Human Resources: Minding Your Ps and Qs

We have so often heard this expression. It is interesting that Wikipedia tells us: “One origin of the story of ‘Mind your Ps and Qs’ comes from early printing presses. Printers placed individual letters on a frame to print a page of text. The letters were reversed, making it easy to mistake lowercase p’s and q’s in setting the type. A reminder to stay watchful of the details could have come from this time.”

Today I want to caution you about minding your Ps and Qs, but I have something different in mind. Unless you are a real newbie to the printing world, you have probably seen some of my articles or books in which I talk at some length about P for Personality. Over the years I have been a strong proponent of doing Personality Profiling Analysis during the hiring and interviewing process and also when working on developing employees or building a team. We have worked closely with Thomas International, the company that is the resource for our profiling tools. Together, we have established benchmarks for all positions in the graphics industry. We can tell you which profiles will work in a position and which will not. If the profile is not right, the employee will not be comfortable in the position and everyone will suffer as a result.

I prefer to use the Thomas profile system because it is a work-oriented system. There are many profiling systems available and many, like Thomas, are based on DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance), but they are more concerned about social compatibility. The Thomas system, on the other hand, evaluates the candidate three ways. The first way is the self-image. That is how you really are. If you repeat the profile system analysis at a later date, the self-image will rarely, if ever, change. The second way is the adjustment to the work environment. The third way is the behavior under stress.

All three are essential to ensuring a good fit. Today I want to spend time on the second evaluation: the adjustment to the work environment. Many candidates will not have the self-image to fit the position, but they will often adjust because they understand the environment and they can make the changes that are necessary to fit. In different positions they will make a different adjustment because they, once again, can successfully read the environment.


IQ Meets EQ

The ability of the individual to read the environment and adapt is a function of their Emotional Quotient; the first Q we need to understand. The other Q we need to understand is the Intelligence Quotient.

IQ (Intelligence Quotient) measures an individual’s intellectual, analytical, logical, and rational abilities. As such, it is concerned with verbal, spatial, and mathematical skills, cognitive intelligence or the capacity to understand, learn, recall, and think rationally, solve problems, and apply what one has learned. We recommend the use of the Wonderlic WPT to evaluate IQ. It is quick and accurate.

EQ/EI (Emotional Quotient) assesses one’s ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thoughts, to understand emotions and emotional meaning, and to reflectively regulate emotions in ways that promote emotional and intellectual growth. (Definition by Peter Salovey and Jack Mayers, who created the term Emotional Intelligence.) We recommend the BarOn EQ-i assessment to evaluate the emotional quotient.

In his book “Primal Leadership”, Daniel Goleman tells why emotional intelligence is important: “The rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick; not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and others. The new measure takes for granted that we have enough intellectual/cognitive ability and technical know-how to do our jobs, it focuses instead on personal qualities such as initiative and empathy, adaptability, and persuasiveness, which are emotional/behavioral competencies. Our level of emotional intelligence is not fixed genetically; it is largely learned and continues to grow and develop as we go through life and learn from our experiences.”

Reuven Bar-On who developed the BarOn EQ-i defines emotional intelligence as an array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures. The following is the summary of the areas evaluated by the BarOn EQ-i:


1. Intrapersonal (Dealing with You/How you feel about You)

- Self-Regard is the ability to respect and accept oneself as basically good and liking the way one is.

- Emotional Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize one’s feelings, to know what one is feeling and why, and to know what caused the feelings.

- Assertiveness is the ability to openly express feelings, beliefs, and thoughts and defend one’s rights in a non-destructive manner.

- Independence is the ability to be self-directed and self-controlled in one’s thinking and actions and to be free of emotional dependency, and to be self-reliant in planning and making important decisions.

- Self-Actualization pertains to the ability to realize one’s potential capacities and the striving to realize one’s full potential in life.


2. Interpersonal (Interacting with Others/How You Feel about Others)

- Empathy is the ability to be aware of, to understand, and to appreciate the feelings of others. Being sensitive to what, how, and why people feel the way they do. Being able to “emotionally read” others.

- Social Responsibility is the ability to demonstrate oneself as a cooperative, contributing, and constructive member of one’s social group. This involves acting in a responsible manner, even though one may not benefit personally.

- Interpersonal Relationship skill involves the ability to establish and maintain mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by intimacy and giving and receiving of affection. Mutual satisfaction includes meaningful social interactions that are rewarding and enjoyable.


3. Adaptability (Interacting with the Environment/Feelings about Reality)

- Problem Solving is the ability to identify and define problems as well as to generate and implement potentially effective solutions. This skill is linked to a desire to do one’s best and to confront problems rather than avoiding them. It deals with 1) sensing a problem and feeling confident and motivated to deal with it effectively, 2) defining and formulating the problem as clearly as possible, 3) generating as many solutions as possible, and 4) weighing the pros and cons and making a decision to implement one of the solutions.

- Reality Testing is the ability to assess the correspondence between what is experienced and what actually exists. It involves a search for existing evidence to support, confirm, and justify one’s feelings, perceptions, and thoughts and accurately sizing up a situation.


4. Stress Management (Dealing with Stress)

- Stress Tolerance is the ability to withstand adverse events and stressful situations without “falling apart” by actively and positively coping with stress. It is the ability to weather difficult situations without getting overwhelmed. This ability is based on 1) a capacity for choosing a course of action to cope with stress, 2) an optimistic disposition towards new experiences and change in general and towards one’s ability to deal positively with it, and 3) a feeling that one can control or influence the stressful situation/keeping calm/controlling the situation.

- Impulse Control is the ability to resist or delay an impulse, drive, or temptation to act. It involves being composed and controlling aggression, controlling hostility, and irresponsible behavior.


5. General Mood

- Optimism is the ability to look at the brighter side of life and maintain a positive attitude even in the face of adversity.

- Happiness is the ability to feel satisfied with one’s life, to enjoy oneself, and to have fun. It combines self-satisfaction, general contentment, and the ability to enjoy life. Happy people are able to “let their hair down and have fun”.

As we work with companies to find, develop, and retain top performers, we urge the use of the Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT) to determine IQ. We recommend the use of the Thomas Personal Profile System to determine the behavioral fit. For key management and sales roles, we also highly recommend the BarOn EQ-i. In today’s environment, our managers and employees need to be smart enough to understand, learn to use, and promote the new technology; they need the right personality to fit the team; and they need emotional intelligence to adapt to the environment.


Bottom Line

Owners and managers need to mind their Ps and Qs and ensure they fully evaluate candidates for potential hire, further development, or for promotion to leadership or sales roles. The tools are available. Use them!


Debra Thompson is president of TG & Associates. Her latest book, coauthored with Bill Greif, “No More Rotten Eggs – A Dozen Steps to Grade AA Talent Management”, has been published by McGraw-Hill and is available through bookstores everywhere or at Contact Debra or Bill at for information on the assessment tools that they provide that can help you evaluate your staff so that you can Mind your Ps and Qs and build a successful sales-driven team.