Someone on LinkedIn recently asked me, “Is emotional intelligence as important in today’s job market compared to 1995?” when I wrote my first book on the topic.
More important than ever, I’d say. Here’s why.
For one, the global job market is demanding more of prospective employees. And the world’s best employers are not just pickier – they are seeking top graduates who also have emotional intelligence strengths.
Of course high performance in academics and the right technical skills still matter. But in today’s job market the best employers are looking for something in addition. According to Paul Wiseman, economics writer at the Associated Press, the companies also “want graduates with soft skills.” The main ones:
Working well on a team. As one executive once told a McKinsey consultant, “I have never fired an engineer for bad engineering, but I have fired an engineer for lack of teamwork.”
Clear, effective communications. This requires strong cognitive empathy, the ability to understand how the other person thinks. Of course, good listening skills are also important.
Adapting well to change. Such flexibility signifies good self-management.
Smooth interactions with a wide variety of people. This includes customers, clients and workmates from groups different than one’s own, and from other cultures.
Thinking clearly and solving problems under pressure. A combination of self-awareness, focus, and quick stress recovery puts the brain in an optimal state for whatever cognitive abilities are needed.
Professional schools are listening. Yale’s management school recently announced it will add a test of emotional intelligence to its admissions process.
But emotional intelligence skills can be learned. I prefer the approach of my colleague Richard Boyatzis at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management. He teaches his MBA students how to enhance their emotional intelligence competencies. Once they’ve learned how, they continue to build them throughout their career.
Richard’s work is also part of The HR and EI Collection – a bundle of resource materials from More Than Sound that offer proven-effective ways managers can best employ leadership styles, as well as develop the areas where they lack.
Emotional Intelligence author, Daniel Goleman lectures frequently to business audiences, professional groups and on college campuses. A psychologist who for many years reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times, Dr. Goleman previously was a visiting faculty member at Harvard.
Dr. Goleman’s most recent books are The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insightsand Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence – Selected Writings. (More Than Sound). Goleman’s latest project, Leadership: A Master Class, is his first-ever comprehensive video series that examines the best practices of top-performing executives.
What if you walked in to your office this morning only to find out that you’ve been promoted to CEO? After the initial shock wears off and reality sinks in, what would you do?
Where Are We?
A CEO must know where the company is at…financially. You need to know what the bottom line is saying. You need to know what the numbers are telling you. The numbers tell a story – learn to tell others that story.
Net income down? Why? What impacts that? Are sales growing, declining, or flat (another nice way of saying declining)? Are your competitors taking a bite out of your business? Why? What activities are your sales staff doing to build the business? Who is performing? Who is not? Are certain regions growing while others are not? Are your expenses starting to creep up? Are there necessary controls on expenses?
Every company has its own culture. Do you know what yours is? Is your culture one of intimidation and fear? Or is it an energetic, upbeat one? As CEO, you set this direction. Do the other executives support your culture definition? Culture, left on its own, will degrade to the least common denominator. To lead a vibrant culture, leadership needs to be intentional on all fronts by all department heads.
Where Are We Going?
I’ve heard it said that “vision” is the primary leader going out into the future to see where she/he wants to go and then returning to the team tells them, “Here’s where we are going!”
Do you know where your company should be heading? If so, what do you need to do today to make that tomorrow happen? A strong vision for the future is only as good as your present-day expectations.
There’s so much more to be said about this little “fantasy”. But, step out of your world periodically and go through this exercise. Honestly look at your work and department and think about what you would expect differently if you were the CEO reviewing who you are and what you do.
As a competent CEO would do, be courageous, positive, intentional, honest, visionary, and focused. Don’t wait for things to happen. Make them happen. Be faithful in the little things. Someday, you may be tapped for greater things…