Emotional Intelligence in Tech: How EQ Became the New IQ

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To be successful in today’s tech world, you need to be trilingual: you have to speak code, client, and colleague. We can have the best people, the right tools, and the greatest environment, but it still takes a certain kind of magic to get them to work together, deliver timely results, and build amazing relationships with our clients. We believe that this magic is called emotional intelligence. In this series of blog posts, we will share with you what emotional intelligence in tech is, how to develop it, and the positive difference it makes.  

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What do “knowing ourselves”, “collaborating with others,” and “understanding our clients” have in common? They are all prerequisites for building great software; they have nothing to do with code and everything to do with comprehending and managing human emotions and relationships. 

Yes! In the software development industry, we get to work with amazingly smart, skillful, and innovative minds. But the secret to creating successful and impactful technology projects relies not only on the talent, in ourselves or in our teams, but also in our capacity to communicate, collaborate, and combine our abilities into something bigger than ourselves.

That is where emotional intelligence comes into play.   

The Business Case for Emotional Intelligence in Tech

For technologists, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the edge we need to stand out above the rest: over 80% of competencies that differentiate top performers are in the domain of EQ (Harvard Business Review 2003) and 77% of employers say EQ skills are just as important as hard skills (Salesforce).

For a company, not investing in emotional intelligence may come at a high cost in terms of productivity and team dynamics, since 60‐80% of all issues within an organization result from difficult relationships between employees, and personality conflicts result in about 85% of all U.S. dismissals (Eleap Software). 

The bottom line is, emotional intelligence is directly linked to our individual and collective success, and it is even more impactful when modeled from the top down, as companies with high EQ executives are more likely to be highly profitable (Journal of General Management 2008).

 

Understanding Emotional Intelligence in Tech

Emotional intelligence can be understood as a matrix of being aware and in control of ourselves and our interactions with others:

SelfOthers
AwarenessSelf AwarenessSocial Awareness
Control Self ManagementRelationship Management

 

Self Awareness – Being aware of our feelings

Identifying our emotions and being aware of their triggers and their impact is the first step for developing emotional intelligence. These exercises require us to be observant of ourselves, reflect on the causes for our emotional state, and even learn to sit with emotions that push us out of our comfort zone. However, once we understand what we are feeling and why we will be able to better inform our decision-making and prepare for different circumstances.

Scenario: During technical grooming sessions, you are constantly interrupted by a colleague. Does that make you feel frustrated because your ideas are not getting across? or Are you angry because you feel your role is not respected?

Self Management – Responding, not reacting

Once we are aware of our emotions, we are tasked with managing them appropriately. This does not mean ignoring them or repressing them, and it is not about acting on them out of impulse or instinct. Rather, it’s about making more assertive decisions by putting some distance between our emotions and our actions. By taking a pause, after recognizing our emotions and their triggers, we can evaluate and choose a better course of action or find a healthy outlet for overwhelming feelings. 

Scenario: Are you disregarding your colleague’s input because they interrupted you to provide it? Will you call them out during the meeting and voice how you feel? or Will you seek out the help of the facilitator to make your voice heard? Will you reach out to your colleague offline to improve your communication?

Social Awareness – Understanding and communicating with people

Learning to listen and observe those around us will help us recognize and understand the different moods an individual or group of people can have. When we pay attention to the behavior as well as the emotional makeup of others, their backgrounds, cultures, and identities, we have a greater capacity to “read the room,” and then incorporate different perspectives and sensitivities into our approaches.

Scenario: During the pandemic, it has been hard to interact face to face with the people in your team and see their posture, eye movements, facial expressions, etc…How do you do it in a virtual environment? Do you pay attention to the tone of their voice? Do you avoid multitasking so you can listen attentively and focus on your interactions?

Relationship Management – Building and deepening connections

Enhancing our understanding of those around us, their moods, and motives helps frame our interactions in a way that will better reach them, further improving the quality of our relationships with them. In the same way, we get to know ourselves and choose the way we want to act in response to that knowledge, we get to know others, so that we may act in a way that builds trust and strengthens our bonds. 

Scenario: Have you felt lost when joining a new team? Go ahead and share information about yourself with the rest of your teammates and make sure to show interest in other people’s stories as well! This is going to help create a sense of familiarity and belonging.

Emotional Intelligence in Action

We have seen this on our day to day: many of the reasons why software development projects stumble or fail to get good results are not strictly technical, but rather personal: 

Changes to Requirements and Missed Deadlines

We discover new things as we go along, as is not uncommon to find different needs as a project progresses. But how many times do we encounter missed, incomplete, or ambiguous requirements causing delays and rework? A high EQ can help us gather more complete information and confirm that we understand the full scope of it.

Little Testing Time, Lots of Bugs 

Have you ever found yourself in a position where there is not enough time to test? Or do you ever encounter bugs in production that could have been caught early on but QA was not involved? Emotional intelligence can assist you in making the case for investing time in quality assurance, and negotiate how to do it.  

Poor Team or Organizational Management

No team is free of problems. In reality, these problems can be an opportunity for growth. But in cases where conflict reigns, ideas clash, and tensions are high, it can be hard for anyone to work and thrive. By utilizing emotional intelligence, we can find the tools we need to create a work environment where all voices are heard, all perspectives are included, and conflicts are managed assertively.

Our products and services are made by people, with people, and for people, so of course, we can find human emotions and interactions at the core of our endeavors. Technology is no exception. This means human conflicts are in there, too. Fortunately, there are many ways in which we can increase our emotional intelligence and use it to directly impact both our personal and professional lives for the better.

 

Increasing your Emotional Intelligence

We envision Gorilla Logic as a company where emotional intelligence competencies are understood as fundamental for performance, delivery, and engagement. These expertises are taught, learned, and appreciated in the same manner as technical skills and are embraced by our Communities of Practice. We can build a high EQ by training our brains to create different connections, change behaviors, and develop new ones. In the next series of articles, we will explore each dimension of emotional intelligence and present practical techniques for developing and applying them in the tech world.

 

Next in the Series

  • EQ is the new IQ – Developing Self Awareness
  • EQ is the new IQ – Developing Self Management 
  • EQ is the new IQ – Developing Social Awareness 
  • EQ is the new IQ – Developing Relationship Management

 

 

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Katherine Serrano & Ari Reyes

Katherine Serrano and Arianna Reyes are passionate about working with people and leading high-performance development teams. As Scrum Masters, Delivery Managers, and Agile Coaches, they leverage their strong engineering background with sharp emotional intelligence skills, to positively impact technology-driven organizations.

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