In my day job, I am genuinely fortunate to meet all manner of people, it truly is one of the great joys of this profession that you get to meet some key movers and shakers. So given that on a weekly basis I may meet 15 to 20 executives, I have a reasonable measure on what will and will not work with specific clients and in particular functions.
The “cultural fit” or “interpersonal style” is still as relevant today given the demands of a 21st century working environment as ever. The ability of some people to cocoon themselves in an office with the only form of communication via e-mail or the occasional phone call makes it ever more important that those in key leadership roles understand people, their motivations and how to connect with them.
All too often, I can sit with a candidate for 90 minutes, cover chapter and verse on achievements, motivations and capability and they will fail to mention, even once, that there were others involved in their career– it’s stunning, and worrying. Is this confirmation of the view that intelligence and personal achievement is all? Historically the view was that surely somebody with a strong degree can manage people, after all, they are clearly bright. Are they? Are they really? Define bright – in a work scenario surely the ability to make things happen is more important than never-ending strategizing and planning.
I have met and worked with highly qualified individuals who seem unable to succeed simply because they cannot transfer their stellar thoughts into actions and communicate to those at the sharp end. In my professional life, I have met General Managers and Managing Directors so inspirational, that their teams will move heaven and earth for them and yet the barely have 5 CSE’s to their name, so its not about educational qualifications. It’s about EI, knowing when to have difficult conversations and holding people to account is as important as being a positive mentor, but the innate ability to know when and how to have those conversations is definitely a skill in its own right.
So what is the relevance of Emotional Intelligence in a search process? Firstly, let’s assume that by EI, I mean the ability to understand others and your behaviours impact upon them. If you understand the drivers and motivations of your team, you can share vision, drive performance and achieve through people rather than individually. How we measure EI is a slightly more difficult subject, and one best left to the academics, suffice to say that there are key characteristics you would identify in people with in my view strong EI. When asked simple questions around developing, coaching and mentoring people, they should have multiple examples of people whom they have helped along the way. Imagine the boss who had the biggest impact on you? At interview, would he/she take credit for your work or would they talk about the development that they personally put into their people?
It’s about respect, judgement and realising that being able to shape the behaviour of 10, 20 or 1,000 other people is a far more powerful tool than being number one in your own eyes.