurs are a universal phenomenon. The question is not whether you have them, but which ones you have, and how strong they are.  Of the executives participating in my Stanford lectures, nearly 95% conclude that they do have Saboteurs that cause “significant harm” to them reaching their full potential for success or happiness.

The great news is that you can significantly reduce the power of these mental foes.  The key to weakening your Saboteurs is to identify which one you have and expose its key hidden beliefs, patterns, thoughts, and emotions.  This, in effect, allows you to create a “mug shot” of your internal enemy.  It allows you to identify the Saboteur the moment it shows up in your head.  At that point, what you do is to just label that thought as Saboteur thought and let it go rather than pursue it seriously.  To be sure, it will keep coming back, which means you will keep labeling it, and letting it go.  This simple act of observing, labeling, and letting go has profound impact.

For example, notice the difference between saying “I believe I can’t succeed” and “My Judge says I can’t succeed.”  The moment you label a Saboteur thought as such, it loses much of it credibility and power over you.

(Discover your top Saboteur with free online assessment at www.PositiveIntelligence.com)

Strategy 2.  Strengthen Your Sage: 

Your Sage’s great wisdom and strength is rooted in its perspective: any problem you are facing is either already a gift and opportunity or could be actively turned into one. Your Saboteurs mock that perspective and cause you instead to feel anxious, frustrated, disappointed, stressed, or guilty over “bad” outcomes.  Both the Sage and the Saboteur perspectives are self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you follow the Sage perspective, you get greater access to its five vastly untapped mental powers which can meet absolutely any work or life challenge without being worked up about it.  There are simple and fun “power games” you can play in the back of your mind to facilitate this process.

Strategy 3.  Strengthen PQ Brain muscles:

The PQ Brain gives rise to the Sage perspective its powers. Its focus is on thriving rather than surviving, which is the Saboteurs’ focus.  It consists of three components: the middle prefrontal cortex, portions of the right brain, and what I call the empathy circuitry.  The PQ Brain “muscles” are activated and strengthened when you command your mind to stop its busy mind chatter and direct its attention to any of your five physical sensations.  An example might be to feel the weight of your body on your seat, or feet on the floor, or sensations of your breathing.

This might appear simplistic, but it is backed by a massive amount of research.  Every time you attempt such a shift of attention for about 10 seconds, you have performed a “PQ rep,” strengthening the muscles of your PQ Brain.  The goal is to do 100 PQ reps per day to build up and maintain strong PQ Brain muscles.  This can be done while sitting in a meeting, driving, walking the dog, or taking a shower.  It doesn’t need to take any extra time from your busy day. These muscles build up really fast.

Without a strong foundation of Positive Intelligence, attempts at improving performance or personal fulfillment are analogous to planting elaborate new gardens while leaving voracious snails free to roam.  The wise investment is to raise Positive Intelligence first.  The results are often reported to be gamechanging for the team, and lifechanging for the individual.

  • I’ve never heard of PQ before. That is so fascinating! Saboteur and Sage are new terms to me as well. I’ve learned a great deal just by reading this post. Looking forward to learning more and improving my PQ.

    • Thanks NYParrot. Please keep me posted on your progress if you use the PQ techniques.

  • Tricia

    Hi Shirzad

    Love your work fleshing out the many incarnations of Saboteur – thank you!

    I am interested to know if you have studied the Enneagram personality typing system? I have found it very useful both personally and with clients. It also details 9 personality types with some overlap with your system such as judge/controller/perfectionist being a type !. I find it particularly useful as it details the shadow self as being the prime motivator to a particular compulsive (and comforting) behavior. It also details the spiritual growth points for each type in moving from compulsion to Divine self and is used frequently in the Christian faith.

    Absolutely fascinating work, isn’t it?

    • Tricia,
      I am familiar with Enneagram and agree that it offers many great insights. I have also studies and researched several other personality and psychological profiling systems, ranging from the old wisdom traditions of the East, to the oral traditions of native Americans, to Jungian, to the more modern profiling systems. Many of these systems suffer from either being too simplistic, or too complex or nuanced, thus limiting their impact. What I have attempted to do with my Saboteur/Sage system is to preserve the depth and wisdom of the best of these approaches, while making the framework simple, measurable, and actionable. From responses thus far I am encouraged that the framework is resonating with people from most cultures, ages, and professions. I hope you will find the Saboteur Assessment and PQ score assessment of value.

  • Dave Bowler

    Has any work been undertaken on determining if there is any correlation between MBTI Step 2 outcomes and the PQ measures? It would be an extremely powerful combined tool for coaches in my opinion

    • Dave, no work has been done on correlation between MBTI and PQ. I do, however, have some educated guesses about it. I think we might find a few significant correlations if looked. For example, Hyper-Rational might more likely score Thinking rather than Feeling on MBTI. Conversely, Pleaser might be more Feeling rather than Thinking. However, I think the correlations overall between MBTI and Saboteurs would probably not be strong for the following reason. MBTI typology is wired in at birth for the most part, as my raging Extroverted daughter and highly Introverted son demonstrated before they even turned one. The Saboteurs, on the other hand, are more a result of the interplay between wiring and early life environment. For example, we might be more likely to mimic a parent’s Saboteur, or pursue a complementary Saboteur (child adapting the Pleaser in order to make peace with the Controller parent). Other environmental challenges play important roles in which Saboteur develops. In the book I go into more detail on this. I hope this helps.

      • Dave Bowler

        Hi Shirzad thanks for your thoughts. I agree that if we compare PQ with the behavioural preferences or types (step 1) then the correlation does have a number of issues. If we compare to facets of behaviour (step 2) then some of the correlations become alot stronger. What is the point of trying to find some form if link between the two? I just had this feeling that the two combined would make one of the most powerful analytical tools but maybe their strength comes from their individual contributions. Thanks for your comments it has certainly provided plenty of food for thought which I will continue to digest.

      • I question the MBTI proponents’ assertion that MBTI measures purely innate characteristics. I don’t believe anything is 100% hard-wired. Our brains are neuro-plastic. ANY wiring can be changed, though some wiring might change more readily than others.
        I for one am a case in point. I never had an MBTI done (that I know of) when I was young, but I was painfully introverted, hyper-rational (thinking) and extremely out of touch with my body and feelings, and was almost certainly an INTJ. I got a masters degree in electrical engineering at a top technical university and went into IT for a few years – a typical INTJ path.
        Over the years, though, other parts of my personality began to emerge. I went into holistic health for a while, and eventually built a coaching business – careers that would have been completely alien to and far outside the capabilities and comfort zone of the young me. I’ve taken many MBTI and MBTI-like assessments during this phase of my life, and they always come out ENFP, almost directly opposite to my “inborn” earlier type.
        I am in a quite clear sense a very different person today than I was for my first two decades or so. In many significant ways, I don’t think like her, feel like her, act like her, or relate to the world in the way she did. I answer the MBTI assessment questions entirely differently than I would have then.
        So I think there is, or can be, a significant learned component to the elements MBTI assesses. Maybe my story is an unusual one, but I bet it’s not THAT unusual.
        I find MBTI results interesting, as a tool for helping work with a person, or for providing them insight into how to function most effectively and work with others who are different from them.
        I worry though, that it can also be used to justify dysfunctional behavior and missing, learnable, competencies, and not doing anything to change them … because, you know, “it’s just the way I am”. I think I’m evidence that you’re not stuck with ANYTHING.

        • Wendy, I actually share many of your observations about MBTI results changing over time,sometimes dramatically as in your case and my own. I just interpret this phenomenon differently. As a younger man, I acted and scored differently on MBTI because my survivor-oriented Saboteurs were running me and forcing me to be very different from my true and more natural original self (Sage). After all these years of weakening my Saboteurs, i act more out of my original and authentic nature, which is what I mean be inherent wiring. My inherent wiring is INFP, which is how I score now.

  • Julie

    Hi Shirzad,

    I’m currently reading your book and it’s been a great experience so far! It’s been profoundly helpful to work at developing a distance from many of my own thoughts. The one problem I have is that “saboteurs” you describe seem to be more common in people with “A-type” personalities, those who are intensely driven and must deal with resulting anxiety and internal/external pressures. Out of the 10 saboteurs, at least 6 seem to fall toward this end of the spectrum: Hyper-Achiever, Restless, Controller, Stickler, Hyper-Vigilent and Judge. There are fewer (Victim, Avoider) which seem to fall toward the other end of the spectrum, toward those who have a tendency toward depression, or lack of motivation. Do you think your selection of the 10 saboteurs could be partially influenced by your own disposition, or the dispositions of the people you tend to coach (CEO’s, business executives and other high-achievers)? Out of all the negative influences of the mind, how did you select these 10?

    • Julie, the Saboteur Assessment has now been successfully tested and calibrated on widely diverse populations in regards to culture, role, level of education, etc. The Judge is the universal Saboteur. The other 9 are categorized in a 2×2 Grid in the book that is based on whether the primary motivation is Autonomy, Attention, or Security, and whether the primary style for obtaining that is to Assert, Earn, or Avoid. As you can see, the “type-A”s, would fit more into the Assert column, and other types are absolutely represented in the other columns. I hope this helps.

      • In the book I have, one of the motivators is Independence. Is that the same as Autonomy?

  • Akinyi

    Oh my . . .this book is allowing me to lead a lighter life . . .the weight of my ego has been great and I am loving my Sage muscles . .. I am still reading the book AND it is making a big shift in my life. I am able to identify when my triggers, or should I say my Judges are being woken up . . then I am at a place of choice – for me to how up on purpose, I have a responsbility to choose to strengthen my sage and acknowledge my Ego.

    I worked with John Carter, from OSD, and he shared with me that “we” humans would not be able to survive without out egos . .. . well that was new to me AND PQ helps John’s point to be clear . . .my ego is part of who I am AND I am choosing for it not to control my life; I am not getting rid of it any more, I am working with it.

    The way I am showing up in this world has shifted . . .and I have only read about the 3 types of Sages . . . Empathise, Explore and Innovate . . . WOW – looking forward to the discovery of my other Sage muscles.

    Shirazad – I LOVE this book and will be getting it for my whole family and my in-lawa!

    Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Akinyi

    My reaction to Dave’s questions (yes, my judge woke up) was move away from the tools . . reason I think this trigger came up was because I am an “process intervener” for a global oil company – and the business partners I work with around the worl HATE tools . .. so when addressing an issue, I dip into my toolbox chest AND I do not present the material as a tool . . .so the way I am using PQ, is that I have created coaching questions and I am also apply some of hte inquiry questions – using them in meetings, workshops, 1-2-1 coaching sessions – so far my “clients” are enjoying the questions. I am a CPCC and have gone through CTI leadership . . .. AND PQ is a fundamental part of my transformation – and I have not finished it yet.

    I would like to introduce another tool . .or should I say concept that would also compliment PQ – it’s Dialogic Leaderhip by David Kantor. David also published a book a couple of months ago.

  • Jack

    I like the analysis, however it seems to me the author is missing the most important reasons why most people don’t achieve their true potential.

    The number one reason I would say is because most people don’t know what they want. How many people have discovered their true mission in life?
    The number two reason is fear. People are afraid to take any risk or move out of their comfort zone.
    I would say that these two factors alone account for failures to achieve true potetial.

    The saboteurs identified such as the controller, victim, restless, pleaser, etc don’t seem as important to me anyway as the first two. I wonder if I am missing something and if others share in this belief.


    • Jack, you are absolutely right that fear is a core dynamic to us not reaching our potential. In the book I describe the difference between the Survival Brain, which operates primarily through fear versus the PQ Brain. All Saboteurs emanate from the Survivor Brain and ultimately fear-based at their core. The Saboteur you mention in your post, such as Controller, Victim, Restless, and Pleaser, are all different strategies to hide that fear and cope with it.

      The other point you make is that not knowing what we want is another factor in not reaching our potential. I agree with that too. However, many people make the mistake of trying to find the answer to that question in their Survival Brain and chasing what the Saboteurs say they should want. That is the reason why so many of us actually attain many of the things we believe would make us happy and still remain unhappy. The true answer to what you want resides in the PQ Brain region, which my work helps you to access.

  • Bernadette Saim Taita Cherke

    I picked up a copy of Positive Intelligence in a bookshop&am just so inspired&grateful at discovering the concept. Thank you.

  • I have heard of emotional intelligence but not positive intelligence so buying the book was a gift in itself. Many thanks.

  • The amazing thing was I saw some of my sage condut captured in the book(maybe I never knew it existed) &found my saboteurs too.

  • I will share your book with everyone I know. Thank you again Shirzad Chamine.

  • Kai

    Your book has changed my life. I have been an insomnia for years. On the second day of trying 100 reps I started sleeping half way through the night and each night it improves, as does my daily experience of life! I want to thank you for writing this book. I was wondering if you are thinking about writing a book that is less focused on business and more focused on interpersonal skills and relationship building? I read through all the business chapters, I understand all human interactions are a form of a relationship, and found them helpful but kept finding myself wishing there was more info outside the office. Your work has impacted my life immeasurably! Thank you so much!

    • Thank you Kai for your kind words. I am thrilled about the impact of my book on your well being. You are absolutely right that the PQ tools works just as powerfully on the personal front, such as in your case, as they do in the business arena. The reason many of the book’s examples are drawn from the business world is that most of the book is informed by my years of coaching CEOs and their executive teams. Since many of my business readers have gifted the book to their loved ones, I have been asked by many such as yourself to write another version of the book with a more personal application focus, including applications to parenting, personal relationships, conflict management, sports and fitness, stress and weight management, etc. In Chapter 9 I do go into some detail regarding life applications, but there is so much more to be said. I have every intention to do so, and your voice adds to my sense of urgency to make that happen. I am grateful for that.

  • David

    Read the book after hearing it recommended by Tony Robbins and it is great, thank you for writing it! I have been trying to do my PQ reps and get into a regular routine. What works right now is having empathy with myself and activating PQ when in a stressful situation or conflict to keep my mind clear and not have tunnel vision. My concern is that I feel I have lost some of my intensity because I now take the pressure off that used to get me to activate. I know the Sage is active not passive, so I am wondering if this is a transitional phase as I adapt to being less stress or pressure prompted and what can I do to retain my intensity?

    By the way just reaching out and asking this question is a big step forward for me:)


    • David, your question about intensity is a great one. Most people’s intensity comes from being “pushed” by their Saboteurs to perform, out of fear, anxiety, obligation, shame, guilt, etc. While being pushed by the Saboteurs could create some success, it never creates any peace of mind or happiness despite the success. I have coached many billionaire CEOs who would attest to that. On the other hand, your Sage “pulls” you to act, motivated by curiosity, joy, excitement about creating something, making a difference, expressing your uniqueness,etc. The Sage “pull”, which is really the deepest pull of your soul for self-actualization and self-expression, will result in your greatest possible success AND happiness.

      You are right about the “transition” period between these two modes. It sounds like you have weakened your Saboteurs enough to not feel oppressed by their push, and haven’t developed enough Sage strength to feel its powerful intensity of pull. Keep with the practice and you will absolutely feel it. Just bring to mind some very intensely driven people, such as Nelson Mandela, whose Sage pull was intense enough to change the world.

  • Kelly

    Hi Shirzad,

    Thanks for this book! It helps give a more compelling reason for meditation. I went on a meditation course, but it seemed too time-consuming to sit and I had a very difficult time doing it for long periods (hence, gave up). I like how easy your approach is and wondered if you had a chart online like the one the woman did in your examples to better keep track of how many reps she was (or was not) doing?

    I am trying to do the 21 days as I can see from your book and my life that I am nowhere near achieving the level of contentment and happiness available to me, and it’s clear three Judges are really working their negativity out at my expense.

    This book is refreshingly accessible – and I want to add my agreement to Kal’s – people like me (like the woman in your book with a great career who left it for the parenting role) need books like yours that help us with society’s foundation – raising great kids with engaged Sages. I loved Chapter 9 and wanted more!

    Many thanks!


    • Thanks Kelly. I am glad you find the book “refreshingly accessible” as that was a key aspiration for writing the book. I agree that there could be a whole other book just going into more depth about how the Positive Intelligence principles could become the centerpiece of education and parenting of our kids.

  • Regina

    Positive Intelligence is really something out of the box in living a better life where you learn to not put so much unnecessary load on oneself.
    I have started to practise labelling my Saboteurs and I discovered that its much easier letting those bad thoughts go when I started labelling them and doing my PQ reps upon spotting them.
    As a teacher myself, I think the PQ reps would benefit my students and would like to introduce Positive Intelligence to them but I’m not sure if it would benefit them because cases stated in the book have reference to the corporate and personal successes but not academically. I hope by engaging in feeling more physical simulations (during the PQ reps), they can be more focused and possess clearer thoughts.

    • Taylor, many teachers are already using the PQ techniques with their students and report great results. I have also made PQ training the centerpiece of my own parenting of my 13-year-old son. At this age kids are already capable of all 3 techniques of improving their PQ, i.e. weakening their Saboteurs (my son calls his “PoopMaker,” strengthening the Sage, and strengthening the PQ Brain muscles. There is a chapter in the book that specifically deals with the application of these techniques to many life challenges including parenting and education.

  • Carmen Payne

    As a life coach, focusing on helping the client over come limiting beliefs, I can very much relate to this article. I came across this work a few months ago. I now have the book and am looking forward to reading it in the next couple of
    months. One process I use with clients is getting them to focus a single thought for on what they do want for 17 seconds and then adding a second thought and a third till 68 seconds have passed. This shift in focus can really change the way a person feels vibrationally much like exercising the PQ muscle. So each time a negative thought comes up, they shift their focus to a more positive one for 17 seconds and keep going for 68.