Article Date: 10/1/2008

Another Perspective on Achievement
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Another Perspective on Achievement

Intellect and technical skills may not be the ultimate driver of success.

Jim Thomas

For more than 10 years, psychologist Daniel Goleman has made a living popularizing emotional intelligence, or EI, in the world of business. Mr. Goleman argues that EI is a far more important driver of outstanding performance than is intellect or technical skill.

Search Google on "emotional intelligence," and you'll find 2.4 million references. Can this EI franchise help optometric practices? Here's my view: Like any other area of study, we can benefit from the EI tools that help us, regardless of whether we completely buy into the larger concept of EI.

Mr. Goleman identifies five competencies critical to EI :

1. Self awareness. The ability to recognize how your emotions and drives affect those around you. People with self awareness are confident and offer a realistic self assessment, including the flaws.

2. Self regulation. The ability to control or redirect impulses and moods. Self regulators remain calm in those high-stress situations. Think Clint Eastwood or better still, a leader or colleague who calmly faced a seemingly insurmountable practice challenge.

3. Motivation. A passion to work for reasons beyond money and status. Motivated people remain optimistic. Their commitment remains unwavering — even when things don't go their way.

4. Empathy. The ability to understand other's emotions and manage by accounting for their emotional needs. From a leadership perspective, this appears to be the most controversial competency. Yet, understanding that you can motivate some with a soft touch, while others need to tow the hard line, allows you to lead all your patients and staff all the time.

5. Social skill. Managing relationships and building networks with the ability to find common ground and build rapport. In a society where we can connect to so many people through so many media, skills in persuasion and leadership can yield exponential benefits in community awareness and referrals.

Mr. Goleman isn't anti-intelligence. "My argument is that emotional and social skills give people advantages in realms where such abilities make the most difference, like love and leadership," he writes on his Web site ( "EI trumps IQ in ‘soft’ domains, where intellect matters relatively little for success." The implication: In a locale where several practices offer similar services, the practice with the best EI will attract more patients, better staff and generally outperform its competitors. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2008