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Robert Holden On Intelligence & Success

March 9, 2010

Last week I attended a course at Henley Management School led by the well-known psychologist, author and all round guru – Robert Holden,  a leading expert in the area of intelligence and personal success. OK – I admit I feared too much touchey feeley stuff. And when the opening excercise involved saying hello to lots of people using a tribal technique … I sensed the day was going to be a cross between the David Brent and Hare Krishna schools of self-development. But – Holden’s approach is broad, challenging and useful. Yeah, this is the softer, people side of business stuff. Not my normal fix I admit. But then, when you get most things done through other people, when talent is a commodity and when successful teams are a premium, maybe there is something in this people stuff?  Firstly Holden identifies Four kinds of intelligence; 1 – Physical Intelligence (enthusiasm, motivation etc.) 2 – Emotional Intelligence (having a heart and passion for what you do and for people around you) 3 – IQ (ability to think and rationalise) and 4 – Spiritual Intelligence. No, not the re-aligning your chakras but knowing yourself.  I would favour the phrase Personal Intelligence – but that’s just me. Point is – it is interesting to see Intelligence in these four ways. The central point of Holden’s belief and one that resonated with most however was the point that we live in a Manic Society, that we are part of the Busy Generation that works in a Hyperactive Workplace. This has created what he terms a ‘Chronic Busyness’ – in which activity, often any activity, is the default. This in turn has created a lack of understanding of ‘Success’ – from a personal and team perspective. Instead – its light the fires and burn the tyres. For a course a Henley to question personal focus, output and productivity was certainly not what I expected but the man has definitely got a point. And, one could argue that there is a little alternative nowadays. Half as many people are being asked to produce twice as much and are demanded to be more and more innovative to combat more and more competition. Faster and faster.  The final part of Holden’s view is that success has to link to personal happiness too. Individuals who are happy and motivated tend to be more successful but he stressed this did not mean the cult of ego or self-esteem. Rather – it means knowing what you want and the kind of ways we measure success. For some, it may be the money, the car. Whilst for others it may be the people or the industry. ‘Know Thyself’ is nothing new of course (famously inscribed in the Temple of Delphi etc.) – but that is not to say it is not true. So – how does this apply to the daily chores? How does it relate to that meeting? What does it all mean? Well, my take out from the day was twofold. Firstly – get the right success factors (for people, team and business) in mind before charging off into tactics. What does success look and feel like? Secondly – you cannot be permanently busy and innovative. Something has to give – there has to be room and space. Philosophically, this seems right. You have some slack to take the strain. In marketing they often talk about the need for ‘business judo’, an ability to retain some business flexibility. And in partnerships you have to be able to understand and value the other party and ‘give something back’ – in order to get what you want. So – am I now a re-constructed individual, focused on happiness and realising that busyness is not the solution? Maybe. But in the meantime,  before I contemplate how stupidly busy we have all become I’ve just got to re-do my diary,  get that report template drafted, re-focus my team, develop a content plan …

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