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JOHN WAS A DATABASE MANAGER at a northeastern financial services company. He was conscientious and brilliant he knew how to fix technical problems that eluded others. After a notable couple of years, he was promoted. Again his technical wizardry won him admiration. When the vice president of information technology left in the midst of an upgrade to the database system, senior management looked to fill the position as soon as possible. John was the likely candidate and he got the job. John had been promoted to his level of incompetence. But it wasn't technical incompetence; John was totally lacking in social and personal abilities. He communicated via e-mail only, often with terse comments. He was quick to put others down who could not grasp his level of technical expertise. He didn't trust that anyone knew as much as he did and often micromanaged. He continued to demand reports and analysis from his employees but rarely spent time in discussion with them. John's high IQ did not prepare him to use "people" skills.
"Emotional intelligence" is the term now used to describe personal and social skills. These often include what might be called "soft skills" intuition, sensitivity, creativity, cooperation, social ability, knowledge sharing, empathy, rapport, adaptability and teamwork. But soft skills is a misnomer. The science of direct marketing relies on analytical, factual, logical and systematic skills to bring about improved business effectiveness. But in addition to being a front-runner in using the technological advances of the past decade, the DM business embraced the improvement systems of the '80s and '90s including the quality movement, re-engineering and customer relationship management. There also have been an unprecedented number of direct marketers getting MBAs and postgraduate degrees. In the past, those skills have helped individuals grow in their chosen DM careers. But in this slowed economy, these "get smart" techniques have reached maximum effectiveness. Careers that rose solely on the use of factual, logical and analytical skills are having a difficult time making it in this intractable business environment. A paradigm shift has occurred and measures for success have changed. Here's another example. Karen was the quintessential salesperson, always exceeding her annual goal by 20% or more. She was a management star, high energy, and extremely motivated by money. She was always able to make the deal and was the cash cow for a computer services niche player. Karen was rewarded for her performance by being promoted to vice president of sales, with the entire sales team reporting to her. Karen's goals were no longer hers alone. She needed to empower the people who worked for her. Sales associates began leaving the firm at a higher rate than usual. What was going on? Karen wanted to close all the deals herself. She hired people in her own image and turned away those with different styles and selling philosophies. The more she took over and closed deals, the more irritation she created among her staff. Employees started to feel Karen didn't think they were capable. Those who remained kicked back and let Karen run the show and that only resulted in running her ragged. In spite of all her efforts, the department did not reach its goals. Karen's rising star had fallen and she was one of the cuts in the last round of layoffs. What was Karen's problem? She was lacking in emotional intelligence. She didn't make the transition from "me" to "we." Let's not confuse the issue. Using emotional intelligence is not about being nice, letting it all hang out emotionally, being passive and wimpy rather than aggressive or assertive. Emotional intelligence (EI) skills include two major areas: personal competency in managing ourselves and social competency in handling relationships with others. Personal competencies include...