Say you're putting together a team to tackle a critical project for your business. How do you decide whom to assign to this essential work? Do you find the smartest people in the company and put them all on the problem? Or do you look for some other balance of skills and background?
Entrepreneurs and other leaders struggle with this dilemma all the time. Helpfully, new research conducted by Harvard researchers and released by the National Bureau of Economic Research offers concrete guidance.
EQ beats IQ for teamwork.
The setup for the research was simple. The researchers recruited 255 volunteers and then evaluated them using standard tests of intelligence and personality before assigning them to work in groups to solve tricky problems. The research team then looked to see what traits among members predicted outstanding performance by the group.
High IQ, it turns out, wasn't correlated with better outcomes. What was? As Sarah Todd highlighted on Quartz recently, the key variable that supercharged a group's performance was having members with particularly high emotional intelligence (EQ) as measured by a common psychological test that has subjects guess people's emotions from looking at their faces.
Why did socially sensitive types boost performance more than big brains? The researchers found that those with high EQ were far better at keeping their teams on task and working efficiently. They also seem to motivate their team members to work more diligently when they're completing individual work.
Studies agree: EQ is underrated.
The bottom line here is pretty clear: When you're putting together a team, make sure you consider emotional skills as much if not more than intellectual ones. But while the takeaway is straightforward, it might meet resistance from some bosses more used to valuing the individual contributions of team members.
If that's you, it could be helpful to know that this one study isn't an outlier. Google research found EQ matters more than IQ or technical competence for becoming a successful manager. Research out of Columbia suggests the ROI on working to improve your EQ is far higher than that for working to get smarter. And a Yale study showed those with high EQ make dramatically better decisions.
So next time you've got a knotty problem to solve don't just look to the smartest people in the room. Instead, prioritize social skills when putting together your team and you're likely to see better results faster than if you just focus on IQ alone.