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Grit, collective emotional intelligence are foundations for a successful team

Grit, collective emotional intelligence are foundations for a successful team

Patrick Burke

A friend of mine, Ron, owns a successful manufacturing company with plants in the U.S. and Mexico. I was visiting him at his Rochester office and met some of his management team. I observed how collaborative they were with each other, and Ron was quick to give them the credit for the company’s good fortune. His company sells to the automotive industry, which is extremely competitive, so I was curious about how he went about building such a successful team.

He said it starts by hiring correctly, which is where many companies miss the target. He went on to say that what he has observed throughout his career is that the typical hiring process puts too much emphasis on past academic and professional achievement and too little on what personality experts call “cognitive control”, or as expressed to me in my youth: grit.

I said what does “grit” look like? He said it’s a person that exhibits high degrees of self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social effectiveness. I asked him how these qualities translate into business effectiveness.

We went on to discuss the common traits of his management team, including:

  • Understanding the market and think analytically to come up with a strategy.
  • The ability to measure, manage and constantly improve on a handful of key result drivers of the business impacting financial results.
  • A passion to please customers and work collaboratively to maximize their organizational power of persuasion.
  • Staying cool under pressure and setbacks never losing sight of the objective.

I indicated this list of traits didn’t seem particularly unique, though I understand he is putting more of an emphasis of the team’s collective “emotional” intelligence. This led me to ask; is there something more?   He said yes, many companies have teams that operate as individuals reporting to the CEO; I let, and in most cases require, my team to make critical business decisions as a group. He indicated early in his career he spent too much time being at the center of each decision, and that didn’t allow his team to grow. In addition, when he made a hire that didn’t fit in with the culture, he spent valuable time working around and rationalizing the problem rather than removing it.

It occurred to him one day that he had created a job he couldn’t quit, that’s when he decided to change.  He said initially the change was difficult, letting go was hard and seeing mistakes being made without him jumping in to fix it, even harder. Though in the end, his team working together is much more effective than any individual and creates a perpetual organizational cadence of success.

Patrick Burke is the managing principal of Burke Group, a Rochester-based retirement plan consulting & administration, actuarial services and compensation consulting firm. Contact him at [email protected].