58 percent of supervisor job skills come from four traits. Learn them.

Emotional Quotient

You can potentially take this article with a grain of salt, because the author keeps citing research from TalentSmart, then you get down to the bottom and you realize that, well, the author co-founded TalentSmart. So maybe there’s a bit of an up-sell here, sure. But the data is actually fairly interesting, and makes a lot of logical sense. It could help you become a better manager in 2015. Here’s how. 

The basic idea you need to start with is this concept that only 30 percent of people can identify emotions as they happen. That would seem to be somewhat close to accurate — we live in a very “Busy Go Go Go” world right now, while at the same time attention spans and focusing are declining. That means a lot of people are walking around being told by their supervisor “Everything is a priority!” while at the same time not really being able to focus on how to maximize the right things. It leads to a lot of half-assed work, which leads to this core debate. Anyway, I digress.

If only 30 percent of people can ID emotions as they happen — meaning 7 out of 10 people feel something and assume it’s something else, kind of the emotional equivalent of pregnancy being confused with a bad hot dog — then what we can do?

One thing is to train people — because that’s a core business function, even if people view it as a soft skill — on “EQ” skills. Again, think about ideas such as “respecting your employees.” It’s a soft skill, and people often claim they “don’t have time for it,” but it matters a lot.

Here’s where we get into an interesting space: TalentSmart’s research also claims that EQ skills — we’ll enumerate them in one second — account for 58 percent of job performance from supervisors to CEOs (so, essentially, anyone with direct reports).

What are these skills?

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

On surface, this 58 percent claim makes some sense. After all, taken broadly, the four areas above basically describe everything you do at a job.

Taken more specifically, I’d argue that the four elements above are really hard to find in most workplaces. Maybe we should think about this a little differently. Let’s unpack.

Very few people truly have “self-awareness” — if you’re defining that as a critical ability to look at yourself. Think about it: how often do we even discuss failure at work? Barely ever. It’s hard to be self-aware if you’re not acknowledging where you’ve messed up. Still, though:

Self-management? Sure. I think people are good at this broadly, in the sense of keeping to a schedule or going to the gym and the supermarket at the right moments, but I don’t think people are actually good at managing themselves from a self-actualization perspective. There’s some junk with the “Corporate Athlete” narrative here. In my mind, self-management as a concept involves a lot more focus on training and developing yourself, and companies don’t often do that. (Consider: performance reviews, if they occur, are typically only once a year.)

Social awareness? It exists in workplaces insofar as people talk at work, have work friends, sometimes those work friends become “real” friends, people go to happy hours, etc. In terms of people being socially aware about their surroundings at work? Less so. Organic communications don’t really happen, and managers don’t walk around enough. I think work tends to be a very deliverables-focused place. People often don’t think they have time for things like “social awareness.”

Relationship management is the big one. This is where this list starts to make sense. Relationship management is everything. That will determine clients, customers, promotions, raises, etc, etc. That’s something I can see people wanting to get better at, or wanting to use EQ to improve. I think people confuse “relationship management” often with “playing the right politics,” but that’s a topic for another post.

As you can see, I like the 58 percent figure — I agree with that — although I think the four definitions of EQ skills, or the four EQ concepts, are hard to apply to most workplaces.

What I’d argue instead is that we need a focus on “CQ” — how curious a person is — as opposed to how smart (IQ) or how aware (EQ) they are.

Curious people want to learn more — so they often want to grow in their role, or explore other roles, which can help when everyone thinks they’re overwhelmed — and they want to find new approaches to challenges. They also tend to be a little more flexible and responsive to change because they’re curious about what the new conditions will bring. That all seems good for work, you know?

If I had to pick one single problem with the hiring process in America, it would come down to this: we often hire for intelligence or perceived intelligence, but in today’s business atmosphere, I don’t even think intelligence is that relevant anymore. Curiosity and emotional sensitivity, long viewed as “soft skills” — i.e. skills that aren’t tied to revenue — actually might be far more relevant.

Question is: when will leaders, hiring managers, and HR departments understand this idea?

Ted Bauer