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.
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.