A few years ago, I wrote an article for the National Center of Technology Institute about three amazing women. They were a technologist, an educator and a disability coach, and were highly competent in their respective fields. And they were champions of disability issues. Each had a common goal: to develop a simulation program that would revolutionize how children with cognitive disabilities learned social skills. My interview was based on the “Art of Collaboration” and it focused on how these women had the keen insight to develop and leverage mutual trust and respect for each other’s talents. Today, this insight is coined Emotional Intelligence.
Fast forward to 2013 and this cutting-edge topic is popping up in popular books, (think Daniel Pink) discussed in leadership trainings (think Adizes), and ranks high in relevant conversations among executives in the board room to employees in the lunch room. Why? Because smart leaders and individuals realize that they not only need to transform the workplace but also the workforce to keep up the pace with an ever-changing world.
Emotional Intelligence (EI), often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), describes an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups. In 1995, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist from Rutgers University, introduced his first book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books). This book discusses human competencies, such as self-awareness, self-discipline, persistence, empathy and trust, as being as important, if not more important, than a person’s traditionally-defined IQ. Since that time, he has written a series of books on the topic that have enhanced the concept and its application to various endeavors.
Today’s start-ups need to find substantial funds to develop a product, launch it and keep it alive in the noisy digital world. This is not an easy task, but the women I interviewed made it look easy. In our conversations, we talked about how emotional intelligence factored into their collaboration. They identified similar success traits to those expressed in Goleman’s theory:
- a journey of passionate stakeholders who strive to bring out the best in each other
- great amounts of empathy and a high degree of respect for individual talent
- a true desire to leave a lasting imprint on a person’s spirit
Really, in the workplace of today, leaving a lasting imprint on a person’s spirit? Has this happened to you recently? How did these intelligent, compassionate and fun-loving professionals rise above their competitive egos? They saw a calling, a purpose, a social good and wanted to dive in, tackle the problem and solve a need.
At their first encounter, one of them said that she was in awe of the other’s professional accomplishments. They knew little about each other’s values and character at that time and, although in awe, trust is not something easily earned. During the project, each woman contributed various talents and resources. They “breathed” teamwork and trust and believed that they possessed the right combination of skills, knowledge and fortitude to accomplish their mission. They were an undeniable force that kept moving forward in a positive direction.
A Moving Force
Each time the project changed directions, so did they. A great sense of humor helped them get through the hard spots. They let down their guard and allowed information and ideas to flow. They brainstormed and revised their plan to hold tight through the glitches. Without their EI qualities, their challenges might have seemed insurmountable, but they held to these 6 ideals surrounding their unique perspective:
- Vision creates the project’s framework; passion holds it together.
- Collaborators use humor and stamina to carry them through.
- Collaborators know what they don’t know and what they need.
- Collaborators chip in when the reality of tasks become burdensome.
- Collaborators rely on living discussions to keep projects flowing.
- Above all, mutual respect and trust outweigh unsettling moments in time.
Through the activities of these early edtech/disability pioneers, who believed reliance on each other and mutual trust was the genesis to a successful project, they achieved great things. They understood synergy. They respected each other’s knowledge, character and commitment. They produced a valuable contribution to society while creating lasting friendships.
These are the individuals that any company, organization or community would want on their team. How can you raise more awareness about EI in your workplace or for yourself? I welcome your comments!