I get asked this question quite a lot. Everyone wants to know what the secret sauce is to succeeding in the corporate world.

This one thing will help you succeed in the corporate world

And I hate to disappoint but the answer is simpler than you might think. And no, the trick isn’t being smarter than everyone else.

It boils down to one thing: how you interact with people.

True, we can all rattle off examples of jerks who have succeeded, but in my experience those who succeeded most in the corporate world have elevated EQ skills. Surprising?

Not really.

I had lunch once with a very successful Vice Chairman of a company. He was the most personable person you’d ever met—he had a witty quip for everyone. He made everyone, from the waiter to the coat check assistant feel comfortable.

We got onto the topic of success and I asked him what his secret was. He answered by asking me if I watched basketball, and of course I said yes. He then said something to the effect that if you’ve made it to the NBA, you’re better than about every basketball player in the US.

You could go back to your neighborhood and whip every kid’s butt. Being in the corporate world is like this.

When you get to the level of VP, SVP or anything above, you’ve made it into the NBA. You’re better than a majority of people out there. However, you’re no smarter than the person next to you.

Which means the biggest thing—maybe the only thing—that takes you to the next level is your people skills. Your EQ skills.

If you lack empathy, if you find it difficult to be persuasive, communicative or get to the emotional gut of the matter, then you’ll likely stagnate.

I spend a lot of time talking to CEOs now about EQ and every single one of them has told me how important this is.

We just had Philip Krim join Radiate and he said one of the things he implemented early on was the “no a—holes” rule. He wanted only “good people” working at his company, Casper. Mellody Hobson echoed this view in her interview: “You can’t be brilliant and be a jerk and work with us, we just don’t, we just don’t tolerate that.” The price of admission for her company Ariel Investments is “being kind, nice and treating each other well.”

So to get ahead in the corporate world—don’t be the office jerk and play nice!

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn, adapted and republished on AlphaGamma.

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