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5 ways IT Pros can boost business EQ

Brain with 2 sides, one shooting out rainbow colors and the other side shooting out numbers

Hey, it’s IT Pro Day on Tuesday, September 19 – huge shout-out to global IT professionals as the brilliant, essential, digital, business-transformation team members you are! Since you work around the clock to keep our critical business systems and all of our can’t-live-without online apps and experiences running smoothly, how about a few tips to keep your business relationships running smoothly?

From my digital change-leadership lens, there are many opportunities for IT pros – at all levels – to work more effectively by more deeply uncovering, understanding and helping to solve real problems with your business partners. Boosting business EQ (emotional quotient) can help better nurture that partnership.

Since IT pros already have a super-high technology IQ (Intelligence Quotient), no need to focus there. However, there are many ways to boost your business EQ (Emotional  Quotient). For some IT professionals, this may not come naturally. So, why bother? Research shows that high EQ levels in any field, lead to healthier, more productive relationships with colleagues. Who can’t use help with that?

Additionally, those who do boost their EQ alongside their IT IQ stand out as trusted IT innovators that business leaders desperately need to help accelerate success during complicated digital change journeys. 

Here are five ways IT pros can improve self-awareness, strengthen your business mindset, and effectively connect with and lead others to better technology solutions.

1. Learn the business; live the business; speak the business.

Doesn’t matter what business function you’re in, it’s not enough to breeze through, pre-read PowerPoint decks then recite clichéd business lingo at your next Zoom meeting.

The most successful IT pros show up at business Town Halls, milestone celebrations, customer meetings. They collect unique insights to use in their design-solutioning process and future presentations, even though taking proactive steps to attend these social events may challenge their current comfort zones. Yes, you’ll be out of your element and amongst business people who talk and behave very differently from the IT crowd. But open up to those conversations, learn from them, and leverage those insights in your next Zoom meeting. Let attendees know you made the meeting, who you met, what you heard – using their business language, not esoteric programming IT speak. You’ll immediately get their attention and they’ll be impressed by your authentic outreach. 

2. Listen to your UX research partners: They have insights that can transform your work.

Know who your UX (user experience) research partner is? Most companies have UX teams. Find out who’s on your project and make them your new BFF. Their job is to understand your complex world of technology and translate that into elegant solutions your end-users can’t get enough of. They’ll help you better understand the business and human-design goals of your project. They’ll spend as much as time with you as needed to figure out where you’re coming from and how to communicate that to decision-makers.

My daughter is a UX researcher at a global tech company. She’s genuinely curious about user experiences and partners best with IT professionals who feel the same way. She also offers these words of caution: “User experiences are often not the same experiences as what the IT team has. That’s an ethnocentric point of view, assuming we have the same life experiences as others. We all need to be aware of that bias and move beyond it.” (Watch for my post next month about the insightful discussion I had with my daughter on this topic.)

Trust that your UX partner, your communications partners and others on your project team are super capable of making sense of your complicated techy topics! Building your EQ means building better relationships with so many more people who can help you be more successful. My daughter recommended this article, “Finding the Research Question Behind the Business Question” to get started. It’s packed with practical ideas to gain buy-in, uncover provocative questions, and help you and your stakeholders think more user-centrically.

Team collaborating on a project over a laptop

3. Understand and evolve from a "protection mindset" to a "learning mindset."

Sure, you love geeking out on linear programming, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and full-stack development forums, but branch out a bit and learn more about being a strong leader. Together, they’ll pay big dividends.

Take the McKinsey and Company book, Deliberate Calm, for example. It’s probably not one a lot of IT pros are currently reading, which is exactly why you should. It’s a book about how we can avoid our default fight-or-flight response under pressure and uncertainty, where the stakes to succeed are high. (Aren’t all IT projects like that?) One powerful leadership model that stood out for me involves improving our ability to move from an “expert” to “curious” mindset. As we all know, the more we stay stuck in our stern, know-it-all, “expert” mode, the more we tend to block out other people, their opinions, and new opportunities for collaboration on new solutions. We can also be perceived as self-righteous and not a good team player which further damages our business relationships.

Curating your “curious” mindset to perform at your best and offer fresh technical solutions in high-stress situations will do wonders for your IT career path. Keep it simple: Be humble and listen more than you talk. I get it: easier said than done since so many IT pros are so passionate about their work. But when it’s time to share your ideas, ask a lot of questions as you go. You’ll be learning from and teaching your colleagues. Collaborative comfort will seep in. You’ll build strong, trusted relationships.

4. Get over imposter syndrome.

We all have it to some degree. Despite our subject-matter expertise in unique areas, starting a new project in a new business category, in a new business culture, in knee-deep with strangers who know the business inside and out can be intimidating. So what? It happens all the time. Brilliant IT leaders from all over the world often don’t have intimate business knowledge on their projects, let alone knowledge of a specific region, culture or how successful business relationships work. 

No worries. Most of us work on global business transformations. Everyone wants to help team members learn what they need to know, and just as importantly, learn from them as well. Transparency is key. The sooner we admit we’re in the dark on a specific business process or other unfamiliar part of the project, the sooner others will be willing to help accelerate our learning curve. 

Question everything: As a digital change consultant myself, I’ve always believed about 75% of my value is based on me not being an FTE (full-time equivalent) in the organization I’m serving. It’s a gateway to asking the questions others don’t think to ask, to bring in fresh perspectives from other companies and industries we’ve worked in, to stay light, nimble, respectful and on our toes to always push the boundaries of what’s possible. That’s what business leaders value and desperately need. IT pros are in the perfect spot to dive deeper into these opportunities and deliver them like no one else can.

5. Embrace your position.

In talking with my colleagues about increasing IT EQ, the discussion always lands on the point that IT professionals are in the perfect position to kick up their game. You sit at the busy, hard-to-navigate intersection of digital transformation, business imperatives, delivering huge efficiency gains, providing visibility where it didn’t exist before, and having an IT IQ no else on the team has. You just need to realize that, embrace it, harness your natural gifts better and grow from it all.

I’ve heard it time and time again from the business: “We need a technology solution to this problem, not a business one.” Of course, it’s never a black-and-white situation but what an opportunity. IT pros are at the table while so many are still trying to get there. IT pros are looked up to for creative tech solutions to age-old business problems no one else can crack. IT pros often have your own teams of savvy tech partners around the world you can tap for improved collaboration that generates even more ideas.

The most successful IT pros cultivate self-awareness and invest in elevating their EQ and communication skills to take your IT skills to new levels. I’ve seen other IT pros slide backward as they insist on always being right, lose others with complicated technical language, and avoid putting themselves out there to learn the business, its leaders, and the people on the front lines.

Get change coaching and communications on your radar.

At Pivot, our own team works on improving our change and comms EQ every single day. We never take that for granted. Our values and how we deliver our Pivot Experience guides us on our journey and helps other IT leaders lead leaders of their company’s digital transformations

Reach out to learn how we can help you with yours – or use our principles to personalize your own EQ OS. You’ll soon see significant returns on the investment you make in better understanding, connecting and communicating with others in your organization. Believe it: Real change power is in your hands.

About the Author

John NielsonClient Lead

“Think like a marketer. Act like a change agent.” It’s John’s mantra when working to accelerate the digital change journeys of Fortune 500 organizations for the past 20 years. Expect his deep expertise in developing and deploying organizational change-management strategy & readiness activities, building and writing communication campaigns, and managing sponsors, teams & projects to educate, align, and engage all stakeholders in critical business initiatives. John also brings a fresh energy that inspires everyone to have a little fun along the way and make change stick. Proven. Creative. Gritty. Count on John for digital change leadership that sparks business transformation.

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