Here in the United States, we have an idiomatic expression that says to avoid “shooting yourself in the foot.”

If you’re holding a weapon in your hand, you want to avoid accidentally firing it and shooting yourself in the foot.

While such an injury won’t kill you, it will most certainly be painful. More importantly, such an outcome is entirely preventable.

The expression is a metaphor for not being an obstacle to your own forward progress.

One way that people harm their own careers is by missing the emotional context of pivotal, high-stakes situations at work.

An extreme example would be asking your boss for a logically-deserved raise the day after he or she returns from a family member’s funeral.

Yes, you deserve it.

Yes, you can justify it.

But… there’s an emotional context (and in this case, a timing consideration) that must be considered to get the outcome you want.

Justifying the raise comes from IQ or intellectual intelligence.

Reading the emotional context of the situation and choosing the right time and place to ask comes from EQ or emotional intelligence.

When I was at McKinsey, the most common reasons for firing a first-year consultant fell in the category of “Poor EQ.”

In industry, the main reason that technically strong individual contributors don’t make it to manager or above also stems from Poor EQ.

Here’s the dilemma.

The entire academic system is built around rewarding high IQ. The business world values delivering results in real-world situations.

In practice, this means that once you’ve been promoted beyond the individual contributor level, you’re measured on the results you deliver through the work of the people you manage.

This poses a dilemma for many aspiring professionals.

The skill that enables you to do well in school (IQ), is quite different than the skill needed to do well in industry (especially beyond individual contributor roles).

In other words, what got you “here” won’t get you “there.”

This is why very smart and talented people report to managers that aren’t as intellectually talented or skilled as they are. (It’s because their manager grasps EQ and how to apply it to achieve his or her own career goals.)

If you’d like to learn how to improve your EQ skills, I’d encourage you to join the notification mailing list for the upcoming release of my program on How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career. To do so, submit the form below.

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