By Jim Wong, CPA | July 16, 2014

How would you rate your social intelligence?

Can you walk into a room and start a conversation with a group of staff accountants? Can you maneuver your way through an IT professionals networking reception where you don’t know a soul? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then your social savviness might carry you further than simply “social butterfly.” If accompanied with a high IQ, you’re probably on your way to becoming a successful leader, or already are one.

Nowadays, successful leaders are displaying more than just book smarts. They’re experts of the social game, too. Being socially adept constitutes more than just having a group of friends or colleagues that go out and have fun. It’s an actual skill—and one that can get you far in your career. So, if you’re vying for that Director of Finance, Controller or CIO role — or are already in the role and want to be more successful — it’s a good idea to reassess your social game to see if there’s a need to further develop your social intelligence.

A recent article in Forbes discusses why a high IQ isn’t the only common factor among successful leadership or C–level roles. Author Amy Morin says, “Social skills may be just as important as your intelligence when it comes to achieving success.” Based upon a research study by economist Catherine Weinberger, Morin explains, “Some people had landed positions that only required intelligence — like a number–crunching position. Others had obtained jobs that depended highly on social skills — such as sales positions. But, she noticed the highest–earning management positions and leadership roles were filled by people who possessed both intelligence and social adeptness.”

The accounting, finance and IT professions should be cognizant of this information. If the importance between social intelligence and one’s overall success isn’t clear, then look at it in terms of a paycheck. The article goes on to discuss how the overall office landscape has evolved. And, individuals who possess both industry knowledge and social adeptness, ultimately, earn more money.

But, if you don’t think you’re currently advanced in the social skills department, don’t fret. Just like any other type of skill, social intelligence can be developed over time. Psychology Today notes that just as you can learn to increase your vocabulary and general knowledge, you can better your social and emotional skills over time, as well.

Whether you’re a poor communicator, shy or passive–aggressive, become that successful leader within the accounting, finance and IT professions with these three, social–skill–improving strategies:

1. Read literature.
A recent New York Times article suggested reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, to improve social intelligence. This helped people better perform on tests measuring empathy, social perception and overall emotional intelligence.
2. Take a look at your environment.
Sometimes it’s your surrounding settings that effect your social interaction. Morin offers, “Group dynamics and office culture influence communication styles and strategies. Analyze how you communicate with your counterparts, superiors, subordinates, and fellow professionals and look for ways to improve upon your communication techniques.”
3. Request feedback.
It’s hard to be objective about yourself. If you ask your peers, colleagues or superiors to describe your level of social skills (even if anonymously), you’ll get a better picture of how others perceive you in social settings. This is yet another way to help you evaluate and develop your social intelligence.

Can you think of other ways for an accounting, finance or IT professional to improve their social skills? Comment below and let us know!

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