Book Review - Executive Intelligence by Justin Menkes
There are countless theories as to what exactly makes for success at the executive level, as well as how you can predict the chances of hiring someone who will do well there. Justin Menkes takes a slightly different approach than most other books I've read on the subject. Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have makes a strong case for IQ-style testing, specifically focused on situations that executives face every day.
Section 1 - What Is Executive Intelligence - An Overview: Making the Invisible Visible; Executive Intelligence in Real Life; Executive Intelligence Explains Business Smarts; Critical Thinking - the Foundation of Executive Intelligence; Critical Thinking Applied to Business; Discovering Executive Intelligence; The Broad Reach of Executive Intelligence; The Competitive Advantage - Why Certain People Make the Difference; It Takes One to Know One; Beyond Ideas - How Great Results Happen
Section 2 - Why Is Executive Intelligence So Rare?: The Executive Intelligence Gap; No Time to Think - The Myth About Speed; Action Without Thought - The Reality of Executive Behavior; Blame It on the Brain; Connectionism; Common Errors of Business Judgment
Section 3 - Intelligence Is The Key: Beyond Academic Intelligence; How Intelligence Measures Are Created; The Changing Notions of Intelligence; IQ Tests and Managerial Work; Creating an Appropriate Executive IQ Test; Taking a Wrong Turn; The Charisma Trap; A Cult of Personality; Style and Personality - The Ongoing Distraction; The Cycle of Indirect Measures - A Revolving Door; The Evolution of the Job Interview; A Step in the Right Direction; The Limits of Past Behavioral Interviews (PBIs); The Mystery of Past Behavioral Interviews; What Do PBIs Actually Measure?; The Difference Between Knowledge and Intelligence; How Does One Measure Intelligence?; Test Format - A Crucial Ingredient
Section 4 - How Do You Measure Executive Intelligence?: Distinguishing Excellence; Executive Intelligence - Validation Behind the Theory; Teaching and Developing Executive Intelligence
Valuing Executive Intelligence; Appendix; Notes; Index
Menkes starts out by attempting to distill down the core essence of the types of decisions executives face each day. He comes up with three categories of decisions: tasks, people, and oneself. The effective executive is one that understands how each of these areas affects the others, and knows how to integrate his/her decisions so that all three are covered. He then goes on to explain how and why these skills are so often missing in management. Many of the problems end up being based on management myths which are accepted with little debate. For instance, making fast decisions is prized as a desirable trait. But being fast for its own sake is not a virtue. Sometimes it's necessary to step back, focus on gathering more information to round out the situation, and *then* make the decision based on all the facts, not the quick overview that often comes with "fast decision making".
So if "thinking" denotes a successful skill of an executive, how can you determine whether the person you're interviewing has it? The common technique in interviewing is to let the interviewee display desired skills based on past performance and behaviors. Again, that's a commonly accepted method in today's business world. But being able to spin your skills in a favorable light does not prove the skill of critical thinking. Menkes shows that statistically, a person's intelligence level is positively correlated to how well they will do in the job. The question then becomes how to test for "intelligence" in a way that is relevant to the job skills (tasks, people, and oneself) of the executive. He proposes a style of interviewing that places the interviewee in a particular scenario, asking the person how they would resolve the problem. Follow-up questions can delve deeper into the rationale behind the choices that were made. The goal isn't necessarily to get the "right" answer, but to find out if the person has the skills to critically examine a situation, bringing intelligence to bear on the solution.
To me, this book makes a lot of sense. It's far too common for someone to treat every problem as a nail since they've had great success in using their hammer to run another company. It's not that the hammer is bad, but the person wielding it needs to understand that it's not the answer to everything. If you're in an HR department responsible for hiring executive talent, reading Executive Intelligence is worth your time and effort. At the very least, it'll make you a bit more thoughtful when you ask the typical "tell me about a time when you..." question.