Driving Next Level Success

Is it better to be smart or socially skilled in the workplace?

Posted on 10/08/2018 in Culture/Team Alignment, Featured Articles by Jack Speer

Big question for careers. Is it better to be SMART or SOCIALLY SKILLED in the workplace? Do high intelligence people have better careers? Is it fatal to be socially awkward in the workplace?


Is Intelligence the Most Important Factor in Success?

Think of the Mensa people—they’re really smart people.

I’d never heard of Mensa International until the 80’s, when the president of an advertising agency I had recently hired, ceremoniously introduced me to Jerry, my new head writer—a card carrying super intelligent Mensa International member.

I had to scurry around to find someone who could clue me in to tell me who Mensa is. I found out that my Mensa guy was on the top rung of the IQ ladder at about 160 IQ points. In today’s terms, members of Mensa are extremely rare. Out of a planet of 7.5 million people, there are about 134,000 Mensa members, a very thin slice of humanity.

To finish my story about Jerry, my new Mensa team member, I’d have to say he was just a fair writer, not great, not good at seeing a good angle for a story. I ended up spending nights rewriting many of his articles. I think Jerry turned out to be a disappointed person. He thought his intelligence would take him a lot further than it did.

Will Social Skills Move Your Career Forward?

On the other hand, social skills are important, but they will only take you so far. I have a friend of several years who is one of the top guys in the car wash where I take our vehicles. He is one of the most naturally socially skilled people I have ever known. He knows just what to say in any given situation and can tell a story with perfect timing. Although he has great social skills, he can’t escape the car wash to find a better job. Social skills can’t take him where he wants to go.

Giving People a Reason to Value You—Better Than Being Smart or Socially Skilled

As someone who is an expert at being the last person chosen for the 6th grade baseball team, I’m an authority on being the last guy picked.

I also know how you can go from last person chosen to the first person everyone wants on their team.

Let’s find out how:

What do you really bring to the table? What tips you off first that you don’t bring much to the table is when you’re assigned to a team, people don’t know how you’ll fit in or what you’ll do. When the time comes to cut budgets and lay people off, you’re at the top of the list because your skills can be combined with someone else’s duties, or worse yet—no one notices when you’re gone.

Having something of value to offer is like winning the lottery—you have to change your address and telephone number to escape the people trying to contact you. People in your organization will beat down your door when they find you have a meaningful, measurable skill that accomplishes goals and enables the team to complete their project successfully. Today sometimes technical wizards are the only ones who can make a project work—and people value them and don’t tend to cross them. Great marketing people with social media skills are hard to find and highly valued.

So spend some time today figuring out what are the things that people most value in what you do. You have more skills than you probably remember. Then figure out how you focus in on those skills and discover to whom they are valuable. Your skills are the money in your vault. Have skills and you can gain entrance into where you want to go. Without them, opportunity fades and people never know why.

The ability to get things done. If you’re smart, short, young or long in the tooth, people value most what you get done. In the board room and c-suite sometimes we see jockeying for position as more important than the success of the organization, which is alarming. Sometimes whole employee populations realize that they have to launch a new service or a product to survive, but they’re stuck in their present process and the values of yesteryear. Even socially awkward people of average intelligence succeed when they get the team across the goal line to win.

Intelligence Can Be Important. Intelligence can be a great asset in the workplace. Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are both thought to have IQ’s topping 200, keeping in mind that 120 IQ is a bright person. The average intelligence of a CEO is estimated at 135, which represents a gifted, highly intelligent person.

At the same time, focus and determination are more important than intelligence. Like it or not, approve or disapprove, high net worth people focus on basics such as a product or service in a space where there is already an established need. They are focused on revenues and expenses. Few are interested in nuance or subtleties. Intelligence can throw a person off course and distract them from the basics of earnings and profit. Don’t ever believe your success will be because you’re the smartest person in the room. Marketable skills and the ability to execute are much more important than high intelligence.

You Need Social Skills to Move Up and Survive. If two people have about the same skills and abilities, the more highly socially skilled is more likely to move up quickly and survive readily. Emotional Quotient (EQ) doesn’t always top IQ, although conventional wisdom says it does, but without social skills, geniuses often don’t survive.

IQ has often been thought of as hard wired, but we now know that IQ scores can rise in people who are life-long learners fueled by curiosity. Everyone should put themselves in the position of learning something that is difficult and challenging for them every year. Learning builds the synapses of the mind and increases mental capabilities.

*Mensa International and its logo are trademarks owned by Mensa.



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