Being Smart Isn’t Enough

3 ways to serve differently and stand out.



Which one do you think is more important to your success in pharma:

a)     Your intelligence?

b)    Your ability to deal with people?

In our pharmaceutical arena, companies place a premium on intelligence when they hire. As a result, the IQ of people in your organization is generally high and the variability of IQ amongst your peers is low. There is likely, however, a great deal of variation in Emotional and Social Intelligence. Unlike IQ, which is hard to improve, EI and SI are skills that you can acquire. It follows then, that a great opportunity to differentiate yourself is by improving your EI and SI.

Check out this clip where Daniel Goleman explains this phenomenon.

(At least watch from minute 5:15 – 6:26)

When I first starting teaching pharma people how to be more influential, I would begin with what they say and do - how to use psychology and adult education to move HCPs forward to help them create better patient outcomes. I then realized that if they weren’t focused on patients, the skills I was teaching them could be used for evil. So I started teaching them how to be purpose-driven and focus on creating better patient outcomes. Then, I realized there were small set of people in the room who still weren’t influential. They were missing a certain something.

What was that “certain something”? It was their ability to deal with people; to manage their own emotions and the emotions of those around them; otherwise known as Emotional and Social Intelligence (EI and SI).We are now on the cusp of appreciating the full value of EI and SI. A high level of emotional mastery contributes significantly to your ability to engage, influence and persuade. In fact, some say that only 15 percent of success is due to intelligence or technical training, while the other 85 percent is due to the ability to deal with people successfully.

You may know everything there is to know about your job and your product, but if you don’t have the emotional and social intelligence to handle your emotions or those of the people around you, it’s just harder to get things done.

Emotions play a key role in our efforts to engage and influence because they are the single most powerful force that drive behavior and guide our decisions. EI and SI are now known to have more of an impact on success than IQ or personality!

The good news is that social and emotional intelligence can be worked on and improved throughout your life. The even better news is that when they improve, they will contribute to your success and satisfaction in many areas of life including work, health, your happiness (and even the happiness of your children). Below are just three ideas (of many) you can do each and every day to improve yours (and have more influence).                            

1)    Attunement: Attunement is the quality which flows from your complete ‘presence’ in moments of interaction with others. It is a kind of active listening and responding which is often described as rapport. Bill Clinton is a person who is often mentioned in this context. People who have met him often say that their conversation felt like it was between two old friends even if was only a brief encounter at a political fundraiser. In the age of multi-tasking, attunement is harder than ever. However, in this difficulty lays an opportunity. Given that so few people dedicate all their attention to a conversation, it should be relatively easy to rise above the crowd by focusing on this.

2)  Developing Others: Even if you don’t have people reporting to you, you can fulfill this role in informal ways. People with high emotional and social intelligence skills are often sought-out to coach and mentor their friends and colleagues (formally or informally). Accept these opportunities with grace and pride; they can generate some very rewarding moments, and can lead to an improved understanding of yourself.

3)  Inspiration: I love the image above that’s been circulating on social media. It resonates so deeply. Inspiring others is critical to influencing. It requires a deep understanding of what motivates a person or a group. It also requires you to collaboratively build a vision of how things could be that resonates with the needs of the group and individuals within the group. Finally, inspiration is the vehicle for bringing out the best in people, and giving them a context for their contribution.

Curious how you score on your EI and SI? Just email us here and we will send you a free 2-page self-assessment survey.


Jill Donahue and John Elliott are on a mission to help lift pharma - to build sales faster in a patient-focused way. They are the creators of the award-winning program EngageRx: The 3 Keys to Patient-focused Growth for pharma professionals. If you’re curious about EngageRx, you can receive a free module or their free teaching videos or connect with Jill and John on Linkedin or Jill on Twitter.


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