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Lessons Learned from a Barber

By Bruce Valk, CIO & VP, Silver Star Brands

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Bruce Valk, CIO & VP, Silver Star Brands

Growing up as a barber’s son in a small rural Wisconsin town, I was unknowingly an early student of emotional intelligence as I listened to and observed the diverse clientele of a one-chair barbershop. My early years of consciously processing barber’s yarns that ranged from emotional to irrational resulted in my head taking more spins than the barber chair. As time passed, I gained greater abilities to read people. I witnessed my father become counsel to a man who lost his wife of 45 years and effortlessly shift his attention to the next walk-in client, a trapper in for his annual Mohawk, not a single word was muttered.

“People with high EQ will have success in the workplace not only because they utilize social skills every day, but also because they can manage and understand emotional meanings, and accurately perceive others emotions”

Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a way to measure how a person recognizes his or her own emotions and other people's emotions and the ability to use this information in managing the emotional states for team thinking and behavior. No matter where you are in your career path, EQ can be improved with specific techniques and practice. Many studies indicate EQ scores decrease as you move up the corporate ladder due to the focus on metrics, ROI, and shareholder value which displace earlier job successes of helping others excel, hiring and organizational changes.

When asked by my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Larson to declare what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew barbering was not in my future. But with confidence I proclaimed, “my job has not been invented yet”, which quickly resulted in a brisk walk to see the principal and an immediate one-way ticket home to ‘think about it’. So much for a high IQ…

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a score derived from one of several standardized assessments designed to test intelligence. IQ is ability to learn, logical reasoning, and excellent math skills.

IQ and EQ are both vital in the business world. While having a high IQ will definitely offer advantages, EQ is a more necessary component not only to have a happy life, but also a positive impact on your career, as CIO’s are dealing with people. People with high EQ will have success in the workplace not only because they utilize social skills every day, but also because they can manage and understand emotional meanings, and accurately perceive others emotions.

I have been fortunate to observe people who had great relationships, extensive networks, and worked on the most important corporate projects. Their excellent social skills created opportunity to work successfully with executive and subordinate levels, exercised proper influence, team building, conflict management, and consistent valued collaboration across the company.

As my career progressed, functional success was the combination EQ and tacit knowledge through personal interactions and social networking in which people accepted and worked towards achieving the desired outcomes.

Headlines will continue to inform of corporate security violations, ever-sophisticated hacking techniques, and governmental data breaches. Validation of digital warfare is why insightful companies are adding technical ‘C’ level (Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer, Chief Innovation Office) seats to their boardroom as a strategy to protect assets, increase efficiency, improve profit, and create competitive advantages.

It is not about technology, it is about people. If you are a CIO and do not believe your job has not been invented, I strongly suggest you exercise your EQ and leverage your tacit knowledge. Maybe even, stop at Bob’s Barber Shop. It may be your last chance before the future passes you by.