Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success
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Do you have the behaviours to go with your qualifications?

I love the determination of people who invest time and money in developing new technical skills. They’ve recognised an area of competence they’d like to acquire, a skill gap they’d like to fill or perhaps they simply enjoy studying. 

Gaining any kind of professional qualification can be a lengthy process involving hours of reading, revising and some practical application.

But the technical qualification itself just isn’t enough anymore.

I say ‘anymore’ because in the past people were hired and promoted based on their education or length of tenure, not the way they behaved or treated other humans. We used to kowtow to those with letters after their names and if they treated us like crap, that was somehow OK because, you know, the letters.

Some people like to wheel out their academic prowess on demand to act superior or make a point as to how they’re more in tune with the world than others will ever be. ‘I’ve got a degree in…’, ‘I’ve got all the agile certificates’, ‘I’ve been to [insert name of highbrow university]’ and so on.

And yet, if they behave like dickheads, then all the letters and fancy education that they’ve paid lots of cash for are for nought!

Let me reiterate – before I’m lynched by the certification mob – technical qualifications are hugely important to ensure that a person has the relevant skills to do the job they’re employed to do and, as the owner of a few certificates myself, I know that without them I could never have progressed in the manner that I did.

However, unless they’re accompanied by a set of behaviours that demonstrate that they understand what it means to be a humble, empathetic, vulnerable, collaborative and courageous human being, then there’s a good chance they’ll become unemployable very quickly.

Many large organisations have finally seen the light and have placed soft skills at the top of their list of desirable skills.

Google, Ernst and Young, Deloitte, Hilton Group, Apple and Nordstrom are just some examples of organisations that used to insist on a college degree in order to be considered for a job, but this is no longer the case.

Apple CEO Tim Cook went a step further earlier this year and explained why it wasn’t necessary anymore, saying, ‘So we’ve never really thought that a college degree was the thing that you had to do well. We’ve always tried to expand our horizons.’

These horizons now stretch all the way to emotional intelligence, once considered as a secondary skill when compared with academic excellence. Yet – as Daniel Goleman found – only through people better understanding their emotions can they ever hope to unlock their true potential.

And this is critical for organisations looking to build self-motivating teams or wanting to address poor culture.

Great cultures require emotionally intelligent people who know how to get the job done using multiple ways of doing things. Only when you have this mix do you get improved communication, greater agility, seamless collaboration and endless innovation.

When people behave in a way that’s contrary to the culture that you’re looking to create they need to be coached, mentored or (if they’re unwilling to change) managed out. Of their transition to a more flexible approach to delivery services, former ING COO Bart Schlatmann said, ‘We lost a lot of people who had the right knowledge, but not the right mindset.’

You don’t get a certificate for being emotionally intelligent. What you get instead is the satisfaction that you’ve treated someone in a way that they appreciated, leading to a greater sense of psychological well being, belonging and trust.

And that is worth more than any professional qualification.