Soft Skills: Critical to Employee Success

Soft Skills: Critical to Employee Success

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Attend any leadership conference, and someone likely will bring up startling statistics regarding how employees and leaders lack something they refer to as soft skills. This term is used to describe many qualities that include interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and other personality-based issues. The problem that many organizations have experienced is that people are hired for their hard skills, or in other words, for what they know (knowledge). Then later, are often fired for their lack of soft skills, or what they do (behaviors). If employers recognize the importance of soft skills, they can avoid costly hiring and training mistakes, improve turnover, and boost productivity. Continue reading “Soft Skills: Critical to Employee Success”

Sheldon Cooper is in an EQ Stupor

 

The Big Bang Theories’ Sheldon Cooper is a classic example of why it is important to have a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ). In the TV sitcom, Sheldon demonstrates what it is like to have a high IQ without a corresponding high EQ.  Daniel Goleman wrote about why this may be problematic in his book Emotional Intelligence:  Why it can Matter More than IQ.

Sheldon is a very intelligent human being. This is something that he constantly points out to nearly everyone he meets.  However, his high IQ is not tempered with interpersonal skills. Having strong intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are an important part of having a well-developed EQ.   Sheldon may be an over-exaggeration of someone that lacks these skills, but we have all met book-smart people who just do not seem to understand how to interact with others.

Some companies’ yearly performance reviews may consider how employees demonstrate  “concern for impact”.  In other words, the company want employees to be aware of how they came across to other people.  Any employee that has to deal with other people on a daily basis must learn to see themselves as other see them. What may seem as perfectly acceptable behavior to an individual may come across as offensive to someone else.  Companies are placing more importance on developing individuals’ EQ levels and hiring people that have already developed interpersonal skills.

Sheldon is almost robotic in his lack of people skills.  He does things because he has been taught that “it is the social convention” to do so.  For people who see any part of their personality in the Sheldon character, I recommend reading Goleman’s book.  I also think that it is important to read books about how to improve EQ levels.  There are some sites on the Internet that help people improve emotional intelligence.  Check out the following links:

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Increasing Motivation, Right vs. Left Brain, MBTI and Who Will Rule the World

Dan Pink, author of several books about motivation and left vs. right brain thinking, presented a very entertaining and informative talk at a TED.com conference called Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation. The premise of his presentation was that there is a mismatch between what science knows about, and what business does, in terms of motivating people.

He made a strong argument for the importance of how having autonomy may help creativity.  A famous example he used is how Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on any project they want.  He noted how ½ of all products developed at Google are created during this time.  He argued for something he called ROWE which stands for Results Only Work Environment.  This is when people don’t have to have schedules, attend meetings or do anything specific other than to be sure that they get their work done.  By following these guidelines studies have shown it will increase productivity and reduce turnover.

Two of Pink’s books include:  Drive . . . The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us; and A Whole New Mind . . .Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World.  After looking through his book on “right-brainers”, I found a lot of what he had to say to be quite interesting.  He pointed out the importance of empathy which is a big part of emotional intelligence.  For my dissertation, I studied quite a bit about empathy and the part it plays in one’s emotional intelligence.  Researchers like Daniel Goleman, Ruevan Bar-On and others have shown that emotional intelligence can be developed.  In this respect, what Pink had to say is good news for everyone because we can all work on becoming more empathetic.

The part of Pink’s information that may not be such good news for me and others like me is that he thinks that, as you can see from the title of his book, right-brainers will rule the world.  Before reading any further, you might want to take this right or left brain quiz to find out your type.  I’ll let you know that I received a 2 which means I am strongly left-brained.  Not much right-brained thinking going on here!

 

To define the difference between left and right-brained, think of it this way:  Left-brainers are sequential, logical and analytical.  Right-brainers are non-linear, intuitive and holistic.

His theory supports that those with a high N or Intuitive personality type in the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) may be the ones who rule the world.  The N is the opposite of the S or Sensing personality who uses their senses rather than intuition in their processing of information.  In my training to become a qualified Myers Briggs instructor, I learned quite a bit about the differences between the personality types assigned by the MBTI. One of the main things researchers have found is that your MBTI results don’t change much over time.  It’s about preferences . . . .like whether you prefer to write with your right or your left hand. Think of the MBTI results as your preferences for how you obtain information and this won’t change.  So if you are an intuitive or an “N”, you will always be an intuitive and if you are a sensor or “S”, you will always be a sensor.  Some people may be very close to the middle of the scale between S and N and so their results won’t be as cut and dry as they may find their type changes slightly when they take the MBTI.

Dichotomies
Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling
Judgment (J) – (P) Perception

In our book, It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, Toni Rothpletz and I gave several examples of famous people with different MBTI results.  The qualities of the right-brainer, as described by Pink, fall very much into the category of the “N” or intuitive personality portion of the 4 letter type given by MBTI. What is interesting to me is that less than half of people have an “N” or intuitive personality type according to Myers-Briggs MBTI which is close to the about 50% figure experts say are right-brained.

If our type is pretty much set in stone, then 50% of us aren’t going to rule the world!  I guess I am OK with that.  However, I do take solace in knowing that my MBTI personality type, ESTJ, accounts for l0-12% of the population and of that population some very big names also share that type including Sam Walton, creator of WalMart.  He may not have ruled the world, but he came pretty darn close.

Generation of Haters Hiding Behind Social Media Anonymity

We’ve all seen the areas on Youtube, blogs, and other news areas where people make their anonymous comments about the topic at hand.  It has become very easy for people to make comments that they might not otherwise have made should they have had to have their name or face associated with their remarks.  Many comments are made by children under 18 and some of those comments may be just dismissed as immature.  However, as more news stories surface about children killing themselves from cyber-bullying, there is growing concern about society accepting this kind of behavior.  (For 11 facts about cyber-bullying click here). Cyberbullyingprotection.net reported that 75% of students have visited websites that bashed other students.

Many blogs, including this one, allow screening of posts before allowing them to be exposed.  This is useful to avoid the deluge of spam that comes across from people trying to sell their unsolicited products.  However, it can be reassuring to know that “haters” can’t just post anything they want.

Why are there so many angry people out there that want to write negative comments?  Part of the issue that these people have, other than immaturity, is a lack of emotional intelligence (EI).  Emotional intelligence may be defined in many ways.  One of the easiest ways to think about it is to define emotional intelligence as the ability to understand one’s own emotions as well as those in others.  People who write these posts have little consideration of the feeling of others.  This shows a lack of interpersonal skills.

It brings forth a question as to whether any specific demographic has more issues with emotional intelligence than others.  Rueven Bar-On, creator of the EQ-i emotional intelligence test, found that his model, “reveals that older people are more emotionally and socially intelligent than younger people, females are more aware of emotions than males while the latter are more adept at managing emotions than the former, and that there are no significant differences in emotional-social intelligence between the various ethnic groups that have been examined in North America.”

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be improved. Authors like Marcia Hughes and others have written several helpful books about how to increase levels of EI.  Author and psychiatrist John Gottman discussed helping our children’s emotional development in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.  Some of the things Gottman suggests are to:

  • Listen to our children with empathy.
  • Help your children name their feelings.
  • Validate your child’s emotions.
  • Turn their tantrums into teaching tools.
  • Use conflicts to teach problem-solving.
  • Set an example by remaining calm.

By helping our children develop emotional intelligence, perhaps we can see a future of less “haters” and cyber-bullies making anonymous hurtful comments.

 

 

Bones Brennan Character Exemplifies Lack of Empathy

 

Having empathy is a part of emotional intelligence as defined by leaders in the field of EI such as Rueven Bar-On.  Daniel Goleman describes three types of empathy including: cognitive, emotional and compassionate.  In the book It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, it is noted that having empathy is a big part of interpersonal skills.  It has to do with how much we care about other peoples’ feelings and whether we can see things from other peoples’ perspectives.

A recent episode of the TV show, Bones, showed an excellent example of how Emily Deschanel’s character Temperance Brennan lacked empathy.  For those unfamiliar with the program, the Brennan has a high IQ but may lack in the EQ or emotional quotient department.  In this episode, Bennan lacks the ability to realize that her logical thinking and lack of understanding of others’ emotions is rude.  In the episode, Feet on the Beach. Brennan must work with a podiatrist that she feels lacks her superior training and skills.  While this may be fodder for entertainment, people may run into a similar situations at work where they may feel their abilities are being dismissed.

How can someone so smart lack empathy?  It may be difficult for people to do what Dr. Jeremy Sherman refers to as “shoe shifting” or putting ourselves in another’s shoes.  “When you put yourself in another person’s shoes you risk seeing yourself as others would see you—not quite as special as you think”

How do we improve our empathetic abilities?  One way is to improve our listening skills.  For more tips on improving empathy, check out Sherman’s article in Psychology Today.

MBTI and Business Executives Inflated View of Emotional Intelligence

 

Those interested in how personality affects performance often study the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the relationship to leadership.  Rarely do I run across studies that look for relationships between MBTI and EI.  Leary, Reilly and Brown published a Study of Personality Preferences and Emotional Intelligence where they examined the “relationships between the dispositional factors measured by the MBTI and elements of emotional intelligence (EI) as measured by Bar-On’s emotional quotient inventory (EQ-i).”

For those unfamiliar with the MBTI and the EQ-I, the MBTI measures our preferences for how we like to receive information.  The EQ-i measures our emotional quotient or EQ.  Emotional intelligence has often been defined differently by various authors.  One of the easiest ways to think of emotional intelligence is by defining it as the ability to understand your own emotions as well as those in others.

In the Leary et al study, their results showed a relationship between Myers Briggs extroversion and emotional intelligence components.  Also noted in the study was a “positive and significant relationship between a preference for the use of feeling in decision making and an individual’s EI.”

When discussing “feeling” as defined by the MBTI, it refers to how one bases their decisions on their values.  When discussing “extroversion” as defined by the MBTI, it refers to how people prefer to focus on the outer world of people and things.  Leary et al concluded, “The positive and significant results for the extroversion and feeling hypotheses seem consistent with the view that EI is related to the ability to accurately perceive and manage relationships.”

I found the relationship for “feeling” to be the most interesting part of the study due to the high number of “thinking” as opposed to “feeling” executives in the workplace.   The study suggests that using “feeling” when making decisions shows awareness of others’ feelings.  This would be indicative of having emotional intelligence.

If there are more “thinking” people in business executive positions and this study showed people that were “feeling” had more of a relationship to emotional intelligence, what does that say about our business leaders?  A study of nearly 5000 people by Sala revealed that executives may have an inflated idea of how high their emotional intelligence actually is.  “The results of this study demonstrate that higher-level employees are more likely to have an inflated view of their emotional intelligence competencies and less congruence with the perceptions of others who work with them often and know them well than lower-level employees.”

What is interesting to note is that one’s MBTI type does not usually change over time.  However, one can develop their emotional intelligence.  The “thinking” personality type bases their decisions on data.  They tend to be logical.    If people with a strong “thinking” preference do not show as high of a correlation with emotional intelligence now, can they develop this based on their understanding of this data?   It seems logical to conclude this is possible.

As with any self-reported data, there are possible limitations to these studies.  I personally have studied emotional intelligence and its impact on sales performance.  I had to take the EQ-i and the MBTI in my training to be a qualified instructor for both assessments.  I came out as an ESTJ and had a high EQ-i score.  I may be an anomaly, but from what I have seen from the work of Daniel Goleman and others, whether someone is a “thinking” or a “feeling” personality, it is important to always be working on one’s EQ in order to be successful.

The Human Brain: Gender Differences in Intelligence and Maturity

Experts continue to research what makes individuals unique.  Is there a difference between human intelligence in males vs. females?  Ask a woman and you might get a different answer than if you ask a man?  According to Hedges, ” IQ tests, regarded by psychometricians as measures of intelligence, have shown that differences between men and women are minimal or negligible, but men are often overrepresented at extreme scores, both very high and very low.”

Rueven Bar-On, a leading expert in emotional intelligence, reported that “no differences appeared between males and females regarding overall emotional and social competence.”  That is not to say that both sexes were identical.  “Females appear to have stronger interpersonal skills than males, but the later have a higher intrapersonal capacity, are better at stress management, and are more adaptable.”

Scientists have now looked at the brains of both sexes at the age of 10, 16 and 20 to see if there truly are differences in maturity levels between the two.  WJSOnline reported “Although boys’ and girls’ brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar.”  By measuring the brain’s cortex and how it may change as boys and girls age, the National Institute of Mental Health Child’s Psychiatric Branch studied 284 people and found “boys’ and girls’ brains, on average, differ significantly at age 9, but by the time the participants reached 22, the brains of the two sexes grew more alike in many areas critical for learning.”

Some interesting differences in Gender Development noted in the article included:

Gender Development

Some typical milestones and when boys and girls tend to hit them:

At birth: Girls are a few weeks more mature neurologically and have more advanced hearing. Boys on average weigh half a pound more.

First words: Girls typically utter their first word at 11 or 12 months, one month ahead of boys.

Vocabulary: At 18 months, girls on average know 86.8 words, more than double boys’ 41.8 words. By 30 months, boys’ and girls’ language skills have converged, at about 500 words.

Walking: Caucasian girls and boys tend to walk around 12 months. African-Americans walk sooner, at nine to 10 months.

Potty training: Girls are fully trained by 36 months, according to one study. Boys took a bit longer, training by 38 months.

Onset of puberty: For girls, the process can start at age 9 to 10. For boys, it’s closer to 11 to 12.

Source: WSJ research

Controlling Emotions at Work: Part of Core Employment Skills?

 

Lesley Wright’s recent article in the Arizona Republic offered some insight into a new book by author and ASU professor Vincent Waldron.  Waldron’s book, titled, “Communicating Emotion at Work”, due later this year, will include information from his 20 years of studying emotions in the workplace.

In the book, “It’s Not You It’s Your Personality” similar topics are covered in chapters about emotional intelligence and concern for impact.  Concern for impact may be defined as how much we care about how others perceive us.  In the Arizona Republic article, “Waldron argues that emotional communication should be a core employment skill.”  Emotions are a buzz word in the workplace since Daniel Goleman helped increase the popularity of emotional intelligence with his book about why emotional intelligence could matter more than IQ. Books about emotions in the workplace can be a very effective tool to help explain why people act the way they do.  This can be very important, especially in a team setting.  As more companies are creating teams, understanding one’s fellow employees and their emotions can be critical to the success of a team and their projects.

Some of the things that Waldron pointed out in his interview with Wright tied into having concern for impact which can be an important part of one’s success in the workplace. Waldron claims, “The theme of this book is that emotions, both positive and negative, have in a sense evolved to serve a purpose. Emotional communication is a tool for making our organizations and our lives richer, more moral, more humane and potentially building better workplaces. Sometimes that means regulating and suppressing emotions. So we need to be competent at understanding the emotions and learning to regulate them. I’m sort of arguing for a heightened awareness of how emotion makes us good. I don’t think there is any competitive disadvantage to being emotionally competent.”

How to Get a Job: Why Employers Value Emotional Intelligence

Check out why it is so important to understand how your emotional intelligence may impact your ability to get a job.  If you are interested in reading the book by Daniel Goleman that I refer to here, it is called Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ.   In our book,  It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, Toni Rothpletz and I write about the major personality tests that employers use.  We include a very detailed chapter about the importance of understanding emotional intelligence in the workplace.  

Star Trainer Recommends Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for Effective Instruction (Interview)

With the upcoming release of our book, It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, there has been a lot of interest in interviews about personality assessments and training.  In our book, Toni Rothpletz and I dedicate a chapter to each of the important personality tests, including a chapter for Myers-Briggs and Emotional Intelligence.

I recently was interviewed for a piece on Bloomfire.  Some topics we discussed included:

  • Things that  have influenced my approach to training
  • The importance of EQ
  • Valuable books to improve EQ levels
  • How to apply learning about EQ to corporate training

   To read the entire interview, click here.