On the first day of my first job as a software engineer, I remember some people talking about an engineer who had recently quit. These people were talking about how great he was, a team player, a hard-working, warm-hearted man. Then, someone said something that always stuck with me: the company had lost a real star.
Since then, I have had the honor to work, learn and follow the lead of many company stars. Co-workers, team leads, and business leaders; mentors that have taught me a lot about work and life. People that, just like that guy that I never knew, were not only great at their jobs, but they also were appreciated, welcomed, and admire. I have always wondered what makes those people real stars. I think the secret is that all of them share the same trait: they make use of their Emotional Intelligence.
I may be right, and I have some interesting figures to ponder: according to research conducted by TalentSmart (an EI consulting firm), 90% of high performers have high levels of EI. On the other hand, only 20% of low performers have above average EI.
What do we mean when we talk about Emotional Intelligence?
There are several definitions of Emotional intelligence, but in my opinion, EI is just the skill to harmonize proper and constructive responses, to events or situations, through our emotional mind and our rational mind.
Our rational mind is the state of our minds that we use when we approach daily life situations in an intellectual way—we make plans, make the best decisions, and act based on facts. Our emotional mind is the state of the mind in which our thoughts and actions are controlled by feelings; when we let our emotions dictate our behavior.
But those are not the only mental states we have. Through EI we can reach a new state, one beyond the rational and emotional minds. A stated where we can choose our thoughts and behaviors proactively and constructively. In this state, we are able to understand ours and other people emotions, respect them and work positively with them. Responding in an appropriate way to situations.
EI challenges on Software Development Teams
The complexity involved in the software industry and the different types of personalities involved, make the delivery of high-quality Information Technology services a challenge. This challenge can only be met through the collaboration, effort, and determination of a group of people willing to help each other. This requires that each team member exercise his or her EI skills in their everyday work.
When EI skills are not exercised properly, the group starts to experience difficulties. Miscommunications, negative thinking patterns, lack of focus... all these are symptoms of low levels of EI in the team. This causes drops in productivity, low efficiency, and low work quality. According to Travis Bradberry, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”, EI is responsible for 58% of job performance, and I would bet that number is even higher in the software industry.
But, what happens when we have at least one real star in our team?
Influence of EI on positive team performance
If you do not believe that one person EI can positively influence a team, consider the research from Dylan Minor, of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. In his research, he found that just the act of sitting near a high-performer (within a 25-foot radius) could improve your own performance (measured in speed and quality) by at least 15%. “Positive spillover” is the name the researchers gave to the effect and according to them, it could mean an extra $1 million in profits per year for the analyzed companies.
Other research on EI and software development performance has shown that the ability of team members to recognize and manage emotions increases the speed to market and correct software functionality in new products.
We cannot deny the influence of EI on performance. It is an effective way to manage our thoughts, direct our emotions, and behave productively in our daily tasks. Also, through the exercise of our EI, we influence our teams and the positive result of the projects we are involved in.
It is impressive how our own EI capability can be a positive influence on our company and its results. How the ability to deal effectively with emotions, in oneself and others, and learn how to respond constructively to emotional conflict, allows us to increase the clarity, energy, productivity of our teams. This has a positive effect on critical issues on software development projects, like project success, the speed to market, and the correct functionality of software products.
We believe that all this magic starts with the right level of communication. That is why at BigMinds we based our Engagement Model on client-centered communication, an approach we define as a “clear communication process between our consultants and clients that focus on openness, understanding, and involvement by the client in all critical decisions.” With this approach, we promote high EI levels in our teams, achieve higher team performance and higher client satisfaction, and strive every day to be your company's real star.
Do you need an Emotional Intelligence-skilled software development team? An enthusiastic team that will give you a new competitive advantage?
We are here to help you, drop me a line!