Take ‘CARE’ to be ‘CALM’: Emotional intelligence is key to achieving digital maturity

Last night, I hosted an experimental workshop inspired by LEGO® Serious Play® to help a mix of former corporate and museum colleagues process their personal and professional emotions as a result of COVID-19. I was extremely nervous — while I have incorporated LEGO® into so many of my workshops and training over the years, I have never attempted to use virtual LEGO® building (via Mecabricks) and a Zoom gathering to produce a purposeful and meaningful experience. There were a couple of tech hiccups (as can be expected and good lessons learned to inform the next session), but overall, a group — many of whom did not know any of the other participants — came together and shared profound stories and emotion in only 90-minutes. I was — and AM — simply amazed at the open minds and full hearts of the participants.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is not taught in schools. It is not until we are fully ingrained in the workplace and our adult lives that we learn that we may have many behaviors we need to unlearn to better communicate and collaborate with others. Is that our responsibility? Our employers if not our schools? How do we know what emotional intelligence skills we are lacking? These are the questions I asked as a corporate rebel / change agent using digital communities to enact digital transformation AND I am now asking as an independent researcher and consultant.

During my first post-doc when I was embedded for 15-months at two London museums as ‘One by One’ action researcher, I found cultural institutions had many of the same digital struggles as the private sector. I observed that most organizations do not have technology issues, but communication and collaboration gaps and opportunities. There was a fundamental lack of underlying business intelligence (BI) and emotional intelligence (EI) informing the digital strategy and activities. Sustainable digital maturity is difficult to achieve if you, your staff, and organization lack digital competencies, capabilities and literacies fused with business and emotional literacy.

Just as common words and themes bubbled to the surface during my research and development of the ‘BE: CALM’ approach, a new group of words and themes (always lurking just beneath the surface before the COVID-19 situation) came to light and gave way to a new acronym: CARE. When paired with the ‘CALM’ approach, it makes a powerful new personal mantra: Take ‘CARE’ to be ‘CALM’.

What does it mean to Take ‘CARE’? Like the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ motivational posters that inspired the first acronym, hearing so many people sign off emails and video calls with “Take care,” stuck with me. What do people really mean when they say, “take care”? Do they actually mean it or is it simply a pleasantry? If we were to assign meaning, what is the expected value?

  • CCOMMUNICATE — How might we express what we mean? In times like these, do we not have a responsibility to over-communicate because we lack those chance encounters that occur when we are living our personal and professional lives? I think we do and why I advocate for learning and working-out-loud. Narrating our work is not about ego boosting, but to help orient ourselves and others to what, when, how, and why we do what we do. Communication precedes collaboration.
  • AADAPT — How might we find ways to learn from the past to inform our present and plan for the future? We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, three weeks, or six months from now, but what might we do to help us acknowledge and make sense of all the internal and external outputs, so that we may pivot and adapt and adopt new practices and strategic pathways? Scenario planning is amazing, but when it lacks business and emotional intelligence, the narratives will not be helpful for you or your organization to develop actionable activities and practices. Even when in equilibrium, the world around us is in constant motion. No one likes change…especially when it is forced upon us. Are we asking the right questions to help prepare us for what may be next? What do we have in our toolbelt to help us make sense of our emotions and paths forward?
  • RRESILIENT — Right now we feel fragile. This is a collective emotion experienced worldwide. The chinks in our personal and professional armor that we ignored before COVID can no longer be neglected. We have lived in fear of living without. There may be a silver lining to our current situation — we are renewing our acquaintance with our own resilience. How do we ensure we do not forget this experience? Things like strategy and governance and human-centered approaches are not nice-to-have, but need-to-have. They may not be the sexiest digital activities to pursue, but the most vital.
  • EEMPATHY — As Prof. Brené Brown reminds us, “empathy is not our default response.” Empathy is our ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is difficult to practice if we are unable to understand and process our own emotions (EI). Actively listening to how others feel and understanding what they need when we feel like we are drowning is rough. But this is what is being asked or at least expected of us by our family and employers. How might we create safe spaces for us to share our own stories and process the stories of others?

Take ‘CARE’ to be ‘CALM’ is what I keep repeating to myself…it is the only thing keeping me from giving into anger, worry, and stress. This too shall pass, but what will I and others have learned as a result? What behaviors will have changed? What new skills will have been realized?

Last night, I created a space for my colleagues to process their grief and frustrations. What we discovered is that, while they are all from different countries, backgrounds, and professions, all are struggling with the same demons. LEGO® bricks and components (even virtual) were a means to locate, identify, and voice emotions we did not know we had, so that we may be able to think of ways we are able to control and influence what we can to move forward.

Throwing content on digital does not make you or your organization relevant — no matter how viral that digital activity may be. Digital must be grounded in business intelligence (alignment to strategic objects and data-informed decision-making) and emotional intelligence (what do people — employees AND community/visitors/customers — need and why…go beyond the monetary). Maturity is not simply achieved with age or time spent doing something. Maturity is the behavioral expression of emotional health. If you aim to become digitally mature, then it is time to make space to evaluate your personal and professional business and emotional intelligence.

I will leave you now with the awesome lyrics from The Lego Movie song, ‘Everything is Awesome’ by Tegan and Sara:

“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.”

For more information about designing ‘CALM’ practices and processes, please read: A ‘CALM’ approach to leadership in the digital age.

For more information about ‘Take CARE’ and ‘BE: CALM’ ‘workshops and consultation, please visit: Your Digital Tattoo.

#OnebyOne Digital Fellow: building digitally confident museums | Digital Dragon Slayer | Community Management Strategist | Independent Researcher and Consultant

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