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Seven Secrets to Success: Social Intelligence

Wicker Park Group periodically revisits some of our most popular blog posts. This is the third in a series of posts updated from 2013. The qualities explored continue to resonate with what clients are telling us they desperately need from outside counsel. So far, we have written about Zest, Grit and Self Control as well as Gratitude and Optimism.

In our ongoing look at the seven character traits of high achievers, we are devoting this post to an important one: social intelligence. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and expert in social intelligence, explains in an article for Harvard Business Review that neuroscience research has shown us the high value of social intelligence and its impact on successful leadership.

Without getting into the science behind it (which you can read about in the article), these are the main components of social intelligence:

  • Empathy: Do you understand what motivates others? Are you sensitive to their needs?
  • Attunement: Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
  • Organizational Awareness: Do you appreciate a group’s cultures and social networks?
  • Influence: Can you persuade others by appealing to their interests and getting key support?
  • Developing Others: Do you coach and mentor others with compassion?
  • Inspiration: Do you articulate a compelling vision and foster a positive emotional tone?
  • Teamwork: Do you foster cooperation and support all members?

In the current hypercompetitive marketplace, intelligence, competency, technical knowledge, responsiveness, tech savvy and good communication skills are merely the baseline expectations of sophisticated clients buying legal services. According to the clients we interview, the lawyers who stand out demonstrate higher social and emotional intelligence. A few recent examples from interviews:

“Firms should be hiring people who are easy to get along with and have good, open personalities. There are a lot of smart people and a lot of smart lawyers, but people want to work with people that they like.”

“What makes the lawyer so good is that he knows us so incredibly well. He knows the issues that are going to be important to us and he tends to pay attention to the industry in a way that connects to his knowing how we think about things.”

“Empathy is critical. And I’ll go one step farther and say so many of the young lawyers communicate online only and deprive themselves of the ability to show empathy—and that is a huge advantage [when you can empathize].”

“You have to understand the complexity of what we are dealing with on the personal side. The attorneys who get it say, ‘Here is how I would approach this, but tell me how you think we should frame it to work for the dynamics involved.’ It’s emotional intelligence and just understanding this unique world and how to be a service provider in that environment.”

“I need to connect, to talk to them, to know we can be open and honest and to have a collaborative relationship. The relationship piece and comfort are important, but they obviously have to have the expertise. He has very high emotional intelligence, and I think I do too. I want to work with people who do.”

Stand out with emotional and social intelligence: Put yourself in the client’s shoes, practice active listening, seek to connect with others and foster cooperation. Lawyers who practice social intelligence will make their clients feel valued, important, understood and respected.

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