EQ versus IQ
Jamaican companies need more EQ than IQ
Francis Wade, Guest Columnist
What can Jamaican companies do to help reduce our country's high murder rate? An article in Forbes magazine of April 12, 2012 gives us a clue: pay less attention to IQ (intelligence quotient) and more attention to EQ (emotional quotient).
Don't be misled into thinking that the Forbes article, titled 'Intelligence Is Overrated', says anything about either murder or Jamaica. Instead, it points out recent research showing that your EQ is far more important in determining your corporate success than your IQ.
That's not what we were brought up to believe, and it's not where our schools place their primary focus. Indeed, we have enough smart people in Jamaica to rid ourselves of our crime problem if only IQ was the critical missing link.
Back in 2006, the then Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields summarised the opinion of many of his colleagues for The Star: acts of revenge and retaliation were responsible for at least 80 per cent of our murders.
According to Shields, "people are quick to handle disputes with violence, and wherever a death occurs, you can almost expect some form of retribution".
In other words, our lack of EQ is killing us.
We compound the issue by attributing angry responses to matters of character, culture and history. Outsiders who live in Jamaica often remark how angry we sound, and how quickly we take offence. Anger and offence are the precursors to violent responses.
Toward the end of April, there were separate reports of students fighting with knives, and stabbing a teacher. Obviously, the Peace and Love in Schools programmes need to be made more available.
However, our corporations need to play their part and promote continuous soft skills training to all of their employees. The article makes it clear that 85 per cent of one's financial success comes from mastering these skills, which are at the heart of critical corporate functions such as selling, providing customer service, demonstrating teamwork, coaching, giving feedback, negotiating and more.
Here's my suggestion: given the importance of EQ/soft skills, why not invest in expanding these skills for every employee in Jamaica?
THE UNSEEN PROBLEM
Most managers I speak with are quite skilled at noting bad service when they are on the receiving end of the stick. However, they often don't know or can't perceive the impact of their own words, tone of voice, or body language: all key components of one's EQ.
I don't believe that they are malicious or even careless.
One day, an old, wizened fish swam past two young fish. As he passed them, he remarked, "Nice water today, isn't it?" After a few minutes one young fish turned to the other and asked: "What water?"
In the same way that these young fish are blind to the medium in which they live, I believe that we Jamaicans have become blind to our lack of soft skills, and the way they could be used to defuse violent behaviour. They can be developed with training, and if corporate Jamaica were to take the lead, it could reach the majority of our employees who could then influence the rest of society.
THE BEST TRAINING
There's a great deal of recent evidence suggesting that adults can develop these skills if given the chance. All that's needed are high-quality learning opportunities. The best ones include a little bit of theory, and a lot of practice, coupled with an abundance of immediate feedback.
Videotaping helps the feedback to be more accurate and less personal, and enhances the development of critical skills.
Unfortunately, soft skills don't get developed all at once, and certainly don't stick after only a day of training. Instead, they must be reinforced by ongoing practice, much in the way that an athlete devotes time to improve specific areas of weakness in order to perfect overall performance.
Companies can also change the way they recruit to fill positions within the company. Having good qualifications and experience are useful, but the true test of an employee's future value can be based on their EQ.
The best companies use assessment centres which allow hiring managers the chance to see how someone performs in a simulated environment. This approach radically increases the chances that the person who is hired can actually demonstrate the skills that are needed from the very first day on the job.
The violent culture that we find ourselves in can be transformed one skill at a time.
Companies which take up the challenge can drive not only greater profits, but help to produce a high EQ Jamaican culture that makes it safe for all of us.
Francis Wade is a consultant with Framework Consulting. firstname.lastname@example.org