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Do women teach men emotional intelligence?

If they are listening and paying attention might be your answer… But seriously there just might be a correlation between the success of a man and his ability to recognise that his wife has stuff to teach him, including emotional intelligence.

Marcie Schorr Hirsch writes in the Harvard Business Review how she compared two sets of executives (all men) and the relative success in their careers. She contrasted men who had started at approximately the same time in the same organization and shared the same educational achievement, as well as being of the same age and race. Half the sample had reached a good deal of career success and the other half had got stuck in middle ranking executive positions. What she was looking for was what really made the difference to success using 60 variables that are frequently quoted as success factors. Each individual was asked whether each of these variables was present in their background and if so how important it had been for their success.

It wasn’t an exhaustive survey, with only 24 participants, but some interesting talking points emerged. Firstly it didn’t really seem to make a significant difference which variable was present or the degree of importance that was given to it. However the interesting difference came when asked ‘how’ each variable had affected their career outcomes.

Marcie explains:

It seemed that extremely successful participants understood the value of individual elements of their careers in different ways than their only moderately successful counterparts. Take, for example, their marriages. Fully 22 of the 24 participants reported that they were married, and all 22 put “being married” in the category of factors that were highly important to their career achievement. But when asked to explain why being married had been helpful, moderately successful participants offered responses such as, “I always have a clean shirt in the closet,” or “I never have to interrupt my work to take the kids to an appointment.” They expressed appreciation for the contributions made by their partners by offering examples of the ways in which their wives functioned as helpmates in coping with the logistical demands of life.

The highly successful group’s answers had a different character. “My wife taught me everything I know about interpersonal skills” and “I never make an important business decision without consulting her” are representative of the explanations offered by the participants from the top group. They valued their wives for educating them in important areas, or for helping them see different angles on complex issues… Instead of defaulting to generic, role-based expectations, they recognized particular talents or strengths in their partners and identified opportunities to benefit from them.

It’s a fascinating set of results and to me suggests an ability to see beyond roles, job descriptions, male ego and other limiting points of view that tend to prevent men from being fully aware of the learning opportunities present. The highly successful might appear to have a greater ability to appreciate the abilities of the people in their lives and the requisite humbleness to learn from them.

It would be fascinating to hear from a wider sample and of course compare with a similar group of women but for now it makes an interesting talking point and might get you thinking about how you actively appreciate and learn from those around you.

Now I’ll just go and check this post with Samantha before I publish it….

For the original article on the Harvard Business Review site click here.

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