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Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams

I generally get questions about API design, platform marketing and software management, but recently
I was asked something a bit different: “Which emotional intelligence traits do you value in your co-workers?” Good question!

In order to explain my perspective, I should first clarify the type of office environment I value. I work because I want to be in an exciting space; I want to be the best at what I'm doing, and run a team that’s committed to success. For these criteria to align, I need to work at a company that employs smart people with high intelligence quotients (IQs) in their respective areas of expertise.

However, even on software teams equipped with high IQs, having even one member with a low emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) can interfere with the entire team's ability to achieve project goals. Here are the top EQ traits I value on my teams:

1. Control your emotions. Nothing gets in the way of productivity more than someone “losing it” by getting overly caught up in their emotional reactions to a situation. If someone throws a chair across the office, the physical mess is a lot easier to clean up than the emotional one. What will frustrate me more than the act itself is if the entire company starts talking about it for a week, then my co-workers shift their focus off the projects that can further our shared goals.

2. Understand the perspectives of others. In sales, you need to empathize with your buyer if you want to turn them into a champion. In customer support, you need to understand that complaining customers are frustrated because they are experiencing difficulty using your product. In a meeting, you need to appreciate the variety of differing opinions and backgrounds of your colleagues in the room. Embracing these perspectives with openness and curiosity allows a team to collaborate creatively and uncover potential opportunities.

3. Be positive. Nothing was ever created by people who said "No" to work. "No" is a sure way to get nothing done. A “can-do” attitude enables people to explore and invent. It also comes in handy as a reminder to keep going when the going gets tough. Colleagues with this outlook exude positive energy that spreads to other team members and unites everyone around the excitement and attainability of the goal. This approach attracts positivity from others both within and outside of the company.

4. Share. Successful companies know how to share. Leaders who know how to “grow the pie” are the ones who attract and retain the best talent. Growing opportunity and sharing it is a way to build a bigger team with more talented people. A bigger team with more talent wins.

Screening for these EQ traits in an interview can be challenging, but it’s very much worth it! Surrounding yourself with people who have high EQs will make for a better journey and a better destination.

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