Smart Is Not Enough
Study hard, get good grades, go to college, study hard, get good grades, go to graduate school, study hard, get good grades, get a good job, work hard, have a great career. Wash, rinse, repeat. This path, built on intellectual attainment, is supposedly our golden ticket to a lifetime of career achievements, progress and success. “Nose to the grindstone” is the mantra. Then reality hits for too many women and minorities. Suddenly being smart is not enough to move ahead. Nose to the grindstone does not result in promotion. Burning the midnight oil does not translate into making partner. What went wrong?
Nothing. Our plan was not incorrect, it was merely incomplete. Being intellectually intelligent (IQ) is necessary but not sufficient for career success, and is most pronounced for those who are not straight white men. Academic achievement gets one in the door. Staying inside and succeeding is the challenge.
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, was popularized in the mid-1990s by Daniel Goleman. EQ is our ability to manage ourselves and our emotions. In the workplace, this means acting and reacting to events appropriately, such as maintaining your composure and ability to perform under pressure. As important as EQ is, it, too, is necessary but not sufficient to succeed.
Social intelligence (SQ), far less known and discussed, is the missing piece for career advancement for everyone, particularly women and minorities. Goleman describes SQ as our ability to be intelligent about our relationships. If EQ is inner-regulation, then SQ is inter-regulation.
Being high in SQ means understanding and successfully navigating the workplace culture. This is as true of corporations as it is of hospitals, of schools as it is of law firms. Each geographical location of the same parent organization has its own culture based on the people who work there.
Navigating the workplace culture, being high in SQ, is the major obstacle for women and minorities. Culture is largely shaped by the dominant group, which for most workplaces is straight white men. This is not a conspiracy or a plot. We all tend to befriend people who are similar to us or those with whom we have the most in common. We take work breaks with our buddy. We grab a quick lunch with our friend. Women do this. Minorities do this. Straight white men do this. For the latter group, however, this results in power begetting power.
Not being automatically part of the workplace power club is a given for women and minorities. We can bemoan that fact or we can go into action. Staying mired in the former keeps us stuck. Successfully navigating the workplace culture, demonstrating high SQ, is the key to career growth and success.
Excerpted from my Sept/Oct 2014 article in Profiles in Diversity Journal. http://issuu.com/diversityjournal/docs/2014_sepoct/170