EQ, short for Emotional Quotient and also known as EI, short for Emotional Intelligence, and the next resurgent craze in talent management, is very important in Supply Management given the regularity with which supply management professionals need to interact with suppliers and peers around the globe, the number of disruptions that occur on a semi-annual basis, and the intra- and inter-organizational conflicts they will be regularly called in to resolve. After all, people with high EI have more empathy, tend to stay calm under pressure, and have a knack for effectively solving conflict.
But, despite what Daniel Goleman may have claimed back in 1995 (when he authored a book titled Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ), it does not matter more than IQ. As Zoe Lewis, a director at Harvard Lewis, notes in this piece in CPO Agenda on how clever is no longer enough, EI must complement IQ. EI and IQ have equal value and it’s equally important for leaders to have a high IQ because in that position they need to be able to make certain decision. You can be the most motivated, empathic, and socially adept individual in the world, but if you don’t understand a balance sheet, ROI, or even the basics of a production line, there is no way you are going to effectively lead a manufacturing organization — or even make any important decision in its day to day management.
In Supply Management, IQ is just as important as it is in senior leadership. In order to be successful today, a Supply Management professional has to be a master of transition and technology — that includes Spend Analysis, Decision Optimization, and Predictive Analytic Demand Planning Solutions. That requires some serious IQ to understand not only how to use the tools, but what patterns to look for, what models to build, and what statistical and interpolative techniques are appropriate for the categories and commodities being sourced. You can be the most emotionally intelligent man, or woman, in the world and be perfect company for Jonathan Goldsmith, but if you don’t understand how to navigate a spend cube, breakdown costs into raw components acceptable to an optimization solution that uses a piecewise linear mixed integer programming model, or understand the difference between statistical interpolation and comparative pattern matching, well, let’s just say that there’s hundreds of thousands in technology purchases and licenses down the drain.
Of course, it is EQ that makes the difference between a good buyer and a great buyer as the dynamics of the position will continue to change much more along the way of relationship management. This is primarily because the need to reduce costs today is as dire as it ever was and traditional methods of working with suppliers and stakeholders only achieve 3% to 4% improvement a year — not the 30% to 40% improvement targets now placed on some buyers. Even spend analysis and decision optimization, the only two technologies in supply management proven to deliver year-over-year returns in the double digits (at 11% and 12% respectively), will not come close to these targets. Only collaborative sourcing techniques that utilize these technologies as part of joint efforts with suppliers to identify opportunities for significant cost reductions (which take major EQ as well as IQ to pull off) have a chance of delivering those returns.
And the good thing about EQ is that, unlike IQ, it can be improved over time. While you generally realize your IQ potential early on in your life, with effort, your EQ can keep increasing. Even if you start of with no social skills and are outcast like a Napoleon Dynamite, if your IQ is smart enough, you can still become a James Bond, or at least an Alastair Donald, who is a secret agent of business improvement. Once you develop self awareness, self-regulation, social skills, and eventually empathy can follow if your motivation, and patience, is strong enough. You can take self-assessments, courses, or get a mentor. It may not happen over night, but you can get there.
And you can get there faster if your organization makes the move from a training organization, where lessons are forgotten as soon as the next fad is brought in by senior management, to a learning organization where best-in-class methodologies, that are really only best-in-class for your competitor, are not force-fed from the top but developed bottom-up by motivated, engaged employees who want to make the organization a better place to work and share what they learn. That’s the foundation for true EQ in an organization.