When It Comes to the Workplace, Should We Forget IQ?

Traditionally IQ, Intelligence Quotient, was viewed as the measure for assessing an individual’s capacity to be successful in life. It was assumed that IQ was the predictor of being successful in the work world.

Yet this belief kept running up against the reality that many people with high IQ’s struggle in the workplace.

Deeper exploration of IQ indicated that it was primarily a measure of acquired facts and skills taught in schools and universities. So, as a predictor it was more effective in identifying those individuals who would perform well in an academic setting. However, academic settings are quite different from the work world: academic environments are well controlled; the workplace is not well controlled.

The workplace is a multi-disciplined, multi-dimensional environment requiring the ability to respond to ever changing demands. Success depends upon the flexibility to respond in practical ways to what occurs, whether anticipated or not.

This is why our Cleaver system focuses not on IQ but instead on Mental Agility. Decades ago, John Cleaver identified the importance of the fluidity with which one can apply her/his forms of intelligence to changing situations and conditions. He defined Mental Agility as ‘The range and flexibility of one’s ability to think, strategize, plan, problem solve and create new ideas necessary to effectively perform the critical tasks and responsibilities of a job position.’

Notice it is not the capacity; it is the ability to apply one’s mental capacities to changing job situations. Success requires the appropriate talents, the requisite skills to utilize the talents, and the motivation to apply them. Among these dimensions are the capacity to think under pressure, the ability to communicate thoughts and the need to translate ideas into action. We continue to explore how the many dimensions of mental capability surface in the workplace and how they map to different job tasks.

It is not IQ, it is Mental Agility that counts in the workplace. The ability to flexibly and fluidly apply one’s mental capacities to varying situations and circumstances in practical ways to meet the needs of the organization and the individual is critical. It is this fluidity that managers and executives seek in their fellow employees.

Photo by Ricardo Justus

Behavior vs. Personality: Determining The Best Workplace Assessment

For many leaders, effectively working with coworkers, supervisors, subordinates, and teams can be a persistent and confusing struggle. This struggle can arise from varying factors including lack of role clarity, responsibility overload, and misaligned values. But there is one aspect of effectively working with others that can (and should) be quantified and concretely addressed to increase productivity: behavior.

In our experience, many people confuse the concept of behavior with the concept of personality. The challenge is that personality – while popularized through assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – is a relatively subjective and broad concept. However behavior, which is often considered an aspect of personality, is measurable and more easily applied to leadership development and the world of work.

This is why at Cleaver Company, we believe behavior matters more in workplace profiling than personality. By understanding behavior, we are able to understand how we (and others) respond to our environment and make adjustments to that response that improves our leadership and ability to effectively work with others.

The Difference Between Behavior and Personality

While personality has a subjective definition that can encompass everything from cognition to emotion to human intangibles, behavior is narrowly defined as our response to our environment. This broad interpretation of personality is why assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have come under criticism for their effectiveness, especially in the workplace.

The study of behavior, on the other hand, is based on binary elements of perception and response, which makes it easier to quantify and study. Our ability to effectively assess behavior is due in large part to the work of William M. Marston, an early 20th century psychologist and researcher. In addition to creating the Wonder Woman comic, Marston was responsible for trailblazing the study and research of normal human behavior and laid the foundation for our Cleaver DISC Profile tool. From his research, Marston proposed that all individuals will view any situation and/or environment as either favorable or antagonistic (unfavorable), which in turn will yield an active or passive response. Or, more simply stated, that our behavior represents “how” we approach and complete various tasks, like meeting a deadline.

The Value of Understanding Behavior

The challenge is that each individual will respond differently to his or her environment, and often times do not have the self-knowledge or insight to predict how he or she will behave. For example, under the pressure of a deadline, we may lash out or we could shut down. Depending on whether we perceive the deadline as favorable or unfavorable, we may also feel excited or negatively energized by it. This myriad range of behavioral differences impacts how we will complete tasks and also how we will interpret the behavior of others related to task completion. Thus, conflicts and inefficiency emerge and – too often – are the norm for leaders, even at the best organizations.

However, by utilizing behavioral profiling tools like the Cleaver DISC Profile, we can begin to better understand our own behavior as well as each other’s, and in turn lead and work more effectively. And while it might be valuable to understand all the intangible and subjective elements of our personalities, there is no doubt that in the world of work our behavior – how tasks get completed – is a more immediately valuable and actionable focus for leaders.

Photo courtesy of David Andersen via Flickr

If Your Leaders Can’t Do This, Your Team Results Will Suffer

The concept of motivation has become ubiquitous in modern leadership, so much so that for many it has gone the way of other buzzwords and lost all real sense of actionable meaning and impact.

I know, because I have spent my entire career – first as a turnaround CEO and now as a Cleaver consultant – working with executives and companies who have a hollow appreciation and grasp of the role of motivation in leadership…and are paying for it in team results.

However, in my experience, motivation of teams is a timeless foundation of leadership success. No matter how many new, shiny, buzzworthy, or technology savvy strategies emerge (my LinkedIn Pulse feed seems to be full of them), motivation will never lose its place at the heart of leadership. This is why it has remained a core Cleaver Leadership Skill for decades, and why – in my experience – most successes (and failures) of leadership can be boiled down to motivation.

But how can we bring substance back to the motivation dialogue and identify practical approaches?

To answer that, I’d like to share an example from my days as a CEO.

A Case Study on the Impact of Motivation

The real impact of motivation became clear to me in 1979. After three years as the CEO of a turnaround situation at the largest 501[c] [3] VNA-Public Health organization in New Jersey, I was proud to see that the organization was finishing its 2nd year in the black after 4 years of running increasing deficits [1973-1977]. My mentor, Ozzie Nestor, PhD. a Dean of the Graduate Business School at Monmouth University, and I completed a debriefing to try to identify what went right, what did not , and why these contributing factors were imperative to this successful turnaround.

We examined the various actions taken with an eye not only on the actions themselves, but moving outside of the box to who the affected parties were for each action. One of the questions we asked was “Why did the staff commit themselves to moving the initiatives forward to success?” After all, several actions were negative (layoffs, no raises for 2 years) in nature and impacted them in a very direct fashion.

What emerged, clear as a bell, was motivation. Specifically, motivation in three distinctive areas:

Factual – Motivate Teams with Information: the exhaustive efforts to share data (financials, cash flows, rationales for actions) and remaining trust worthy/truthful in our actions, inspired the staff to analyze the data, etc. with an open mind.

Reasonable – Motivate Teams with Wisdom: once we had their attention with the data, we understood that their wisdom, which resides in the heart, assisted them to see the value of the actions to move forward.

Behavioral – Motivate Individuals with Self-Knowledge: many companies find this the hardest one to capture, because they lack the tools for understanding and discussing it. Really, it’s about tapping into what drives them or, what I often referred to as the “soul.” If you succeed here, it will not only move them forward, it will propel them forward & commit them to the organization.

Motivation and Results

It is possible for a leader to be successful if they are able to motivate in one of these three areas. However, the shelf life of that success will likely be short, or until the next problem arises and you start all over with the motivation process.

However, if your leaders can capture all three areas of motivation, success will not only be accelerated, it will endure.

As a responsible leader, this was a lesson that I have never forgot. It has guided me towards success throughout my career, and in turn has allowed me to facilitate the success of others