Several years ago, Google decided to do a “big data” analysis on a very interesting data set. They decided to analyze their human resources database.
They wanted to know what kinds of Google new hires end up being promoted and becoming the leaders of the company.
The idea was to figure out what’s working, and to use that insight to modify their recruiting and professional development efforts.
They created a data set with every employee’s recruiting assessment, performance reviews, and promotions history.
Google possesses a math/engineering-heavy corporate culture. Their bias is that engineers are better at nearly everything than people from other backgrounds. They hire a lot of engineers — even for non-engineering roles.
When the data analysis came back, most people within Google were shocked.
Of the top eight attributes of Google’s top performers, six of them were the so-called “soft skills” that the Google culture had historically dismissed in favor of “hard skills” like engineering, mathematics, and data science.
The two “hard skills” on the top list were sufficient technical aptitude (no surprise) and strategic vision.
All of the other “soft skills” were based around emotional intelligence (EQ).
The great irony is that most of the Google engineers had resisted efforts to improve their soft skills… and the key to convincing them was showing the results from the data set.
This project has been an on-going one for many years. The data set has been updated and augmented multiple times with attitudinal survey data on what makes a great manager within Google.
One of the more recent additions to the original list of top eight skills is: “Being a good collaborator.”
Incidentally, Google’s conclusion maps very well to what McKinsey figured out as well. The people who make partner aren’t the ones that did the best on the case interview and at building financial models. Those who made partner were very good with people — clients, consultants, and others.
The mantra inside McKinsey was: “We hire for IQ, and we promote for EQ.”
In the last two decades of working with CEOs in both the Fortune 500 and Inc 500, the clients I’ve worked with were often the smartest people in the room. They were, however, all very good with people (and making sure they had people smarter than them in the room working for them).
To get your first job or two as an individual contributor, there’s no question you need technical expertise related to the job at hand.
However, as you move up the corporate ladder, the vast majority of the work done within your team will be done by others.
Your most valuable skill is not in doing the work. It is in knowing how to work with, manage, and lead the people who are doing the bulk of the work.
To be qualified for and to excel in more senior roles, it’s important you have strong EQ skills. If this is not an area of strength for you, I invite you to learn more about my program on How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career.
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