Understanding emotional intelligence (EI) is critical for most professionals but it is uniquely important for those who are instruments of change in an organization: process improvement professionals, project managers, and organizational change management SMEs.

Each of us has technical skills and aptitude (IQ) but it is our EI which is the something in each of us that is a bit "intangible"- it defines how we manage our behavior, navigate complexity and change, and make personal decisions that achieve results; it is important to know that EI is a flexible skill that is readily learned. EI is made up of 4 competencies: Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. The first two are our abilities to stay aware of our emotions and manage our behavior and tendencies. The latter two are our abilities to understand other people's behavior and motives and to manage relationships based on that knowledge. Self awareness is the cornerstone for developing Emotional Intelligence (EI). You can think of it as your baseline. Many things impact our EI including but not limited to our family, health, stress, self-esteem, recognition, friends, and change.

So why is it important? Because as instruments of change, we are inherently altering and impacting the EI of stakeholders. We need to be aware of our own emotional state as well as that of those upon whom change is being inflicted. As process improvement professionals, project managers, and change management practitioners, you can be viewed as a literal wrecking ball by those stakeholders who will be impacted by your project. The very term "process improvement professional" can be viewed as accusatory and threatening- improvement is needed because something isn't working (or isn't working as planned). When interacting with stakeholders, it is important to assess their perception of your project and what motivates them. Additionally, you should be aware of your perceptions and motivations as self awareness is foundational to relationship management. How do you do this? Cultivating a sense of curiosity and leveraging that ALWAYS as your starting point will be a huge step in the right direction. Challenge everything you think that you know, every assumption.

Additional techniques that will help you to maintain your emotional intelligence during challenging times are

  • Sseek first to understand, not to be understood
  • Don't be afraid to change the environment
  • Understand and accept where people are and adapt your approach to meet them where they are
  • Ask yourself "What's the motivation here?" before every key discussion
  • Focus on the outcome, but don't prescribe it
  • Practice these techniques.

EI is an ongoing and lifelong journey for which there are no fast track or "check the box" cheats.