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Emotional Intelligence for Technologists

In the early 2000’s, I ran across a book called Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee, and Richard Boyatzis. I was a new technology manager at a large bank, and I was hungry to learn more about how to become a more effective leader. What I didn’t know was that the concepts in this book would not just make me a better technologist or manager; they’d help me become a better person.

The authors introduced me to a foundational concept, Emotional Intelligence, which Daniel Goleman has written about in his earlier book by the same title. I had a natural aptitude for technology and was often considered as a “smart” guy – able to grasp complex subjects quickly and apply them to my work. But I was still challenged in areas that I didn’t realize: relationships.

Sure, I was a nice guy – fairly polite in interactions with my customers and team members. But often I could come across as disingenuous or even uncaring at the time. I didn’t have much patience for those that didn’t share my quick grasp of technology. It was never more evident to me than the day when a regular customer of mine said, “I’m on to you, Ken. You do good work and seem like you care, but deep down I know you don’t really give a shit.”He meant it as good natured ribbing, and I joked with him about it. But it stung like a slap in the face because it was true. I wanted people to think that I cared about their technology issue, but I didn’t – and people could tell. Not everyone had me figured out, but at least some of them did.So, that led me to dig deeper into the concept of Emotional Intelligence and see how I could improve in this area.

There were three things from the Emotional Intelligence materials that really helped me improve:

1. Empathy
2. Self-Awareness
3. Relationship Management

My challenge to you is to evaluate yourself in these three areas. How do you apply them in your day to day work? Are you empathetic to your customers, or just sympathetic? How aware are you of the impression that you give others? What are you doing to better the relationships around you?