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China’s Secret Weapon

By Dr. Travis Bradberry and Lac D. Su, M.S.

“Made in China” just doesn’t mean what it used to. Manual labor from the country’s 1.3 billion citizens was long considered its sole competitive advantage in the global economy. While American business has turned a blind eye to the Chinese laborer, the country’s burgeoning skilled workforce now stands as the biggest competitive threat to American business today. How did this happen?

Forget that Wal-Mart imports $25 billion annually in goods from China—that’s old news. Today, China has the knowledge workers needed to take hold of sectors like finance, telecommunications, and computing. Surprised? Three years have passed since Chinese computer giant Lenovo paid $1.25 billion to buy IBM computer, and investment dollars have poured into the country since its entrance into the World Trade Organization way back in 2001. The sleeping giant is indeed stirring.

Knowledge workers everywhere lean on soft skills to perform, and a flood of research shows that emotional intelligence (EQ) is the single biggest predictor of their success. So, TalentSmart® researchers decided to head out and put 3,000 top Chinese executives to the test by measuring their emotional intelligence and comparing their scores to those of executives holding similar positions in the United States. Our unexpected findings illustrate the secret ingredients of China’s economic success, and a serious threat to America’s ability to compete in the global marketplace: discipline.

American executives averaged 15 points lower than the Chinese in self-management and relationship management—the two EQ skills that have the strongest ties to job performance because they indicate an executive’s ability to use emotions to his/her benefit in managing time, making good decisions, and relating to people.

The Chinese executives who participated in the study were homebred talent. All 3,000 were nationals from the public and private sectors who took the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal® test in Chinese. Their scores in self-awareness and social awareness, though a few points higher than the US sample, were statistically similar to those of US executives. This means executives in both countries have a similar awareness of emotions in themselves and others, but Chinese executives use this awareness to their benefit—and actions speak louder than words.

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