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Jim Owens: Emotional Intelligence – an introduction

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What do you do when you have some disruptive  “team members”? Can you just move them elsewhere, or is there a better way?


Unfortunately most project managers do not have  the option (or the luxury) of changing team members. And even if you could  change team members, where would you put them? Because they are going to  cause trouble wherever they go.

So it’s really like the story of sweeping the  dust under the carpet – it works for a while, but eventually the lump gets  so big that you trip over it and so you’re forced to deal with it. Somehow you  have to deal with the cause and not just the symptoms.   And if you move all the socially maladjusted  people to one project, you would truly have the project from hell.

Skills for any job can be divided into “hard”  skills and “soft” skills. Hard skills are technical in nature, they are not  necessarily “difficult” skills, they are merely the specific technical skills  that you can learn or can be taught, such as knowledge of project schedules or  scope planning or risk management or a Project Management computer  program – such as Microsoft Project – and so on.

Soft skills have more to do with your personality  and so are not so easy to learn (but you can still learn them). They  include such things as how you treat others, leadership, willingness to  continually learn, creativity, interpersonal skills and so on.  Soft skills are  not easily taught, as someone once said, “Genuineness is hard to fake”.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent tears about,  “Emotional Intelligence” (EI), and your “Emotional Quotient” (EQ), a way  of quantifying your EI, just as your  IQ (supposedly) quantifies your  intelligence. The reason for this focus is that psychologists  have discovered that your success is life depends more on your EQ than your  IQ.

Let’s consider IQ first of all.

The concept of Intelligence Quotient was  developed over 100 years ago. Psychologists examined four fundamental areas  that they believed demonstrated a person’s intelligence. These areas were

1 Linguistic skills
2 Analytical skills
3 Spatial orientation
4 Logical reasoning

To determine one’s IQ, a person’s capability was measured in each of these areas (giving their academic age) and then divided by their chronologicalage. So if a child aged 10 was measured as having  an academic age of 12, then the IQ would be 12*100/10 = 120%.

The method has been universally accepted and went  unchallenged for a long time.But the problem was that many people with a higher IQ did not fare well in life, whilst some with a lower IQ did well.

The central problem with the concept of IQ is that there is very much more to intelligence than just the four topics  considered, and IQ focuses much more on hard skills. Now remember, hard skills are easier to learn than soft
skills, and that means that with the right training (or the wrong training – which ever way you look at it), people could  noticeably increase their IQ.

Additionally, some people who were clearly  “gifted” in the area of sport, dance, music and some artistic works, were  scoring lower on IQ scales, despite their obvious “intelligence”.

As the result of considerable research by Howard  Gardener, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, the previous  list of four areas was extended to seven.

1 Linguistic
2 Mathematical/Logical
3 Visual/Spatial
4 Musical
5 Physical
6 Interpersonal
7 Intrapersonal

Superficially, this is a good test, because it’s  starting to recognize areas of “intelligence” that were previously ignored.  But the anomalies were just reduced rather than removed.

In 1968, researchers in Stanford University onducted a profoundly simple experiment with children that had a profound  effect on how researchers viewed intelligence.

A group of four-year olds were placed in separate rooms and left alone with a single marshmallow. They were told that they  were allowed to eat the marshmallow, but if they waited until the  researcher returned to the room, then they would get 2 marshmallows instead of  just one.

Of course most of the children ate it  immediately, or a short time later. A small group however were able to wait (most by  devising distractions such as singing or playing), and were rewarded with a  second marshmallow when the research returned.

Ten years later, researchers discovered that the  “two marshmallow” children were more likely to be socially well adjusted,  better focused and able to handle stress, than their “one marshmallow” peers. Later the SAT scores for the same children  reinforced the findings, with the average score for “two marshmallow” children at  around 1250 and the average of the “one marshmallow” children was around  1050. Obviously Einstein and Stephen Hawking could have  held out for three marshmallows.

But one mind-boggling outcome of this exercise is  that the marshmallow test might be a better predictor of intelligence and  future success than the IQ test.

It is suggested that the reason for the success  in this test is that it has much more to do with the emotional self than with  the logical self – i.e. soft skills over hard skills.

EI and EQ research is still in its infancy, and  so there are disputes over some of the finer points of the research, but  universally researchers are agreed that the EQ is a far superior indicator of  future success than the IQ. But even better, there are techniques for improving your EQ.

One of the important features of Emotional  Intelligence is being able to read the emotions of others, this is called  “empathy” – not sympathy – empathy enables you to comprehend the emotions of  others, while sympathy causes you to experience the emotions of others.

As a project manager you will know that the  majority of communication is via some from of body language. Each person has  within them a central core of belief systems, and it is this central core that  “speaks” through our bodies, by gestures, movements, breathing rate,  body inclination, temperature, perspiration, even pheromones and so  on. When you have developed empathetic skills, then  you can detect when the words a person speaks are in conflict with their core belief.

When a person is causing problems in the team,  usually the person is not the problem, usually the person is experiencing a problem (maybe not even connected with work), and that problem is  manifesting itself in disruptive behavior.

Your job is to tune into the emotions of these  people as you talk with them and try to determine the true cause of the problem.

I have had a lot of success with people in the past, and a couple of notable failures.

Without going into too much detail, suffice to  say that what we perceive in life is not what we see. Our eyes and ears survey the world, but our various physiological processors covert these observations and map them into our core belief system.

So our eyes and ears observe someone smiling as  we enter the room, but our internal mapping system will read this as “that  person is happy” or “friendly” or “interested in me” or “laughing at  me”, depending upon our
previous experiences and our level of Emotional  Intelligence. I.e. we can’t just see anything without interpreting it; our  mind is constantly trying to make meaning out of every event.

Most of the team members that I have had problems  with were those whose internal mapping system was skewed towards  believing that someone (team member, customer, me, God) had a grudge against  them or held them in low esteem. But this really comes from their own low  self-esteem. The usual symptoms of this are that they become demanding – they want  more money, a better title, a better project, more recognition. No! what they  really want is their self-esteem increased.

This is a very wide field – maybe I should do a  write-up on more of these areas sometime. But for now I’ll close with –  your EQ is what determines your success in life more than your IQ. And increasing your Emotional Intelligence will help you be a better manager to  your staff and help you to
help them to become more valuable team members.

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