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Communication and Emotional IQ in IT Transformation

Hunter Muller of HMG Strategy runs a really appealing series of CIO network conferences.  In his update from a recent summit, he features Saad Ayub, SVP and CIO of Scholastic Corporation, the world’s largest distributor and publisher of children’s books and a leader in educational technology and children’s media. As a panelist, Mr. Ayub talked about the four dimensions of continuous innovation and IT transformation.

The four dimensions are:

  1. Hiring
  2. The organizational model
  3. Changing processes
  4. Transforming the IT organization

It is the first item — hiring — that caught my attention, because he mentions two very coachable traits:  “Do they have the communication skills required to explain a great idea properly?  And “Do they have the emotional intelligence — the EQ — to follow through successfully.”


Communication — simple yet complex, easy to do and easy to blunder.  We send many hundreds of messages per day, including not just those we meant to send, but the message as the hearer interprets it, the response to what we said, and our reaction to the word exchange.

According to Kathy Walker (“Communication Basics,” Kansas State University), ‘We hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that, and remember only half of that.’  Whew, we don’t remember much at all!

Effective communication — at the core between technologists and their business colleagues — builds trust and respect, fosters learning and can lead to accomplishing goals.  ‘Written, oral and body language are important tools for sharing ideas, feelings and commitments.’

The components of effective communication are (from The University of Maine):

  • Active listening — the key is relaxed attention, listening with your whole body by using verbal and nonverbal skills
  • Direct, assertive expression — if half of communicating is listening, the other half is speaking and expressing what you think, feel or want in a clear, true and non-defensive way
  • Body language — we communicate as much or more through our body language as we do with words
  • Anger — expressing and receiving it as you are bound to encounter conflicts and feelings of anger
  • Dialogue — a continued, thoughtful exchange about the things that matter most

For business managers and IT managers to be able to hear each other — so they are on the same page — members of each group must know they are being heard and have the opportunity to respond and enter into a dialogue.

Emotional IQ

Emotional IQ is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how individuals:

  • Perceive and express themselves
  • Develop and maintain relationships
  • Cope with challenges
  • Use emotional information in a meaningful and challenging way to make decisions
  • Look at life

Unlike the IQ with which we are most familiar, Emotional IQ can be learned and behaviors enhanced, making it ideal for setting development objectives.

Emotional IQ is not aptitude, achievement, vocational interest, or personality.

Rather, it measures five distinct aspects of emotional and social functioning, all of which need to be deployed in our everyday interactions with colleagues, friends and family.  The five aspects are (as defined by Multi-Health Systems):
  1. —Self-Perception – understanding your emotions; addresses the inner self
  2. —Self-Expression – expressing your emotions; addresses the outward expression or the action component of one’s internal perception
  3. —Interpersonal – develop and maintain relationships; includes Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, and Social Responsibility
  4. —Decision Making – use emotions to make better decisions; addresses the ways in which one uses emotional information
  5. —Stress Management – cope with challenges; addresses how well one can manage emotions associated with change and unfamiliar or unpredictable circumstances
—It is gratifying to see a CIO in-tune with the non-technical skills necessary to become a successful technologist, which I define as someone who not only delivers what will make the business successful, but has a positive and strong ongoing relationship with the business to the extent that he or she becomes a true trusted advisor.