A recent international study surveyed more than 500 business leaders and asked them what sets great employees apart. The researchers wanted to know why some people are more successful than others at work, and the answers were surprising; leaders chose “personality” as the leading reason.
Notably, 78% of leaders said personality sets great employees apart, more than cultural fit (53%) and even an employee’s skills (39%).
“We should take care not to make the intellect our God; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.” –Albert Einstein
The problem is, when leaders say ‘personality’ they don’t understand what they’re referring to. Personality consists of a stable set of preferences and tendencies through which we approach the world. Being introverted or extroverted is an example of an important personality trait.
Personality traits form at an early age and are fixed by early adulthood. Many important things about you change over the course of your lifetime, but your personality isn’t one of them.
Personality is distinct from intellect (or IQ). The two don’t occur together in any meaningful way. Personality is also distinct from emotional intelligence (or EQ), and this is where the study, and most leaders for that matter, have misinterpreted the term.
Exceptional employees don’t possess God-given personality traits; they rely on simple, everyday EQ skills that anyone can incorporate into their repertoire.
Leaders don’t need to go searching for these skills either (though it doesn’t hurt when you find them); their duty is to help everyone on their team harness these skills to become exceptional.
Just consider some of the EQ skills that leaders and managers commonly mislabel as personality characteristics. These are the skills that set exceptional employees apart.
They’re willing to delay gratification. One thing an exceptional employee never says is, “That’s not in my job description.” Exceptional employees work outside the boundaries of job descriptions. They’re neither intimidated nor entitled; instead of expecting recognition or compensation to come first, they forge ahead in their work, confident that they’ll be rewarded later but unconcerned if they’re not.
They can tolerate conflict. While exceptional employees don’t seek conflict, they don’t run away from it either. They’re able to maintain their composure while presenting their positions calmly and logically. They’re able to withstand personal attacks in pursuit of the greater goal and never use that tactic themselves.
They focus. Student pilots are often told, “When things start going wrong, don’t forget to fly the plane.” Plane crashes have resulted from pilots concentrating so hard on identifying the problem that they flew the plane into the ground. Eastern Airlines Flight 401 is just one example: The flight crew was so concerned about the landing gear being down that they didn’t realize they were losing altitude until it was too late, despite alarms going off in the cockpit. Exceptional employees understand the principle of “Just fly the plane.” They don’t get distracted by cranky customers, interoffice squabbles, or switch to a different brand of coffee. They can differentiate between real problems and background noise; therefore, they stay focused on what matters.
More Info: www.forbes.com
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