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The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Life and Security Teams

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By: Mark Nibert

April 2, 2020

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and identify your own emotions, understanding the feelings of others, and using your ability to manage emotions to work within both realms. One of the critical aspects of being a leader, mentor, or even a teammate is the ability to understand others. As a leader, it means understanding how they think and why they do the things they do.

Understanding People

One of the abilities that I have used with my team is recognizing that each person is unique in how they do things, what drives them, and how they do their job. Each person brings an unique skill set, and how they react to situations are also different. One of the things I have learned over the years is that I also need to use what I know about them to communicate. Even in briefings or meetings with groups, I try to ensure I convey information in different ways so that each person understands the message.

Physical Signs to Recognize Emotional Feedback

One of the best ways to increase your emotional intelligence is to ensure that people understand you. A lot of people talk and brief, but do not pay attention to body language and comments. This could be a brief to teammates, an office meeting, or even a one on one conversation. Understanding how you come off or how your message is delivered will help you communicate more successfully with teammates, coworkers, or any audience. Reading these signs will also allow you to communicate and deliver your message. It should also key you in on how well the message is received.

Daily Emotional Mindset

Being in a good mood is a choice each of us make each day when we get up. Everyone goes through rough patches and difficult times, but it is imperative to recognize your mood and emotions each morning, more so on the hard days, and stay focused at work and with your conversations with others. It is possible to be having a bad day and still have a great day at work. One of the great things I have heard is that problems travel up and never down. Understanding that when you talk badly about coworkers or degrading the team or complaining to your employees creates a destructive environment.

How does this tie to Cyber Security?

If you think of a Red Team or various members of the red team, it may not be evident exactly how Emotional Intelligence plays into this. However, someone who is good at Social Engineering has exceptionally high emotional intelligence. To be good at this understanding of people and their emotions and using them to get what you need is paramount. Emotional intelligence is typically a positive thing, but understanding the mindset and how to recognize emotional intelligence is very important. Someone that comes to mind is Kevin Mitnick. He had the confidence to adjust to situations quickly and could identify and manipulate others based on how they reacted. This involved understanding how they operate, gauging their emotions, and working off of them.

How does this all work?

As a leader in Cyber Security or any technical realm, one of the skills that are lacking in formal education is public speaking, briefing, and other soft skill courses. Emotional intelligence is a small part of this, but an important one. Understanding what motivates coworkers and employees as well as understanding how people think and react will create a much more cohesive and productive team. I know because this is a struggle I have, but this is a slippery slope and one that I continuously work on. It is much more important to appear to be in a good mood and positive, especially on the days when you can’t be.

If you are a Forensic Expert, SOC Analyst, Cyber Analyst understanding how your coworkers think, the moods they are in, and what your boss or team is looking for requires emotional intelligence. When you think of research style jobs in Cyber Security, certain types of people enjoy certain types of work. As a leader, you need to be able to recognize what your employees need, and experience at work can create a much more productive team.

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