Book Review: Smart Isn't Enough: Lessons from a Work Performance Coach

    By: PDMA Headquarters on Oct 04, 2013

    Book Review: Smart Isn't Enough: Lessons from a Work Performance Coach   

    By: Kenton R. HillXlibris.com , 2007 . 213 pages . 
    Review by: Preston G. Smith

    This is a short review because this book is not about product development directly. But it does directly address a serious dysfunction I have observed on several product development teams. Typically, such teams are staffed with very smart individuals—specifically, engineers and marketers who are exceptionally bright in quantitative skills but often lack the social skills needed to contribute effectively to a team effort. They withhold information, are unwilling to cooperate or pitch in outside their specialty, or may exhibit mood swings or be abusive. Often, they are so valuable technically that others try to ignore these shortcomings.

    In Smart Isn't Enough, Kenton Hill addresses this problem, maintaining that intellectual smarts aren't enough; one also needs what he calls personal intelligence (similar to what others have called emotional intelligence). As the subtitle suggests, Hill is a performance coach, and the book comprises six case studies (lessons) drawn from his consulting practice. These lessons—each in a chapter—illustrate his six personal intelligence competencies: (1) self-awareness; (2) self-regulation; (3) self-motivation; (4) social awareness; (5) relationship building; (6) interpersonal influence.

    For example, the self-awareness case study, “She Just Doesn't Get It” (p. 43), follows Cathy, a customer support services manager at a software company. “She was smart, analytical, professional—technically competent … but she was out of sync with her colleagues, especially her young direct reports” (p. 171). They found her overly focused on the numbers, unwilling to trust others or delegate, and out of touch with her emotions and theirs. The chapter follows Hill's work with Cathy, providing details of the interviews and tests used. Then in the back of the book (in a “Lessons” chapter), Hill summarizes, in one page, the lessons from the self-awareness case study and provides details on three tools used in this case study. Although Hill emphasizes that these are only examples of many possible tools, they provide a clear indication of the approach he uses to move clients toward higher states of self-awareness.

    After several months of working with Cathy, Hill's follow-up interviews with her co-workers found that she was “more approachable, listens and takes others' ideas into consideration, straight in communication, strong, clear, respectful, builds consensus, warmer, more trusting …” (p. 56). And Cathy said, “I think the work I've done trying to become more aware of myself, my emotions, my strengths and also the time I've spent trying to get to know each of my people better has helped me” (pp. 56–57). Within 18 months, she earned the promotion that had eluded her previously.

    Although the other lessons don't all end so happily ever after, the other five competencies proceed similarly: a chapter detailing the case study and a section in the concluding Lessons chapter summarizing the case and detailing the tools used.

    Another chapter covers the role of a coach in the process. The book concludes with a useful bibliography, mostly of books that should be easily accessible. Unfortunately, this book lacks an index, which would greatly improve its value as a reference when you return to it later.

    Hill's book has changed my thinking. Previously, when I encountered a product developer with lots of (technical) smarts but lacking the social skills to apply them effectively, I simply suggested that this person be removed from the team. Now I see that if this individual has an interest in improvement and in doing some hard work (probably with a coach), there is a happier alternative.

    Released: October 4, 2013, 8:56 am | Updated: October 30, 2013, 1:55 pm
    Keywords: PDMA Blog


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