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Defining Intelligence

Intelligence at work is made up of three factors. The presence or lack of any of these factors affects a person’s “intelligence.” The most successful workers are strong in the following areas.

1. IQ (intelligence quotient)

IQ is a threshold competency. It’s necessary to have a certain IQ to work in many professions. But once you meet the threshold requirement of that field, IQ then accounts for only 4 percent to 25 percent of career success.

An IQ of at least 120 might be the threshold to become a doctor. However, a doctor with an IQ of 140 isn’t necessarily more successful than another doctor with an IQ of 130.

2. Expertise

Expertise includes technical knowledge, training, and experience. It’s the background people receive when they work at a job. In some ways, expertise is more important than IQ. After all, you can be a genius, but without specific training, you aren’t qualified to be a doctor.

Like IQ, expertise is a threshold competency. You need expertise to enter a field, but your technical knowledge alone won’t get you to the top.

3. Emotional intelligence

This is the ability to handle emotions appropriately and work well with others. Emotional intelligence works with IQ and expertise – a top performer has all of these qualities.

The more complex and high-level the job, the more important emotional intelligence becomes. A lack of emotional intelligence can detract from IQ and expertise, and make it difficult to work with or to manage teams.

When emotions rage out of control, smart people can act stupid. They may yell, say hurtful things, lower morale, even drive away customers. Because a lack of control can be damaging, emotional intelligence is especially important in the workplace.

IQ and expertise are threshold competencies; they’re sometimes required to enter a field. However, once these requirements are met, emotional intelligence accounts for the majority of on-the-job success.