Digital transformation: Emotional intelligence required

Emotionally intelligent leadership is essential for a successful digital transformation. Consider this expert advice to inspire and motivate your team
91 readers like this.
Two employees weighing heart and brain for emotional intelligence

Digital transformation is not just about technology – it’s also about people. CIOs are tasked with driving a legacy-laden world into a digital one. Meanwhile, IT teams implementing this monumental shift can face depression and burnout.

The need for speed can fray emotions, stretch intelligence, and test patience. Pressure can challenge CIOs’ ability to make sound decisions and push the limits of their emotional intelligence (also known as EQ, a term created by Peter Salavoy and John Mayer and popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence).

As effective leaders, we need to be able to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions so we can positively influence the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence enhances our ability to function as leaders and guides us to manage ourselves and others well. It also helps us give and receive feedback, meet deadlines, deal with challenging relationships, function in resource-constrained environments, manage change, and deal with setbacks, failure, and yes – success.

[Also read: Digital transformation: 5 tips to help your team thrive amidst change.]

With this in mind, here are some key factors to keep in mind when strategizing and implementing digital transformation:

  • It’s not just about technology. Business needs are important. Understanding stakeholders’ requirements, mindset, and openness to change is the crux of EQ.
  • Employee experiences and expectations are continually changing, especially in the post-pandemic work environment. How well do you, as an IT leader, understand today’s workers and user segments, their aspirations, and their expectations from apps and services?
  • Learn how communication and change management happen. What are the barriers to change and adoption? How can you explain the benefits of transformation and make adoption easier? Understanding these issues requires EQ and maturity.
  • Be able to handle criticism, pushbacks, disappointments, roadblocks, and other situations that require a high level of EQ and maturity.
  • The key to taking action is to always listen to your team and ask the right questions. Leaders should always be listening, learning, and observing. In an organization, data is knowledge, and people are knowledgeable. Team members, partners, and customers are all sources that drive solutions.

Great CIOs listen to inspire their teams to create and deliver objectives. It takes emotional intelligence to support the team in meeting company goals while helping individuals realize personal success.

[ Read next: The new CEO: Chief Empathy Officer ]

Digital transformation involves overcoming obstacles. It takes discussion to remove friction and complexity to find solutions. Make sure every person on your team has what he or she needs to excel and to ensure the team drives transformation.

EQ includes asking open-ended questions. CIOs that make a difference ask their teams these kinds of questions:

  • What keeps you awake at night about IT and digital transformation?
  • How can we make things simpler and easier for you?
  • How can we empower you to accelerate digital transformation?

Equally important is to understand the flip side of EQ: destructive language that tears people down and discourages growth. Eliminate “low EQ” phrases and consider these tips:

  • Avoid the word “I” – replace “Because I said so,” for example, with “How can we get you the support you need to make this a success?”
  • Be inclusive. Instead of “That is a bad or dumb idea,” say “Your idea is a good starting point; let’s build on that.”
  • Create a fail-fast culture and avoid finger-pointing. Don’t ask, “Who approved that idea/decision?” Instead: “How can we make this decision work?”

Start with trust and respect instead of suspicion and people will wow you.

Remember, for a successful digital transformation, technology must work. But nothing works without people.

[Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask.]

Arun Ramchandran
Arun ‘Rak’ Ramchandran is the Global Head of the Hi-Tech, Platforms & Professional Services (HTPS) Vertical Business Unit, and is also the Global Market Leader for the Digital Core Transformation (DCT) Service Line at Hexaware.