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Free of charge: The Art of Picking the Superstars


This article looks at the importance of appointing personnel who have the ability to work under pressure, have excellent client facing skills, are empathetic and have the 'soft' skills necessary to rally the resources necessary to achieve the end object. Using the sporting vernacular, these are the corporate superstars. The article takes a historic perspective on predicting employee performance with specific emphasis on the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) and its application in the workplace. (PDF file, 5 pages, 166 KB).

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Unformated preview of the document: 'The Art of Picking the Superstars' (Part 1):



The Goal – the Ability to Predict

The mantra chanted in the boardroom today is ‘optimisation’. Cost optimisation, revenue
optimisation, profit optimisation and by default, EBIT optimisation.
Over the years organisations have used a number of strategies to achieve the
‘optimisation’ objective, some good and others not so good. Downsizing was the buzzword
of the 1980’s, business process optimisation was favoured in the 1990’s and ‘organic
customer growth’ using CRM strategies seems to be the theme of the new millennium.
Without dispute, however, is the fact that those employees classified as ‘superstars’
make the biggest difference of all. The recent appointment of a 37 year old to the CEO
position of a major Australian bank with a remuneration package of circa $11 million is
a testament to the influence a ‘superstar’ can exert.

The ability to predict which of your potential or existing staff are going to be superstars,
and who’s not, has long been seen as the ‘holy grail’ of good management. In the 1990’s
we saw a swag of tests come into vogue aimed at predicting the performance levels.

In general they focused on either IQ or attitude, or a combination of both - ‘aptitude’. Up
until the late 1990’s most of these tests relied on confused methodologies, dubious
assumptions and provided limited accuracy in predicting future success.

Emotional Intelligence – What is it?

In the late 1990’s we saw a revolution with the publication of Dr Daniel Goleman’s book
Emotional Intelligence. The overriding theme of the research was that IQ had proven
itself a disappointment when it came to predicting career success or for that matter, life in

Rather, one’s emotional competencies or social intelligence were shown to be a far more
accurate predicator of performance than IQ.

The concept of ‘emotional intelligence’ (EI) was first coined by Professors Peter Salovey
and John Mayer of Yale and New Hampshire Universities in the early 1990’s. They defined
it as a ”form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s
feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide
one’s thinking and action”.

IQ counts for a maximum of 25% of achievement in work or life with some research
indicating it may be as low as 4-10%. IQ, however, is far from redundant. It is a
competency that determines what sort of job you’ll do rather then determining how well
you’ll do it.

That’s where emotional intelligence comes in. As Margot Cairnes points out in her book
Approaching the Corporate Heart, “those who have learnt to work with their emotions are
measurably more effective…the more complex the task the more important our Emotional
Intelligence becomes”.

EI and Leadership

Goleman points out that the ability to distinguish superstars from the average, irrespective
of what job they did, was more than twice as often, based on emotional competencies as
opposed to their technical skill profile. The characteristics most commonly displayed by
superstars were things like being effective, persuasive in communication, self discipline,
persistence and self awareness.

He goes on to say that “IQ and technical skill combined are only half as important as EI.
More importantly, the higher you go in the organisation, the more it matters. So if you
look at leadership positions…it’s 85% of the ingredients that set the best apart from the

In his work on leadership Goleman used data gathered by the Hay/McBer Consulting firm
to develop a better understanding of what constituted the leadership styles of some 3871
executives randomly selected from a pool of 20,000. Six styles emerged: the ‘coach’ who
tends to counsel their people; the ‘pace-setter’ who sets high energy and performance
levels that they expect everybody to aspire to; the ‘affiliate’ who builds a team that is loyal;
the ‘democrat’ who will try to forge consensus; the ‘coercive’ who demands immediate
compliance; and the ‘authorative’ who provides clear guidance based on their skills and
knowledge, and

Unformated preview of the document: 'The Art of Picking the Superstars':  Part 2, Part 3

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