I’m writing this post on Valentine’s Day. In honor of this warm and fuzzy holiday, I want to encourage you to put Xs and Os in a place where we typically find ones and zeros.

The IT Department is the home of logic, analytics, data, and all things factual. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of objectivity. I’ve been arguing for weeding politics and preference out of decision-making for my entire career. But without the human perspective, numbers and statistics have limited meaning, especially in organizations that revolve around people.

I’m making the case for giving IT a bouquet of metaphorical hearts and flowers. Recently, I wrote about the need to take an empathetic approach to data. To appreciate the personalities behind the numbers, the number crunchers can also benefit from adding emotional intelligence to their already considerable arsenal of understanding.

EI is the skill that allows you to successfully manage your own emotions and better understand how others are feeling. It includes these five core competencies.

  • Self-awareness—The ability to assess your own skills and to understand your personal emotional landscape.
  • Self-regulation—Learning to navigate conflict, challenges, and stress.
  • Empathy—Understanding what others need and acting accordingly.
  • Motivation—Developing strategy, setting goals, and staying focused.
  • Social skills—Getting along with others and working successfully in a group.

Strategize and Humanize

Why is EI vital for tech leaders and their teams? The roles and responsibilities of IT professionals are expanding as fast as the sector explodes. Technologists are the ringmasters, guiding others to employ powerful new tools and become the acrobats associations need to succeed in digital markets. In this evolved environment, skill is essential, but it’s not enough.

During the early days of my career, the digital landscape was like the Wild West. We were trailblazers. We built websites and pioneered converting the paper office into data management systems. The work was exciting and new, but it was also compartmentalized. IT hadn’t jumped the corral. Other employees in the organization didn’t know or understand what we were doing, and they didn’t really care.

Back then, success was about outworking and outperforming the competition. Today the game has been turned upside down and shaken by the boots. Technology is democratized. It belongs to everyone. And, with the advent of AI, we can all work at the speed of the computer.

Now there is a new challenge. We must out-humanize and out-strategize the competition. It’s no longer about being the fastest or the most efficient; it’s about being the most trusted.

We must out humanize and out strategize the competition.

Sharon Rice, .orgSource Managing Director of Business Strategy, has been alerting us to the increasing need for organizational trust for some time now.

“Over the last year,” Sharon advises, “we’ve been talking about the deficit of trust that’s occurring throughout society. That skepticism extends across our institutions. And it’s not just in the United States. I don’t think members hold their organizations at the same level of esteem as they used to. Professionals are less certain about the value that membership delivers.”

Although no one ever built trust with a computer, IT still leads that charge. If you think the responsibility lies elsewhere, consider this. Our reputations, intentions, ambitions, and activities are represented by and deeply intertwined with our electronic systems.

Ask yourself, is your technology team creating digital initiatives that enhance human connections? Are they building solutions that are intuitive, accessible, and genuinely address the needs of your members and communities?

If your answer is yes, congratulations! We can all learn something from you. But if you’re not so sure, consider opening the door to a more empathetic perspective. EI training and skills create an environment of confidence. Employees are equipped and valued for their accomplishments, and members feel heard and understood.

These are additional benefits that EI delivers.

Stronger Facilitators

Even the most junior members of the IT team may be called on to be trainers and facilitators. Coaching is not a skill that comes naturally to most people. Developing confidence in the ability to understand the emotions of others and to manage individual feelings can help staffers to be comfortable in this supportive role. EI encourages providing guidance with humility and removing the ego from leadership.

In an environment where change is the norm and learning must be continuous, a team of adept facilitators is golden. They can move groups quickly into new ventures and promote enthusiasm for achieving challenging goals.

Empathetic Decisions

We tend to put ourselves at the center of every scenario. EI creates the more expansive vision needed to translate information into insight. An empathetic approach encourages seeing beyond the organization’s self-interest to accurately reveal both internal and external customers’ needs.

An empathetic approach puts data in context.

Putting the user at the center of IT solutions helps teams to foresee potential frustrations, anxieties, or unintended consequences and to design intuitive prompts or guides.

An empathetic approach gives data context. By using stories and case studies, IT staffers can create more compelling arguments and help leaders see how their decisions impact actions. Listening to data with an open-minded desire to hear the truth produces impactful outcomes. It also brings a level of transparency to the organization that builds trust and is highly attractive to younger members.   

Intentional Communication

When team members focus on understanding each other’s emotions and communication styles, they interact more effectively. Misunderstandings that might result in resentment or conflict are minimized, and the group moves forward more quickly without these distractions.

The ability to recognize when colleagues are stressed, fatigued, or frustrated allows for adjustments, like offering support, delegating tasks, or revising deadlines. These accommodations foster a supportive work environment and reduce burnout.

Effective Partnerships

IT teams are frequently the front line for establishing partnerships and contracts with vendors or other groups. High EQ equips them to navigate those negotiations smoothly. Active listening skills and the ability to use techniques like paraphrasing and restating questions lead to a better understanding of priorities and concerns. The drive toward clarity creates more equitable agreements and stronger partnerships.

By understanding stakeholder expectations and communicating openly, tech teams can avoid disappointments and build respect among their colleagues. EI helps teams explain challenging situations and propose solutions that encompass everyone’s point of view.

A Foundation of Trust

The benefits of putting those Xs and Os in technology initiatives go far beyond the IT department. An outward-facing approach, centered around empathy is the basis for trust. There isn’t a program, product, or service that delivers greater value.