[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 6th of an eight-part series, where we delve deeper into the Whole Developer concept and each of its elements.
This week, we explore Emotional Intelligence, why it’s important, and how you can use it to be a more effective leader. If you missed the rest of the series, click here to check it out]
Ask just about any founder: when starting a company or working on a high-value project, the experience is often long and bumpy. So tell me this, Mr. Big Shot - as your team looks to you for guidance and a steady hand when tough times hit, are you cool, calm and collected... or are you buckling at the knees, teary eyed and calling for mommy?
On a team of any size, you must deal with tons of different personalities. You could have stubborn people, lazy people, hyper people, emotional people, optimists and/or pessimists working with you. Difficult, yes - however, these people may be integral parts of your team that aren’t so easily replaceable, so you must know how to deal with various types of people.
Oh, and that’s not even including the many others outside of your team you’ll need to deal with. When negotiating contracts, raising funding and forming partnerships, how people perceive you and how you perceive them can (quite literally) be the difference between success and failure.
How would you deal with Wonka, if he were your co-founder? Source: Imgflip
This is where emotional intelligence comes in. What is it exactly? Emotional intelligence, otherwise known as your “EQ” is the ability to identify, assess and control your own emotions, and to better understand others’ emotions (or motivations). When you hear someone talk about being able to “read people” or even just “being perceptive,” they’re referring to their degree of emotional intelligence.
Emotionally intelligent people are like social ninjas - able to easily navigate tricky social situations, and adapt to different people and groups. Even more than traditional intelligence (typically measured in “IQ”), emotional intelligence is a huge predictor of success. It explains why the most charismatic candidate - even if he/she’s not the most intelligent or even qualified one - gets the job or promotion. It’s the difference between “book smarts” and “street smarts” - and it’s a highly useful, even critical, skill for the Whole Developer to possess.
No caption necessary. Source: Imgflip
So, now that we know why emotional intelligence is important, here are some steps to improving yours:
- Understand that emotional intelligence is very important
This includes: being able to recognize your own emotions for what they are and understand their origins through self awareness, being socially aware of others’ emotions and recognizing group dynamics, managing relationships by getting along well with others through inspiration and influence, and being able to balance your needs with others through self management.
- Recognize stress triggers and learn how to deal with them.
If you don’t, many issues can seem more challenging than they really are. What can you do about it? First, accept your stress, understand that it’s a healthy response to being overwhelmed. Then, you can find ways to either avoid your stressors or reframe your problems by focusing on positives instead of negatives - sometimes, it just takes a different perspective to help a stressful situation.
Also, take action! Be better organized, as getting your priorities straight can help you break down responsibilities into manageable pieces. You can also make environmental changes (such as a cleaner work space), try relaxing activities such as long baths, massages or calming hobbies outside, and adjust your lifestyle to include eating healthier, sleeping more and getting more exercise.
- Be open minded, curious and agreeable.
Being narrow minded often indicates low emotional intelligence. Therefore, seek to understand and reflect upon others’ emotions and ideas. When your mind is open, it becomes easier to deal with conflicts in a positive manner. To strengthen this area, try listening to debates on tv or radio and considering both sides of the argument.
If you have a lot on your mind, write down your thoughts and ideas - critique these thoughts and think about why you may have these opinions. If you simply need to clear your mind, try going for a walk in a quiet area and getting away from it all. Also, increasing your trust in others helps you be agreeable.
- Be outgoing and empathetic.
Being more outgoing will also boost your communication skills, and you’ll create stronger and more satisfying relationships. To improve empathy, put yourself in the shoes of others. Maybe you have a friend who is going through a rough patch. See if you can actively imagine yourself in his/her position. How would you feel? What might help their situation? By doing this you will begin to understand others and develop empathy.
These are just some the steps to becoming more emotionally intelligent. You can read more here, and start adding another tool to your Whole Developer belt.
Keep following us for more on our Whole Developer series, and be sure to sign up for our program starting this fall. We’ll teach you about emotional intelligence and other skills for developers to become lean, mean and well-rounded members of the most exciting companies around. Learn more.