We have been discussing the emotional intelligence domain of social awareness, which is about understanding the people we interact with. Social Awareness for project managers includes Empathy, Seeing Others Clearly, Organizational Awareness and Emotional Boundaries.
So how do we go about improving our social awareness? This post is about techniques you can use to understand and improve on your level of social awareness.
- Practice to Improve your empathetic listening skills. This is the single most important thing you can do. Practice listening with empathy, reminding yourself of the following key aspects of empathetic listening:
– Let them speak without helping them
– Maintain eye contact
– Give them your full attention
– Use playback and summarizing
– Orient to emotions
– Put yourselves in their shoes
– Suspending your agenda while listening.
- Take a Class on Empathetic Listening. Yes I believe it is that important. Find a class on empathetic listening techniques and learn all that you can.
- Track emotions during team meetings. Becoming aware of others is a skill we can learn if we practice. Use an emotional tally sheet like the one that is attached to track what people are feeling during meetings. Try it and see if you do not become more attuned to the thoughts and emotions of others. Download emotionally_tally_sheet.doc
Don’t worry that you won’t be ready to talk when the time comes, social awareness is about being aware of the other and not simply waiting for our own turn to talk. By the way, this technique is especially helpful during those interminable teleconferences where you cannot see everyone’s faces.
- Identify emotional Red Flags in others – In a previous post we discussed emotional red flags in others including:
– Inappropriate Humor
– Use of Sarcasm
– Passive Aggressive Behavior
Watch for those behaviors in others. When you see them happening, look beyond that behavior to understand what is really going on. Beneath these red flags is most likely a great deal of sadness, fear, or anger.
- Mirror Emotions – Mirroring is when we mirroring back what you believe others are feeling. When someone is describing a conflict they are having, you might sense their anger and say something like "that sounds frustrating" or "you sound angry". This helps to get the emotions out in the open, helps us to understand others, and can even help others understand themselves.
- Go to School – My mentor often tells me to "go to school" on effective people to learn how they do things effectively. Are there any potential teachers in your project environment that you could learn empathy and social awareness from? You can either study them from afar or ask them directly to help you learn or master what it is that they do.
- Track your own Emotions – Practice seeing others clearly by tracking your emotions during conversations, listening for emotion words, and watching their faces and body for non-verbal clues to emotions.
- Keep a journal – One way we can track our emotions is to keep a journal. Journaling as a great way to formalize our learning about ourselves and the individuals in our project environment. Try to approach it with discipline and write a little bit every day about what you are learning about others.
- Explore and learn about people – As the PM, we have the opportunity to interact with a number of stakeholders on our projects. Take the time to really explore each individual. Find the things that you have in common including where you grew up, went to school, and worked. What types of job did they have in college (if any)? What sports teams do they like? Do they have a family of their own? What is their ethnic or cultural background?
Learn about and appreciate both the differences and the things you have in common. PMs and leaders are always looking for areas of commonality and using them to connect others.
- What is the EMO? – It is sometimes helpful to determine the emotional modus operandi (EMO) of those on your team. Take a good look at each person and see if they fit it one of the emotional profiles we previously discussed:
Anxious Andy – Andy’s primary emotion is fear and he does everything he can to protect against losing his job.
Sadsack Sally – Sally is usually sad an victim-like; people view her as weak and ineffective.
Happy Harry – Harry is always optimistic and sometimes viewed as disconnected and not down to earth.
Irrational Ira – Ira is unpredictable and so people treat him with kid gloves.
Tight-lipped Tom – Tom is stewing with angry and everyone knows it but him.
Deadpan Dan – Dan doesn’t show any emotions which makes him difficult to read and predict.
All Business Bob – Bob is about productivity and tasks and doesn’t see a need for emotions or idle chit-chat not related to the task at hand.
- Systematically dissect the organizational culture. Treat this as a research paper. Talk to people, document the written rules and what you believe the unwritten rules are. Determine what behaviors are recognized and rewarded and which are not.
- Get some Feedback. You might try the direct approach and talk to members of your team or key stakeholders to get their input. Do they see you as empathetic? Are there things you could do to improve your level of empathy?
- Assess your project team – Use the assessment template we introduced previously to inventory those in our project environment. What does that tell us about each person? Does this help us to see others clearly?
- PM Mini Self-Assessment on Organizational Awareness – Use the following mini self-assessment to understand your level of organizational awareness. What steps would you need to take to improve your social awareness? Enlist the help of a mentor or accountability person.
PM Mini Assessment on Organizational Awareness
Level 1: Understands the formal structure and organization not only of the company, but of the client organization as well and operates accordingly.
Level 2: Understands the informal structure, climate and culture with the company. Knows where and whom to call and go to in order to make things happen or get things done. Knows the broader range of company capabilities that can be made available to a client.
Level 3: Understands the informal structure, climate and culture of the customers and vendor organizations as well as company. Knows who can make what kinds of decisions and the factors that will influence them and puts this knowledge to practical use.
Level 4: Understands the business of a customer more broadly that it is reflected in a given project. Gains credibility with customers for this broader understanding and can spot future opportunities for company.