Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Play Well With Others

In high school and college, I knew some people who were very smart, very book-smart. They could ace a test and write a great paper. There hands were perpetually raised with that "Oh, oh! I know! I know!" look of smug satisfaction on their faces. They were wonderful performers in an academic environment.

But I was never sure how they would perform outside of the safety of school. For one reason or another, I always felt something was missing. They lacked that social grace and ease that makes networking success a must. Some were too rude and abrasive. Yes, they might have been right, but the way they came across, they'd alienate everyone around them ... including those who were on their team.

Others were too shy and bashful. If the question didn't have an obvious and straight-forward answer, they were paralyzed. They thrived in the black and white nature of science and math. They excelled when they knew exactly what the teacher wanted. But life isn't that clear-cut all the time. There are questions with tons of possible answers. There is almost always more than one option. So what happens then?

I know a guy who is an expert in his field. Recently he was fired. He was blindsided. Yet, those familiar with his situation weren't at all. He felt secure because he was 'the expert' but his people skills were abysmal. You don't call a corporate initiative 'stupid' while on the phone with the people who put the initiative together. You don't routinely snap at subordinates and superiors alike. You don't walk around with a perpetual scowl day-after-day and not expect consequences.

Book smarts are great, don't get me wrong. But they have to be tempered by a good old-fashioned dose of street smarts and business savvy. That is a winning combination.

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