The Role of Emotional Intelligence in SAFe – Business Agility Planning When people think of intelligence, most associate it with IQ. But emotional intelligence is actually a better indication of how a person will succeed in their career. In this podcast episode, Jennifer Fawcett, SAFe Fellow and semi-retired Agile coach, consultant, and speaker joins us to discuss emotional intelligence, how it can help individuals and organizations to succeed, and the role it plays in SAFe for an effective business agility transformation in an organization. Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts Subscribe Share: When people think of intelligence, most associate it with IQ. But emotional intelligence is actually a better indication of how a person will succeed in their career. In this episode, Jennifer Fawcett, SAFe Fellow and semi-retired Agile coach, consultant, and speaker joins us to discuss emotional intelligence, how it can help individuals and organizations succeed, and the role it plays in SAFe. Melissa and Jennifer discuss topics including: Where to start with emotional intelligenceSoft skills versus hard skillsCoaching people around emotional intelligenceHow emotional intelligence affects flow and outcomes in a SAFe implementation Follow these links to Jennifer’s blog posts: The Unparalleled Value of Emotional Intelligence, Part OneThe Unparalleled Value of Emotional Intelligence, Part Two Hosted by: Melissa Reeve Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile, Inc. In this role, Melissa guides the marketing team, helping people better understand Scaled Agile, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and its mission. Connect with Melissa on LinkedIn. Guest: Jennifer Fawcett Jennifer is a retired, empathetic Lean and Agile leader, practitioner, coach, speaker, and consultant. A SAFe Fellow, she has contributed to and helped develop SAFe content and courseware. Her passion and focus have been in delivering value in the workplace and by creating communities and culture through effective product management, product ownership, executive portfolio coaching, and leadership. She has provided dedicated service in these areas to technology companies for over 35 years. Learn more about Jennifer on LinkedIn. Transcript Speaker 1: Looking for the latest news, experiences, and answers to questions about SAFe®? You’ve come to the right place. This podcast is for you, the SAFe community of practitioners, trainers, users, and everyone who engages SAFe on a daily basis. Melissa Reeve: Welcome to the SAFe Business Agility podcast recorded from our homes around the world. I’m Melissa Reeve, your host for today’s episode. Joining me today is Jennifer Fawcett, SAFe Fellow and semi-retired Agile coach, consultant, and speaker. Thanks for joining me today, Jennifer. It’s so great to have you back on the show. Jennifer Fawcett: Ah, thanks, Melissa. It’s always great to be back. Melissa Reeve: So in this episode, we’ll discuss emotional intelligence, how it can contribute to success for individuals and organizations, and the role it plays in SAFe. Let’s get started. So, Jennifer, most people associate intelligence with IQ, a number that represents a person’s reasoning ability. But you wrote in your blog post on scaledagile.com, that emotional intelligence is actually a better indicator of how a person will succeed in their career. Help us understand that. Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. Well, let’s start with the “what.” What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence represents a series of emotional competencies that manifest in how you show up in the workplace, how you show up in personal life, and in society. It’s your ability to recognize and control your emotions. And given that every enterprise is impacted by massive changes in the marketplaces these days, these emotional competencies and behaviors affect the human aspect of change—that natural resistance to change and the ability to inspire everyone around the shifts and direction, visions and value. And even more important, they impact our social networks: those Agile Release Trains and the complex interactions that happen within those networks that help grow your career and the careers of those around you. Melissa Reeve: So where do you think the most important place to start is when we’re talking about emotional intelligence? Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah, I think the most important emotional intelligence place to start is, in my view, with self and self-awareness. Now, once you intimately know yourself, who you are, and you’re able to reflect and manage and grow your self-awareness on how you show up and the impact that your words and your behaviors and your moods and your actions have around all the humans that you interact with, you create the ability to not only positively advance and succeed in your career, but you can also help those around you as well. Melissa Reeve: And I can really see how self-regulation and self-awareness can contribute to emotional intelligence. What about things like your ability to relate to others? I tend to think of emotional intelligence as the ability to also read the room and respond accordingly. Jennifer Fawcett: Well said, and so true. And this pulls on the empathy aspect of emotional intelligence. This is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and truly understand what’s happening from their perspective. What are they feeling? What are they thinking? What are they seeing? And what do they care about? And what don’t they care about? So reading the room is part of that. Watching for body language, a tilt of the head, your eyebrows furrowing, or the shoulders sinking or leaning in. So back to knowing-of-self, in order to be able to read the room and show up with empathy, recognizing and managing your own emotions creates that foundation for you to be able to show up with empathy and really understand from others’ perspectives. Melissa Reeve: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s the ability to hold this space for others’ perspectives too to really come in. So some people might say that these emotional intelligence competencies are soft skills, but you call them hard skills. What do you mean by that phrase? Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. Well, for one, these skills are tough to embody, because you have to be vulnerable as well as emotionally transparent and available. And not everyone wants to lead from the heart or become vulnerable in leadership. Now, Brené Brown says this well in her Dare to Lead book. She calls this our armor. It’s that armor that’s based on fear and how we use our thoughts and emotions and behavior to protect ourselves rather than help others. And even more difficult is that some folks aren’t even aware of how their lack of emotional intelligence and their own personal armor is directly impacting those around them. It’s this lack of awareness that creates an even more challenging situation, because if they’re not aware that there’s even a lack of emotional intelligence, then there’s not much desire to work on anything. This, in my mind, creates a very powerful coaching opportunity. Melissa Reeve: Yeah. I can really see that. And as somebody who probably needs coaching, I would really welcome the opportunity for somebody to coach me. And then as somebody who’s also seen other people who could use coaching, I can see why it could be a coaching opportunity. Having said that, it seems like it could be very delicate. How would you go about clueing somebody into the fact that they’re not leading with authenticity? Jennifer Fawcett: It is very delicate. And thanks for saying that you’d be open for coaching. I need a coach every day. Melissa Reeve: We all do. Jennifer Fawcett: And I think we all do. So where to start? Well, I’d start with helping them be more self-aware and reflect upon their behaviors. Now, having them understand where they are from both an emotional standpoint and a physical standpoint at any given moment is part of the skill. That skilled coach can help coach this in quite a few ways. If that person, being you or me, is open to coaching, one opportunity is to use a method called the “Red Zone, Blue Zone” method. This is from Joe Jurkowski’s and Jim Osterhaus’s book, Turning Conflict Into Opportunity. Now, this method asks the person to stop and call a timeout, take a deep breath, and remove themselves from the situation, or do whatever it takes to recalibrate. Now, obviously, this happens in a one-on-one environment. It could happen on a break or a natural pause to the event that’s happening. The more real-time you can make this, the better chance you have at the person recognizing what’s happening. Now, the next step would be to help them locate themselves and their emotions at that moment. Are they in the red zone of being focused on themselves and closed off and defensive or opinionated? Is that armor up? Or are they in the blue zone of being open-minded, curious, listening, and showing up with humility? Reflect, ground, and learn from those moments. They create that foundation for self-awareness that can help with how they can regulate their emotions. Melissa Reeve: I hadn’t heard of the “Red Zone, Blue Zone,” but it’s very much similar to something called conscious leadership. And in that context, they say something’s either above the line or below the line. And above the line is exactly as you described; it’s open, honest, and willing to connect with others. And below the line is closed, defensive, and committed to being right. So that seems like a really powerful technique when somebody’s open to that. What happens if somebody isn’t aware of what’s going on? Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. This is where the magic of coaching comes in as well. If the person is perhaps not aware, I like to use a technique called “the mirror and the window,” and you’ve probably encountered this in your work or your personal relationships as well. Now, the mantra is always to pick up the mirror before peering through the window. In this scenario, the coach can model vulnerability and authenticity and perhaps say, “Hey, I have never been in a situation like this, where I didn’t personally contribute problems like the ones we’re seeing here. It’s easy to look out the window and say, ‘The problems are out there,’ but perhaps we can reflect on this situation and recognize how we are being part of that system and we’re helping create this problem.” Now that was a little role play. So, the reflection being the mirror, you might get all kinds of resistance with this role play. You might get denial; you might get comparison blame. But it also creates an opportunity to continue to reflect and unpeel the behavior until it becomes recognized. And that person begins their self-awareness journey. Now, don’t always expect immediate results. Just like changing our organization takes time, coaching a change in someone else’s behavior takes time as well. Now, once they know that folks are advancing their emotional intelligence is when they genuinely ask for help and they’re open for feedback. Melissa Reeve: Well, I’m glad you mentioned the part about not expecting immediate results. I was just talking to somebody in a coaching position the other day. And he was really discouraged because he was trying to do some coaching and he was getting a lot of resistance to the coaching. And the discussion we had was, this does take time. And interestingly enough, that same day I was on LinkedIn and I saw a little meme, I guess, is what you call it. And it said, “No really stands for next opportunity.” So, if somebody’s giving you a no, just think in your mind, “Well, alright, there’ll be a next opportunity for me to bring this up again.” Jennifer Fawcett: There always will be. Yep. Thank you. Melissa Reeve: So this all sounds absolutely amazing, and it sounds like you’ve done this in the field. Can you share with our listeners an experience from the field on how showing up with emotional intelligence can impact success or inhibit a digital transformation? Jennifer Fawcett: I’ve seen it from so many different aspects. And I can think of many emotional intelligence experiences that impacted or inhibited that change. Now we’ve all had that colleague that walks into a room or meeting with their own agenda. And because of that agenda and the lack of emotional intelligence represented from that agenda, everyone in the room or that meeting suffers. Either that agenda changes to the person’s agenda, or they bully their way out, or they bully their way in without respecting, hearing, or opening up to the other diverse views in the room. And this leaves others feeling lost and neglected and disrespected, and most importantly, not heard. And also the feeling that that precious time that they had allotted for that meeting or event had been wasted and hijacked. Melissa Reeve: I recognize that. And I describe it as almost feeling like the air gets sucked out of the room. There’s only room for that person and their agenda. Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. Energy vampires. Melissa Reeve: There you go. So where else have you seen this? Jennifer Fawcett: Well, I’ve seen it a lot at PI Planning, where that single Business Owner or stakeholder didn’t accept the plan. And it’s terrifying because, after two and a half days of passionate planning over five time zones, the teams came up with a plan to deliver against the vision. But, that plan didn’t seem to match what that stakeholder’s personal objectives or goals were. Now that stakeholder started to ask things like, “Hey, it looks like these features are just going to land a week or two or an iteration or two after the PI boundary. Can’t you just pull them in?” Now, this could have been better if there was a negotiation around scope, but prior to that moment, there wasn’t. Now this frustration and that lack of trust and overwhelmingly helplessness and disappointment in the room were really obvious with the teams, and it caused a lot of delays. Now they re-planned and they eventually renegotiated and got to a plan, but in reflection, there was a huge opportunity for that Business Owner to be more involved, interact directly with the teams and the other stakeholders during planning, and most importantly, trust that the teams did everything they could based on what they knew to deliver against that vision. Melissa Reeve: Oh, that sounds painful [laughter]. So what about leaders? And leaders, I feel like have a special role when it comes to emotional intelligence, because they have that positional authority, but they also have a responsibility to not use that in a harmful way. Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. With authority comes responsibility. So here’s another one that might sound familiar, that you could relate to based on that little conversation. Now, many of us have seen a leader or Business Owner that has made a commitment on behalf of an organization without effectively socializing that commitment and equally important, doing effective capacity planning or road mapping with their teams. Or even worse, they come in sideways with a new direction, without the opportunity to effectively collaborate on cost-of-delay and that ultimate value to the business with the other stakeholders. Now, this generates somewhat of a top-down, pathological or bureaucratic leadership model that makes the people who are creating or developing the value feel like they’re in a no-win situation. Feels like they have no control over their destiny. It’s constantly going to change. Somebody’s always going to come in sideways. And that everything’s a lost cause. And guess what? Most of those initiatives either fail to deliver, or they miss the mark from a customer perspective because that type of behavior causes a whiplash. Employment motivation gets low. It creates waste in the system because people start to complain; they start to gossip; they start to commiserate with each other; and the goal becomes uninspiring and disconnected from the values to those social networks. And this is a disaster waiting to happen. Melissa Reeve: Yeah, you can’t see me, but I’m sitting here nodding my head because I’ve just seen this play out so many times. And it just feels like the trust starts to erode, especially in an Agile organization, because you are saying that you value the input of people and you value their capacity. But what you’re demonstrating is something completely different. Jennifer Fawcett: Right. And those social networks are so delicate. It’s the emotional intelligence that I like to call the glue that keeps people together, that keeps people wanting to work together and evolve towards the highest level of value that they can deliver to their customers. Melissa Reeve: So these are all just amazing examples. And you talked a little bit about PI Planning. I’d love to hear how emotional intelligence and that competency applies to other aspects of SAFe and how they can affect flow and outcomes. Yeah. All of emotional intelligence relates in some ways to SAFe. But let’s talk specifically about some of the SAFe competencies and some of the constructs and how they connect. Let’s start with a Lean-Agile Leadership competency. Leaders set the example. They enable the evolution of emotional intelligence and they model all of the emotional intelligence competencies so that our development value streams can evolve. Both their business agility competencies and their emotional competencies. Now, if we don’t consider the human emotion, the inspiration and motivation aspects of change, we can inhibit flow, and people shut down and lose their motivation. And thus, that jeopardizes providing value to our customers. Melissa Reeve: Well, I could see that for sure. And while we’re on the subject of our customers, it seems like emotional intelligence is vital in connecting with customers. Jennifer Fawcett: Absolutely. Connecting to the customer involves all of our Agile product delivery and enterprise solution delivery competencies. Plus, the design thinking skills to listen, reflect, empathize, and connect with the people that we’re designing those solutions for. It puts the customer first. And this means going deep into the empathy competency of emotional intelligence to use our service orientation mindset to foresee, recognize, and exceed our customer needs. Now, if we can evolve the empathy competency in all aspects of product and solution delivery, then we have the opportunity to excel beyond our competitors in delivering value and continue to thrill our customers. Melissa Reeve: So, it seems like there’s a lot here, and I know I’ve read your blogs out on the scaledagile.com website. Do you want to talk for a minute about your blogs? Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah, there’s more, and I do explore some of the additional elements of the connection between emotional intelligence and SAFe in part two of my emotional intelligence blog series on the Scaled Agile website. Melissa Reeve: And I’d encourage anybody to go out and find those two blogs. They’re great reading for anyone. So these are amazing perspectives to apply to the whole organization. What advice do you have for individuals like myself who are trying to evolve their emotional intelligence competency? Jennifer Fawcett: Just like we said from the beginning, start with you. Really cherish yourself, allow time for self-reflection, self-work, and to recharge yourself. Tap into the outcomes of your retrospectives and your team activities and take feedback and show your gratitude for those giving you feedback. So integrate emotional intelligence workshops with leaders and teams and start with self-awareness and self-regulation. This will help build trust so that you can go deeper and go deeper into those more sensitive competencies, like empathy and those social skills. Get a personal coach or find a practice that helps you reflect and learn from your behaviors. Practice “the mirror and the window” technique with your folks and yourself; role-play it. Personally, I like to spend time in nature. I like to hike. I like to play music and practice yoga. I also rehearse. I videotape myself so I can see how I show up. It’s horrifying, but it works. Melissa Reeve: I get it. [laughter] Jennifer Fawcett: Now, these are some of my self-awareness techniques that help me reflect and grow. And others might have different practices like religious practices or our belief networks and coaching groups that can help them with self-awareness and growth as well. Melissa Reeve: Yeah. And I want to take a moment here, just a pause because as I hear this, it makes intellectual sense to me. And I’m putting myself back into a time where I had meetings nonstop from 8:00 in the morning, till 6:00 at night. I was maybe working from 6:00 in the morning till 9:00 at night. And this whole part of self-awareness got lost. It got squeezed out. And so, I’m just curious if you have any guidance for people in that situation. How do you make this a priority? Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. You do have to make the time. Block out your calendar, grow that internal and external coaching network. I tend to use a lot of friends and family in that internal and external coaching network and colleagues from the past. Now, coaches can help with all aspects of emotional intelligence and they can help provide the tools and techniques for self-awareness and self-regulation and for practicing empathy. Now, all the coaches I know bring their own unique self to their environments. So ensure that you’re investing in coaching for yourself and your people. Now in a previous career, I was a release manager and my leader brought in a release manager coach for me. And at first, I was really taken aback. I thought, “Well, why do I need a coach? I know what I’m doing.” Melissa Reeve: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Jennifer Fawcett: But after a few sessions, I realized that she wasn’t there to help me with the practice of release management. She was there to help me reflect on all the other aspects of my behavior and help demonstrate how everything I did impacted the environment and the social network that I was in. I’m so grateful for that leader for investing in me. Melissa Reeve: Prior to this recording, I was in a meeting and we were talking about feedback, and most people in that meeting were so hungry for the feedback. It is that balance of vulnerability, yet, wanting the feedback in a safe way. I can see why you’re grateful for this leader who invested in you and provided a safe way for you to receive the feedback you needed to hear. Jennifer Fawcett: Yeah. Creating that type of network provides the power of that safe space so the people can always come back and practice and share ideas and concerns and grow without being judged or having fear of getting that feedback. Melissa Reeve: So it seems like creating a community of practice would really also create that safe space. Jennifer Fawcett: You bet. Creating that community of practice around the emotional intelligence competencies is a beautiful way to get going. In the latest Leading by Example module that Scaled Agile released, one of the most cherished outcomes was a cohort that trusted each other and was willing to share their deepest challenges with authenticity. Melissa Reeve: I really admire the work that’s been done in the Leading by Example class. And I have firsthand seen a palpable shift in leaders who’ve taken that class. So, Jennifer, you have done an amazing job here today just sharing your perspective and your advice on emotional intelligence. I feel richer for having spent this 20 minutes with you and hope our listeners do as well. Jennifer Fawcett: Aw, I do as well. Thank you, Melissa. It’s always a pleasure to be here. Melissa Reeve: And thanks for listening to our show today. Be sure to check out the show notes and more at scaledagile.com/podcast. Revisit past topics at scaledagile.com/podcast. Speaker 1: Relentless improvement is in our DNA and we welcome your input on how we can improve the show. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.