From expanding your skillset, to showing that you care, EI is crucial to great leadership.
This is Part 2 of a 2-Part series. We are picking up the discussion of Emotional Intelligence from Part 1 in the June 2019 issue. After fully understanding Daniel Goleman’s model from Part 1 and references to his model, in this installment we are applying EI—both your Emotional Intelligence and the Emotional Intelligence of your team—with awareness of these various elements being the key.
Expanding Your Skillset
As discussed in the article, The Link between Emotional Intelligence, Collaboration, and Productivity by SamePage.com, “We have progressed extensively in understanding how Emotional Intelligence applies to business since the early 90’s. Daniel Goleman ignited the phrase ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI) in the 90’s, and having a technical competency has since become a baseline requirement to being a valuable member of a team. The aspect of EI is inclusive to interpersonal skills, which are demanded in a successful collaboration that rests on people’s ability to navigate group dynamics. The nature of the workplace has shifted to be more team-driven which has resulted in EI being a direct correlation to the success of the business as a whole.”
Getting Along with Teams
Work teams these days are frequently finding themselves spread across the office, the city, the country, even the world! What makes EI especially important for these teams?
The answer is both simple, yet complicated: it’s because we need open and free communication in a very unique way. Teamwork from across long distances requires extreme collaboration from both sides; it also requires members to be receptive to feedback—and not becoming defensive to questions or differing opinions—and, plainly, to just get along! Adapting to remote workers may be similar to—if not the same as—adapting to new cultures; the best way to do so is through having management properly utilize important EI skills.
Showing that You Care
The article, The Emotionally Intelligent Manger’s Guide to Leading Remote Teams, by Suzan Bond, references the communication theory, where “[…]if we consider that in face to face conversations, we experience 55% body language, 38% on the tone of voice, and only 7% on the actual words spoken.” If this is true, Suzan bond states, “The following question comes to mind: how can we translate that communication theory to a virtual team environment and still experience the same success as teams who are co-located?”
Utilizing every meeting with a remote team and making every one of them count can be a hard endeavor when so much is held back, forgotten, or put off due to other tangents in a phone call. If a majority of what we experience in face-to-face conversations come from body language, using video technology brings us drastically closer to better communication during meetings.
I’m going to reference back to my all-time favorite quote from Lee Bowlman and Terrance Deal from Leading with Soul: “If you show people you don’t care, they’ll return the favor. Show them you care and they’ll reciprocate.” Making communication more efficient and effective opens the door to talking about the “tough stuff” and establishing trust. At the core of Emotional Intelligence, actively listening and then effectively asking questions fills in missing information from a remote employee. Casual, in-person contact needs to be substituted in order to acquire information about employees that you would typically get from physically working around them. For instance, there are easily recognizable physical cues to sense when a team member is ready to quit that you just can’t catch with a remote employee. To make up for this, as well as substitute this type of interaction, one-to-one meetings must not only be quick status reports but should also be used for interactions that dig deeper with the employee. This can be as simple as asking the oft joked-about phrase, “How do you feel?” Taking the time when you do get to meet with them—preferably over video chat—to ask questions about what they find most important, as well as the challenges they are experiencing or may foresee helps acquire the right information you need as a manager. The key is to not only better understand what motivates them but to also make them feel more valued.
No Double Standards
One of the biggest challenges a manager can face, while managing both in office and remote workers, is to keep from playing favorites, or making one worker feel more favored than the other(s). It happens more often than one might expect, but having 2 different types of workers should not create 2 classes of employees. Tech workers (knowledge workers) are particularly sensitive to things being fair. When things do not seem fair, a multitude of problems arise. Team members away from the manager’s office can quickly think the “home team” gets better job assignments, or is listened to more. Also, a manager may easily fall into the trap for convenience, expediency, environments, systems, or any other factor that may make a job assignment seem preferential or biased. It takes extra vigilance and awareness from managers to keep from falling into this bad habit. Excellent communication is the key.
To keep from falling into this trap, follow a few rules to keep all workers on the same playing field. One example of a rule you can set is to standardize meetings for both onsite and offsite staff. This normalizes the remote experience and forces you to find an approach to remote meetings that isn’t unfair to the people offsite.
If America is a melting pot, tech is a petri dish. Tech teams tend to be intense mixes of people and personalities. It’s a great mix of all kinds of people from all over the world mixing together but still maintaining their own cultures, habits, and practices in communication and working in teams. A good manager recognizes this, but a great one takes their EI and does something with it. Hopefully gone are the days of having a meeting with an offshore team that sits quietly and listens to you and the home team, while they say nothing. You have no idea if they understand the work, the goals, or the priorities; you may not even know if they understand English! While culture plays a pivotal role in Emotional Intelligence, it’s up to you as an emotionally intelligent manager to listen, ask the right questions, observe, and most of all, CARE!
Making Sure Others are Aware
As a manager, your first job is to make teams aware of these principles and to know what you are looking for; you may even be judging team members by these skills-in addition to their tech abilities. Your culture statement is one of the first tactics for this. I’ve mentioned before, don’t HSPALTA (hire smart people and leave them alone). This is mentioned in an interview with Emerald Publishing; Thomas Davenport, President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College in Massachusetts, said “he supported segmenting knowledge workers and leaned towards a scheme based on their level of expertise and collaboration.” When this comes to soft-skills and managing emotions, I completely agree. I work with tech people every day, and we need help here. Taking initiative to make your team aware of their Emotional Intelligence by informing them of the topics, the attributes, and the importance of EI drives an important skillset home, initiates better awareness, and is a huge first step towards ultimately leading the team to success. I often meet tech workers who thought these ideas and touchy-feely emotions stuff had no place in the office. But today, it’s quite the opposite.
Dealing with Each Other
Empathy, respect, inclusivity… this is easy to say, but tougher to incorporate into the team. It starts with awareness. For example, letting people finish sentences and not cutting people off. Or, if the culture is based around faster communication, let people cut others off and say, ”don’t take being cut-off personally, we work with fast communication.” But keep your eye on this. This could get upsetting and out of hand rapidly to the point where it will need to change. Take a deep breath. I do this a lot! I also encourage it to my co-workers, to my staff, and to anyone. It’s always best to “react” after a deep breath. It’s my quicker version of “count to 10.”
It’s clear that Daniel Goleman’s research spoke for itself: Emotional Intelligence is huge for managers, leaders, or anyone aspiring to reach those positions. The biggest point I need to emphasize is that it all starts with you. Before you begin to improve your team’s EI, you need to work on yourself. Assessing your personal self-awareness, emotional management, effective communication, social awareness, and conflict resolution is your first step; take this EI quiz —which was featured in our June issue. After you review your score, you can work on taking steps (if necessary) to improve your EI. Being well-rounded in all of these areas is when you can begin to extend your hand towards others and lead your team towards success. Remember, if you find yourself lacking or struggling with any of these traits, look to practice them by being alert and mindful of your own actions and getting feedback from others on ways to improve. You need to always stay positive and have the drive to improve your EI; keep training yourself of better habits until it becomes second nature for you—it’s not going to happen overnight.
Like I mentioned previously, Emotional Intelligence is significantly more valuable than one might assume; recall the study used in Part 1 that found employers would prefer employees with a higher EI than technical skill level. In their mind, employees can more easily be taught a technical skill as opposed to Emotional Intelligence. Clients, the boss, and anyone who works with you and your team will remember how your team reacts and functions. When your team’s ship is running smoothly, you begin to develop a good reputation for yourself and your team. From the fruits of your labor come possible promotions and funding for projects. These rewards might come with a shift or change in your environment; but, if you’ve developed your EI skills far enough, you’ll be able to help spot issues sooner, and either diffuse them or fully avoid them.