My friend John Kennedy was kind enough to pass along an article from CIO magazine called Soft Skills for CIOs and Aspiring CIOs: Four Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence. The article talks about the importance of emotional intelligence and soft skills for all IT workers, from developers to CIOs. It goes on to talk about the four ways to boost your emotional intelligence including:
- Learn to Take Responsibility – Taking responsibility is defined as taking ownership to the extent you can for the situations in your life and creating the best from that.
- Take a Public Speaking Course – Author Jim Clemmer claims the ability to verbalize, persuade and influence are tightly interwoven in what is at the heart of emotional intelligence and the work of influencing or relating to others.
- Practice Yoga and Meditation – Yoga and meditation achieve mindfulness by using attention on breath as a tool to enable relaxed awareness, focus and objectivity.
- Take an Improv Class – Improv illustrate what gives emotional intelligence such importance—people need people. “Fundamentally you can’t do much in life alone” said Richard Boyatzis, one of the well known EI researchers interviewed for the article.
I would not have included items 2 and 4 in my own list but cannot argue with them being important. I also liked this quote from the article (the empasis is mine):
“Although we may think we don’t or shouldn’t bring our emotional selves to work, the truth is a bit different. For one thing, people want to hire, promote and simply be around people they like, those who are confident, even-keeled, optimistic, committed, trustworthy.”
I’ve heard a lot of reasons for improving your emotional intelligence but never heard it put quite this way. I do think it is absolutely true; people want to hire, promote and hang around with people they like. Likability and charisma are just as important to career advancement as those certifications and other technical skills.
I think it goes a little beyond like-ability. Simply put, IT professionals need to be able to play nice with others, specifically those on the business side. Few IT professionals are isolated anymore. Even the entry level developers need to communicate and build relationships with business analysts, project managers, end users, and even sponsors and clients. Emotional intelligence and soft skills are necessary to be effective.
Barbara Brown of Brown Wood Fish reminded me of some of the frustrations we had suffered through with problematic technology people in our shared dot.com past. She also reminded me of the Saturday Night Live skit “Nick Burns – Your Company’s Computer Guy”. Nick Burns was a computer support technician played by Jimmy Fallon. He was smart but smarmy and condescending to everyone he was supposed to help. The skit was funny to a lot of people because they knew people who behaved exactly like Nick. It was funny on TV, but, in the words of Borat “not so much” in the workplace.
I have been intrigued by this recent interest in emotional intelligence by IT professionals. I first noticed it at my workshops; folks would comment that the course was not just for project managers, that all IT professionals would enjoy it. I’ve met with a number of IT Managers to discuss what they believe is behind this recent interest. At least at CNA and Tellabs, the interest is coming from the top down; the IT leadership is driving it.
It will be interesting to see where this interest in emotional intelligence leads. For my part, I am tailoring some of my emotional intelligence to be more relavent to IT professionals.
If you have comments on Soft Skills for IT Professionals, I love to hear them.