Being successful at work requires more than just doing the job—most successful employees have superior soft skills. Being smart will get you into the game, but a high IQ is not enough to make you successful, according to Jeff Kudisch, Assistant Dean of Corporate Relations, Managing Director of the Office of Career Services, and Professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Kudisch tells Investopedia, “Cognitive skills are the best predictor of job success. However, a lot of smart people are not successful because they lack soft skills.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s eloquent description of success includes winning the affection of small children or leaving the world better by planting a garden patch. But that’s not the definition we’re using in this article. We’re defining success very narrowly: being recognized and rewarded as a valuable employee who produces results, the kind of person who gets promoted and is on the fast-track to the C-suite.

To achieve that level of success, you need certain skills, and Kudisch categorizes them as “quotients.” Keep reading to discover what quotients are and why they’re crucial for success.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Kudisch says emotional intelligence involves traits like self-awareness and emotional control, extraordinarily listening and empathy. Individuals with a high level of emotional intelligence understand their strengths and weaknesses, and they try to understand why others act and feel the way they do.

According to the Harvard Business Review, people who lack emotional intelligence are quick to reach conclusions and blame others on the team for any problems. They also think other people tend to overact to their critical comments, and they place a low premium on being liked or popular at work.   

“The majority of the employers that I work with say they would love to have a college graduate with a 4.0 GPA, but would rather have someone with a 3.6 GPA, who has the ability to collaborate with others,” reveals Kudisch.

Passion Quotient (PQ)

The Gallup Organization reports that only 29% of employees are engaged at work. Sometimes, this may be a result of a negative company culture. However, some employees just don’t get excited about their job. While it’s not necessary to become a 24-hour worker, passionate workers have more than a passing interest in their work.

“Companies are looking for employees committed to intellectual curiosity, people who want to make an impact, and aren’t just there to pass the time for eight hours,” says Kudisch. He also says that some companies, like Deloitte, have a research arm dedicated to creating passionate workers. Deloitte recommends recruiting these types of employees as opposed to hiring applicants based on specific job skills. The company’s research reveals that passionate workers are more loyal to the organization, and when problems arise, they are more likely to see the potential for opportunities.    

Kudisch says passion is important because “It’s the fire in the belly to go above and beyond. Passionate employees will lose themselves in the pursuit of something better.”

Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

In a New York Times article, columnist Thomas Friedman comments on the increasing importance of soft skills stating, “It’s P.Q. and C.Q. and much as I.Q.” In the article, Friedman explains that the world has evolved from being connected to hyperconnected, which means that companies have access to “cheap labor and cheap genius.” As a result, employees have to work a lot harder to prove their value to organizations. 

As the trend shifts from specific job-related skills, companies look for job candidates that can adapt and respond to different cultures. “You may obtain your degree in Maryland, but end up working in Tennessee or even in China,” says Kudisch. In the global marketplace, it’s even more important to be able to understand and relate to different cultures.

Courage Quotient (CRQ)

Your courage quotient is determined by your ability to take action in spite of your fears. We’re not talking about putting your head in a lion’s mouth or handling poisonous snakes, but rather, the ability to go against the grain, take a stand for what you believe in, and admit your shortcomings.

“Companies want employees who have the willingness and bravery to make tough calls, defend their position when challenged, and also ask for help because they realize that they don’t know everything,” says Kudisch. He explains that the ability to disclose vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and take calculated risks is what helps companies grow and innovate. “At companies like Amazon, workers are expected to challenge top leadership. The leaders may not always agree, but they want to hear from their employees,” says Kudisch.

Improvisation Quotient (IMPQ)

Although you have a job description and must adhere to your job's policies and procedures, your job shouldn’t necessarily be scripted. Kudisch says companies value employees who can think on their feet, are open to innovation, and embrace new ideas. “In a changing marketplace, there is so much disruption, so someone who realizes that their job may change and is able to improvise has a much greater chance of being successful,” says Kudisch.    

In addition to these quotients, Kudisch says employees should be able to persuade and influence others. "Many employers hire people to work on teams. Although you don’t have a title, you have to be able to influence your peers."

Finally, successful employees have a willingness to learn. Kudisch says employers will teach you what they need you to know, but you need to be a sponge to absorb what they teach.

The Bottom Line

To succeed at work, you need to know your job inside-out, and to be able to perform it well. However, hard skills are only part of the equation. The ability to master a variety of soft skills will help you stand out at work and lead to recognition, rewards, and promotions.



Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.