Unsuccessful meetings with clients, internal team problems, customers ignoring developers, and failed projects. It’s not always easy to explain this rationally – and this is where emotional intelligence comes into play.
I’m often contacted by corporate technical leaders who want to change the behavior of their personnel so that they tell about their errors or difficulties at a stage when they can still be corrected, not after failure.
When surveyed, developers acknowledge that they are “ashamed to be incompetent”, or “if I ask for help, I’m a weakling”, etc. The emotion of shame hinders our work towards a result. An employee will stick to their guns to the last, and not report a problem, however reluctant they would be to let their manager down. Surely, they’re choosing between the result and seeing themselves as a hero or someone who knows everything, which for many may be the only source of their self-confidence.
I have developed a method that I call “Open Up Technique” while looking for a solution to this problem. It explains how such situation can be corrected, and its essence is that management must themselves nourish a mature attitude towards their own mistakes. For if a leader is ashamed to turn to a consultant and admit they don’ know something, so will the team stick to the same model.
Another aspect is to correct the behavioral template: instead of one of shame for not knowing something, it should be the one of “I don’t know, but I will in a minute”. And here it’s important for the leadership not to stall the process, but to encourage the employees. After all, to ask for help they need to overcome the embarrassment of failing or not knowing something. This will allow to build a trusting relationship within the team and achieve the desired objectives.
On Team And Monetization
Human communities operate by the same mathematical laws as the planets in the Solar system. Celestial objects influence each other to a certain degree, and should planetary parameters change, it would impact all the other elements of the system.
A developer team operates in the same way – it is a coherent system where all members are in synergy and interaction. Two people can’t occupy the same spot, and if one of the members changes it will necessarily impact the whole system.
The manager is “the Sun” in such a system. While other members focus on specific tasks, the manager’s job is to organize a systematic approach, lead the team to a result and keep track of things. For this reason, I normally do not work with developers individually, but with the entire system – the employees and their leader.
The problem is that in practice the system doesn’t necessarily function correctly. I often notice how developers prefer for the manager to communicate with the customer in their stead. It seems like the developers are trying to make up for their lack of soft skills at the expense of their manager. And if the manager has no technical background, he gets that condescending attitude: “I’m not saying I don’t respect you, but what do you know about my kick-ass code, you IT rudiment”.
Emotional intelligence can resolve this problem. One should set up the system in such a way that every participant is responsible for their own communication. Managerial functions should be explained to developers, as well as the idea that everyone on the team has their own tasks, often impossible for others. The employees must understand that communication is expensive, and that it brings money into the system. They must understand that success has a monetary expression, and that it is an achievement for each and every member of the system. After the system is tuned team relationships improve and meetings become more productive.
How To Increase Customer Meetings Efficiency
As I mentioned before, the team system is not always set up correctly, and it can be unbalanced for various reasons. This is the short path to errors and reduced productivity.
If there is no balance in the team, then at a customer meeting the emotions will be directed not towards filling the customer’s needs but at relationships between the employees. And at the meeting there are even more emotions that one needs to cope with somehow.
How do you find out if the team is a coherent system? Imagine a trampoline. What you can do on the trampoline – if anything at all! – depends on how evenly its edges are stretched. It’s the same with employees. How effective they are and whether they speak in one voice when communicating with the customer depends on the unity of the team system.
One can increase the efficiency of meetings with customers through one simple exercise. 10 minutes before the meeting the team gets together and discusses what it wants to convey to the customer. Setting this “standup” meeting correctly and tuning it to work as a coherent system will secure customer negotiation success even if there are ten customer representatives present.
How To Make The Customer Hear The Developer
To have their suggestions heard is any developer’s dream.
On a small project, the kick-off meeting is attended, say, by the designer, manager and developer. Usually the developer is silent at such initial meetings, because the required questions are being asked by other team members. It is rationally correct: the developer saved resources by being silent in these first meetings. However, customer reactions are formed not only in their rational brain, but also based on their emotions.
There’s never a second chance to make the first impression. If you pitched yourself as an empty space, this is what you will remain.
And later you will have to fight for your opinion: the customer will give more heed to other members of the team. This is the case when a few missed phrases will result in hours of persuasion and reasoning.
The solution to this problem is seemingly simple, but it is based on a solid 20 years of practical work with emotional intelligence, and studying real cases together with clients. To “stand up and be counted” it is necessary to speak to the customer at the very first meeting, invoking their emotional reaction. There are thousands of options how to do this. It can be raising your eyebrow in the right moment, or saying something like “I will only be listening today, my colleagues will be asking the questions, but I will be working to make you like the project”.
The toolset that a person with average level of emotional intelligence has will allow them not only “to be counted”, but also invoke precisely the emotion they want to get from the customer.
The Opportunities Emotional Intelligence Gives Us
It is practically impossible to avoid emotions in any sphere of human life. They will be produced even if they’re ignored or denied existence in a business environment.
The first people to speak about emotional intelligence in business were J. Mayer and P. Salovey, and it was further popularized by the American psychologist Daniel Goleman. Entrepreneurs rushed to sign up for emotional intelligence trainings, and tried to use them to develop business. However, emotions are hard to manage, the results are unpredictable, and there are few professionals in the field. Consequently, the objectives were not achieved, and businessmen were disappointed with the results.
Emotions are like human embedded software that one cannot uninstall. A startup button for this software is often in the hands of other people. My trainees say that they don’t want to be manipulated, and at the same time they admit dreaming of learning to manipulate others themselves. Behind this dream is a desire to take back “the controls” to their own emotions and understand how to deal with other people to get the required result.
Systematic development of emotional intelligence will help achieve that. Basing decisions not just on the rational, but on applying emotional intelligence to study the situation, gives a person undeniable business and career advantage.