Have you ever wondered why some people have more successful careers than others?

A recent 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 number one reason may surprise you.

Topping  the list over qualities you might expect like “experience,” “education,” or other more quantifiable “skills” is this single, powerful word: “personality.”

The difficulty with this word, according to an article about the study by author Travis Bradberry, is to understand what those surveyed really mean when they put “personality” at the top of the list.

Our personalities are developed from an early age and are fixed by the time we enter early adulthood. Many important things about you change over the course of your lifetime, but your core personality isn’t one of them.

What leaders are really looking for and what they are referring to, then, according to Bradberry, is really Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which, Bradberry maintains is completely different from personality and from intellect (or IQ). Employers and leaders can and have confused these three qualities on many occasions.

Unlike your personality, which is more internal – prompting particular thoughts in your mind, for example; how you choose to externally react to those thoughts and situations is how our EQ is exhibited. These external EQ responses can be learned, practiced and developed.

Some of the EQ skills that set exceptional employees apart are:

    • They forge ahead in their work, confident that they’ll be rewarded later but unconcerned if they’re not.
    • They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong and willing to do things someone else’s way,
    • 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 on what matters
    • They think before they speak and wisely choose the best time and place to do so.
    • Exceptional employees are driven to improve, without forgetting to give themselves a healthy pat on the back.
    • They recognize when things are broken and fix them
    • They’re accountable and they bring their mistakes to management’s attention rather than hoping no one will find out. They understand that managers aren’t out to assign blame; they’re out to get things done
    • Exceptional employees are well liked by co-workers. They have integrity and leadership skills (even if they’re not in an official leadership position) that people respond to
    • They neutralize toxic people.  Exceptional employees control their interactions with toxic people by keeping their feelings in check. Even when things completely derail, emotionally intelligent people are able to take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring them down

It’s important to notice that years of experience, coding skills, business degrees, etc. are not included in any of the key traits that leaders are looking for. For sure, these are required to succeed in your career but they won’t make you exceptional.

Bradberry and others explain that exceptional employees don’t possess God-given personality traits; they rely on simple, everyday EQ skills that anyone can incorporate into their repertoire.

Copyright 2015 John McGlinchey. All Rights Reserved.