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Tom Warner

Tech teams are better with empathy and emotional intelligence

I’ve worked in technical teams in organisations both tiny and monolithic in a number of different roles. My experience has shown me that while people in technology are among the most important and impactful contributors to the success of an organisation, they are often the most disconnected, under supported and unhappy people in many organisations.

My own journey has demonstrated the positive outcomes of increasing my emotional intelligence and empathy, not least at work. By doing so, I feel happier in my work, more effective at what I do and more connected to the people I work with. I have a burning desire to bring those experiences to ‘my people’, the techies, and helping them to develop in these areas has clear benefits for the organisations they work for.

Better quality of work and products

All the best developers, support reps and project managers I’ve known can connect and empathise with the real needs of their users and customers.  Empathy is a central consideration in user-centred design and design thinking, two core practices for modern innovation.

The teams I’ve enjoyed working in most have had people who knew themselves and their emotions, making effective connections with others easier and more sustainable. Emotional intelligence like this is core to Agile, one of the movements at the heart of many of the most resilient and successful organisations.

Better relationships with diverse team members 

Emotional intelligence and empathy is essential for connection to people who are different – the more emotionally intelligent the people in a team, the easier and more inclusive the experience of integration can feel for new and different people joining the team.

It’s a hard reality that the people in technology roles are among the least diverse, especially when it comes to gender. Diversity in general and particularly an increase in the number of women has been shown to have a positive effect on the collective and emotional intelligence of teams and thus on the potential for success of their organisations.

Staying relevant in the new tech world

The technology giants are already shifting their focus to the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy in their people and recruiting accordingly. Google run the Search Inside Yourself mindfulness-based emotional intelligence program, IBM have credited empathy as a key factor in their recent turnaround and new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reportedly recommended Nonviolent Communication, an approach rooted in empathy, to his senior leaders upon his arrival – a man after my own heart!

It is only a matter of time before other organisations start to follow suit in focussing on these more humanistic areas of development. This will have an impact both for people and their organisations; employers will increasingly value emotional intelligence as a core ability, and employees will demand more support and training in these areas.

As I’ve said before, people in technology are some of the brightest and hardest working people of any organisation. They can create and enable innovative new products and customer experiences, improve the working life and efficiency of other people and be the source of new ways of using data in market changing ways.

Doing these things requires a technology community that is connected to each other, the rest of the organisation and themselves – this can happen by supporting the development of emotional intelligence and empathy for the people in that community. Some of the ways we’ve found that help is personal development using Nonviolent (Collaborative) Communication, behavioural change tools like Do Something Different and meaningful experiences like our Church of fail.

If this is an area that interests you or you’d like to join the community we’re building for EI in tech, i’d love to talk you. Send me a message on tom.warner@nixonmcinnes.co.uk or @thoswarner and let’s get started.

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