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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.

What’s happening here? Chinese execs are living the qualities that Americans permit HR to put into the company competency model. American leaders like how these behaviors look on paper, but they don’t walk their talk. Lip service is all the energy they are willing to waste on seeking feedback, teamwork, getting to know their peers, and following through on commitments.

Making business personal is nothing new in China. Executives ordinarily schedule dinner meetings with their staffs to talk about business trends, career aspirations, and family. People expect their leaders to set an eminent example in how they make decisions, connect with others, and improve. There is genuine shame in not fulfilling these duties because people really care about them— everyone knows it’s important.

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a pole, and he’ll catch a fish a week. Tell him what bait to use, and he’ll catch a fish a day. Show him how and where to fish, and he’ll have fish to eat for a lifetime.” EQ is not something we’re born with and can improve, unlike IQ. EQ is a flexible skill that is honed through knowledge and practice. An EQ test, then, should not be an isolated event. An objective test is the first step in a learning process that points to where and how you can change for the better.

The Emotional Intelligence Appraisal® tests your EQ in just 7 minutes, then issues your score profile with more than 10 hours of e-learning, featuring clips from Hollywood movies, television, and memorable historical events that illustrate the specific skills in action. Sometimes leadership can feel like you’re fishing in a new lake. Test yourself, and let us show you all of the good spots.



Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

Lac D. Su, M.S.

Lac D. Su is the Director of Strategic Alliances for TalentSmart, the leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, products, and training. He forms and manages relationships with key TalentSmart resellers and assists clients with the implementation of skill development initiatives.

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