I have thought some of these things for a while. Thoughts? Opinions?
From Adam Grant on LinkedIn
Not long ago, the CEO of a sales company mentioned that he was spending millions of dollars to train his employees in emotional intelligence. He asked if it was possible to assess emotional intelligence during the interview process, which would allow him to hire salespeople who already excelled in this area.
I said yes, it can be done—but I wouldn’t recommend doing it.
Warning: if you’re a devoted member of an emotional intelligence cult, you may have a strong negative reaction to the data in this post. In case that happens, I’ve offered some guidance at the bottom on how to respond.
To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s be clear about what emotional intelligence is. Experts agree that it has three major elements: perceiving, understanding, and regulating emotions. Perceiving emotions is your ability to recognize different feelings. When looking at someone’s face, do you know the difference between joy and contentment, anxiety and sadness, or surprise and contempt? Understanding emotions is how well you identify the causes and consequences of different feelings. For example, can you figure out what will make your colleagues frustrated versus angry? Frustration occurs when people are blocked from achieving a goal; anger is a response to being mistreated or wronged. Regulating emotions is your effectiveness in managing what you and others feel. If you have a bad day but need to give an inspiring speech, can you psych yourself up and motivate your audience anyway?
I told the CEO that although these skills could be useful in sales, he’d be better off assessing cognitive ability. That’s traditional intelligence: the capability to reason and solve verbal, logical, and mathematical problems. Salespeople with high cognitive ability would be able to analyze information about customer needs and think on their feet to keep customers coming back. The CEO was convinced that emotional intelligence would matter more.
To see who was right, we designed a study. Working with Dane Barnes of Optimize Hire, we gave hundreds of salespeople two validated tests of emotional intelligence that measured their abilities to perceive, understand, and regulate emotions. We also gave them a five-minute test of their cognitive ability, where they had to solve a few logic problems. Then, we tracked their sales revenue over several months.
Cognitive ability was more than five times more powerful than emotional intelligence. The average employee with high cognitive ability generated annual revenue of over $195,000, compared with $159,000 for those with moderate cognitive ability and $109,000 for those with low cognitive ability. Emotional intelligence added nothing after measuring cognitive ability.
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