You thought your team would be excited, or at least pleased. Automation, analytics, and all the other digital timesavers should be making their lives easier, right?

The truth is no one seems happy. Some employees have invented tortuous workarounds to keep using their new toys to continue working in the same old way. What went wrong? Why did your digital transformation fail?

Here’s the good news. The digital piece was a success. It’s the transformation that went off the rails. Instead of becoming butterflies and exploring what it’s like to fly, your people prefer the safety of their cocoons.   

Learn to Reinvent

By definition, transformation means a dramatic change. And what do people fear most? You got it—no one likes having to abandon habits that are as comfortable as an old pair of jeans. Remember that famous quote from Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Chances are your problems stem from focusing too much on technology and not enough on behavior.

Here’s another important bit of wisdom. This time from Travis Bradberry, author and Chief People Scientist, LeadX, “Digital transformation is not just about technology; it’s about people. And the key to managing people through change is emotional intelligence.”

What does it mean to be emotionally intelligent, and how can it improve your ability to utilize digital tools? Technology doesn’t just involve being faster and more efficient. It is driven by continuous reinvention.

The most successful organizations learn to ride that wave. They make the cultural shifts that enable thinking and problem-solving in ways that are compatible with rapid change. The internet is populated with examples of that evolution.

Amazon moved from being a bookstore to becoming a retail giant. They’ve created their own cloud computing platform, revolutionized logistics with prime delivery, and invested in AI and robotics.

Lego is another company that has consistently expanded its business model. They have identified new audiences while remaining true to their core values. They collaborated with popular franchises, developed video games and apps, and created products for adults.

Jack Welch explained the hamster wheel of digital invention perfectly. He said, “In a rapidly changing world, the only sustainable competitive advantage is to learn faster than the competition.” That’s a tall order. It requires shifts in behavior and culture that may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

The hamster wheel of digital invention means always having to learn faster than the competition.

Support Adaptation

Emotional intelligence offers a path to support teams and helps them acquire the skills to become digitally proficient.

EI describes the qualities that allow you to successfully manage your own emotions and better understand how the people around you are feeling. Some models are more focused on individuals and others on groups and culture.

EI is not a new concept. Its origins go back almost 100 years. Edward Thorndike’s theories on social intelligence in the 1920s and Abraham Maslow’s idea of the hierarchy of needs in the 1950s are early precursors.

Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” brought EI to popular attention.

These are the five key competencies that Goleman outlines. Each quality impacts your organization’s interpersonal dynamics. Building these skills helps teams to be comfortable in environments that are characterized by change. Better still, they encourage movement away from entrenched habits and toward new perspectives.

Empathy helps teams see beyond differences and connect on a human level.
  • Self-awareness—is the ability to assess your own skills and to understand your personal emotional landscape. Being self-aware helps us to acknowledge our fears and deal with the negative emotions that surface when we have to adapt to new circumstances or learn new skills. That openness is a gateway to innovation and creative problem-solving.
  • Self-regulation—or learning to effectively manage conflict, challenges, and stress is critical in fast-paced digital environments. Disruption promises to be a permanent feature of the business landscape. Teams need to be prepared to emotionally address uncertainty and ready to pivot when necessary.
  • Empathy—is the basis for all productive relationships. It’s the Golden Rule with a twist. Instead of treating others the way you would like to be treated, empathy is understanding what others need and acting accordingly. Empathy helps teams to see beyond differences and connect on a human level. It supports diversity in demographics and thought and is essential for building trust, transparency, and honest communication. This is also the skill that allows you to connect with your members and constituents and better understand their needs.
  • Motivation—supports developing strategy, setting goals, and staying focused. It helps leaders to keep themselves and others engaged and enthusiastic despite challenges.
  • Social skills—along with empathy help teams successfully collaborate to get work done. They promote the cross-departmental communication you need to accomplish digital initiatives.

These qualities create a strong digital culture. Introducing them into your organization can occur on several levels. The first step, as always, is to set an example yourself.

Think of the concept as a shared journey, an opportunity to build professional competence in a new and exciting area. Everyone will be practicing these skills together. Investigate training options and keep the various learning styles of your team in mind. There are plenty of online and in-person courses.

Taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator together might be a good launch strategy. This personality inventory helps people understand psychological preferences and how they impact behavior. It’s a fun and enlightening activity that puts self-awareness at the top of the agenda.

Ensure a long-term commitment to the process by Incorporating EI into your organization’s values and performance evaluations. Provide recognition and compensation that reflect its importance.

Hire Relationship Builders

Of course, the easiest way to promote EI in your organization is to hire people who already have these skills. But how do you identify those “hidden” talents? Be public about your priorities. Include EI qualifications in job descriptions and stress the importance of those skills during interviews.

Ask questions that invite self-evaluation. Use the time-honored chestnut about strengths and weaknesses, if you must. But instead of focusing on what people say they do or don’t do well; explore how they assess their abilities. Find out what motivates them to grow and where they would like to excel.

Questions like these probe below the surface:

  • If you started your own company what would its top values be?
  • Who inspires you and why?
  • What prompts you to ask for help? Give an example of a time you needed support from your colleagues.
  • Describe a situation where you helped someone else succeed on the job. What motivated you to lend a hand?

There is an entrenched notion that experience is more valuable than behavior or initiative. If you want to manage successful digital initiatives, try abandoning that thinking.

Instead, hire:

  • Enthusiastic learners  
  • Creative problem solvers
  • People who enjoy participating in a community and who bring out the best in others

Remember, ten year’s experience as an IT manager does not guarantee any of these qualities. But excellent emotional intelligence skills can offer them all.

Find EI on the outside by hiring right. Build EI from the inside with training. These discoveries will help your team break out of analog cocoons and use digital tools to fly.