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Emotional intelligence as a strategic advantage

Hard skills are not enough

In the book, “Emotional Intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ,” Daniel Goleman stresses that “at the very highest levels, competence models for leadership typically consist of anywhere from 80–100% EI-based abilities. As the head of research at a global executive search firm put it

‘CEOs are hired for their intellect and business expertise, and fired for a lack of emotional intelligence.’”

Why are soft skills important?

Hiring managers may dismiss the importance of soft-skills as something that is only critical for people-facing roles, like sales and customer service. However, soft skills are important for anyone who works on a team. Soft-skills are teamwork skills and they are critical for business success.

Consider that

90% of our career success comes from EQ, when IQ is roughly equal.

75% of cross-functional teams report that they are dysfunctional.

71% of hiring managers value EQ in an employee over IQ

65% of startups fail due to co-founder conflict

People are complex. Teamwork is complex. Startups are complex.

Emotions play an important part of the work environment. Emotions cannot be avoided or fixed. The key is to learn to handle emotions and impulses with skill. Emotional Intelligence is the art of being aware of emotions and having the impulse control and empathy to navigate emotionally charged situations.

2017 may be remembered as the year of Emotional Intelligence. Here are a few reasons why professional development and coaching has become top priority for many companies:

Hard skills are not enough

The tech industry, for one, has become so competitive that both recruiters and potential employees are razor focused on developing the latest hard skills. As an industry we are obsessed with hard skills and pedigree. Job descriptions often list specific skills required. These skills are table stakes. Do you have them?

But hard skills are not enough. The best employees are deep in hard skills and also easy to work with — fantastic collaborators. They are balanced, kind, humble, generous, good listeners, and empathetic. The myth of the loner genius nerd is just that — a myth.

Per an interview with Heather Rivers of Mode Analytics:

“Individual intelligence has long been venerated in tech. Movies are lousy with lone, genius hackers who are too smart to play nice with others. But in reality, collective intelligence blows individual intelligence away — a single expert might be able to get a moderately sized rocket off the ground, but a team can leave footprints on the moon. However, a team of experts will likely fail if they can’t communicate effectively.”

Uber’s toxic culture breakdown

Uber’s battle with it’s own toxic culture is well known. A culture that doesn’t support an environment of psychological safety is at risk. Employees feel excluded, pressured to turn a blind eye to unethical behavior, and hesitant to bring their whole selves to work. They disengage.

By one estimation, Travis Kalanick’s lack of self-awareness cost Uber $10 billion in market capitalization.

Lack of emotional intelligence at the highest level almost sank the company. Self-awareness is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Strong managers are self-aware of their own emotions and others, and able to self-regulate their impulses to ensure the highest value behavior. In the case of Uber, management coaching and empathetic listening skills training could have helped to avoid a huge misstep.

By contrast, Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has demonstrated many in-demand leadership qualities: Vulnerability, humility, inclusiveness and self-awareness. “Uber 2.0,” as he calls it, is based on a renewed priority in transparency and respect.

The Google memo

A male engineer at Google recently started an HR nightmare by posting a 10 page hypotheses that his female engineering colleagues were, by nature, inferior. His misogynistic diatribe was not tolerated as per the Google code of conduct, so he was let go. Yet he continues to reject the notion that his post was offensive . What he fails to understand is that his unwelcome opinion disrupts an otherwise supportive work environment, making it uncomfortable for everyone. His self-righteous attack marginalizes psychologically safety for the entire Google team.

Could emotional intelligence training and self-awareness coaching have saved Google from the PR crisis that ensued?

Many companies currently face this common organizational challenge: Their employees are talented, skilled, and industrious, but lack professional presence and maturity. These employees have spent years honing their hard skills, but ironically lack the soft skills required to succeed in a team environment.

Historically soft skills have been dismissed as less critical touchy feely skills. They were considered to be something you learn over time, but certainly not as marketable and critical as expertise and pedigree.

Priorities have changed. Innovative companies provide on-site, experiential training programs for all their new employees. These training programs are focused on building core collaboration, teamwork skills, and professional presence that drive cohesive collaboration.

76% of millennials said that professional development opportunities are one of the most important elements of company culture.

And employees request enrichment training more than any other company benefits.

“47% of professionals reported that they did not receive sufficient training and resources when they started their position.”

Many companies have found that investment in professional development is well worth the effort. In an effort to avoid the next Uber culture meltdown, building an emotionally intelligent workforce has become a competitive advantage.



BigTalker helps companies support their employees with leadership and collaboration skill building programs. Professional development sessions include emotional intelligence, communication skills, storytelling, mindfulness and improv theory.

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Startups, Product Management, technology. Huge fan of functional democracy.