“In the past, we used to reward the lone rangers in the corner offices because their achievements were brilliant even though their behavior was destructive. That day is gone. We need people who are better at persuading than at barking orders, who know how to coach and build consensus. Today, managers add value by brokering with people.”
--Larry Bossidy, former chairman and CEO of AlliedSignal and author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Ambition and smarts got you where you are, but there's good evidence that it won't keep you there or take you where you really want to go. As a matter of fact, ambition and IQ are combustible at high career altitudes without the behavioral fire retardant that is known as emotional intelligence. I have watched hard-charging executives fly up the ladder only to find themselves derailed at the top. Professional derailment is loss of job, demotion or probation, while entrepreneurs lose clients and employees. It's because they thought their entire success was all about them. On the way up, they treated people as disposable. They got what they wanted through intimidation, manipulative charm and making deals where none seemed to be possible. That was all so last century. We're still having attitude sickness from bad executive behavior, but the leader of this century is equipped with people know-how.
Much has been written about the virtues of emotional intelligence, but if you've skipped reading about it because you thought it was cosmic voodoo, consider it again. It'll change your life. In a nutshell, it's the set of noncognitive (non-IQ) capabilities that predict a person's overall life and workplace success--and here's the kicker--up to six times greater than IQ alone. It pays to develop emotional intelligence. Here are three ways you can start if you aren't already practicing it:
- Witness it and then emulate it. Look for incidents where things could go bad, but the situation worked out because someone used common sense and a level head. Airports are a great place for this (or the lack of it). Bad outcomes are often a result of one small behavioral choice or reaction someone made that turned out to be a repelling one. Notice the good ones and emulate them.
- When in doubt, ask questions. Impulse control is an emotional intelligence attribute--the ability to delay gratification, including anger. The lack of it is the primary derailer of executives. If you feel like you're going to lose it on someone, don't talk for about five seconds. Take that time to form a nonconfrontational question or statement like "Tell me what you mean" or "Can you walk me through that again?" It saves careers, relationships and antacid bills.
- Become aware of yourself. Ask "Does my intent match my impact?" One of the chief derailers for executives is that they are either unaware of the impact of their negative behavior or they don't care. Either way, people stop positively responding to them and sabotage them or leave. Think about it. If you're around someone who continually and loudly berates you because you didn't perform the way they wanted, how likely do you think it is that you'll spend your discretionary effort to make them successful? Not.
Emotional intelligence is a big topic, and I'm going to be writing about it here for a while, so look for more tactics and tips from me on how to increase emotional intelligence and success behaviors in your life.
Scott Halford, CSP is President of Complete Intelligence, LLC. He speaks worldwide and writes about emotional intelligence and brain-based success behaviors. He is the best-selling author of Be a Shortcut: The Secret Fast Track to Business Success.