I was recently approached by a consultant who had listened to one of my emotional intelligence podcasts. He was excited about the content and noted that he worked in the EQ arena as well. He wondered if I'd like to connect and whether I was interested in working with him on some volunteer work.
It seemed like a great opportunity to connect with someone as passionate as I am about EQ.
The first sign that he really didn't get it was that after inviting me to talk he told me to 'get on his calendar'. It's a bit of a subtlety, but that phrase has some serious connotations. Immediately this turned from a requested collaboration to a subordinate situation. He may not have realized the implications - but for someone who coaches project managers on emotional intelligence, it was a big miss.
There were additional signs that this interest in emotional intelligence wasn't what I expected. First, the only times he had on his calendar were very early morning my (West Coast) time. Added to that was the expectation that it would be a video call. I avoid early morning video calls whenever possible - I'm not a morning person to begin with, and being on camera at 6:00 AM means getting up a lot earlier to be comfortable being seen. But I decided I'd give it a try and scheduled a meeting.
The morning of the meeting, (after an unusually early rising) I found that the meeting had been cancelled because the consultant had to deal with some kind of work issue. OK, stuff happens to all of us and sometimes you have to cancel. But instead of offering a more personal connection, he told me to 'get on his calendar' again (that's right, 'told' not 'asked'). I wrote back asking if he had time later in the day as I'm 3 hours earlier than he is. He told me he's really busy and invited me to a mid-afternoon open session he was holding that same day.
This is a classic series of events, although I must admit that usually the person involved in these kind of things doesn't start with a declaration that they're invested in emotional intelligence.
There are some good lessons here:
- If you feel you're adept at the use of emotional intelligence, take some time to trace your one-on-one interactions. Is there flexibility? Is there a give and take? Are you assuming that the other person as at least as important as you are?
- Don't assume that everyone is motivated by the same things that motivate you. Take some time to figure it out.
- 'Get on my calendar' is a loaded phrase. Especially if you're the one asking for a meeting, set it up together. Get on the phone - even sending an email list of available times is better than 'get on my calendar'.
- Realize that everyone has something to offer. For your team, this translates into everyone from your intern to your superstar is important. For you it means operating from the position that everyone is equally valuable - including yourself. If you operate from this belief it becomes obvious that you should collaborate on meeting times (and of course more important issues).
- Be mindful of time differences. In general you'll know where the folks you're working with are located, but even so you'll need to take the time to understand the environment and how the person (and possibly the culture) operates. At the very least learn each person's preferred work begin and end times. People have obligations and interests outside of work that you should recognize and accommodate. (The number of times over the years that I had to walk out of meetings to pick up my child before daycare closed for the day is not to be believed - and the number of people I know who endangered their personal situations because they were too uncomfortable to walk out is pretty significant. These meetings were in person, same physical location - just people running meetings who didn't think or didn't care about the obligations of the others in the meetings.)
In general, if you just consider situations from the other person's point of view the best EQ path will be pretty clear.