Emotional Intelligence… the difference that makes the difference?

As we adjust to new ways of working after the recent pandemic we’ve noticed how important it is for teams to feel safe enough to have open and honest conversations about their needs and how they feel. With this comes an ever greater need for emotional intelligence.

It’s widely acknowledged that emotional intelligence is a valuable human quality. It impacts almost everything we do and say each day.

In our working environment, our level of emotional intelligence influences our decision-making, communication, tolerance to stress, the empathy we have for colleagues and our ability to be a conscious member of a team.

So, how do we develop greater emotional intelligence in our workplaces?

A good starting point is the work of behavioural scientist Daniel Goleman who popularised the term in the mid 1990’s.

He claimed that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of team performance and that it can be learned. Goleman defines emotional intelligence as having four key components:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management


As we explored in our blog post about self-awareness, this is essentially how well we know ourselves. It’s our ability to accurately observe our thoughts and feelings whilst being able to notice how we’re coming across. People who are self-aware can reflect on their behaviour, their personality and their performance. Being able to recognise and understand the way they feel enables them to relate to others with more empathy. It’s through self-reflection that people bring out the best in themselves.


Being able to regulate our emotions in times of challenge and stress is a key aspect of emotional intelligence. This is what is meant by self-management.

For many of us, the way we react to people and circumstances at work is unconscious, meaning we’re rarely able to consider our best response. People who are skilful in self-management have mastered the art of self-regulation. They’ve learned that negative emotions are a signal to pause. That doesn’t mean emotionally intelligent people never feel anger or experience stress, in fact they know it’s harmful to suppress these emotions. They’ve learned to feel whatever is arising, and acknowledge their emotions without the need to react. With this awareness, they take responsibility and choose their response. They ensure the best version of themselves remains in the driving seat whatever is happening in their environment.

Social awareness

Once we understand the nature of our own emotions, we naturally start to recognise those of others. We see that people react differently in the same situations. We learn how to read the room and our colleagues. With this awareness, we bring empathy and are equipped to make deeper connections. We’re able to sense what is actually happening around us. Social awareness benefits everyone in a team which in turn serves the wider purpose of the organisation.

Relationship Management

Keeping everyone happy and inspired at work is often considered to be the responsibility of management. However, in more self-directed systems, leaders recognise that emotional intelligence is the key ingredient to giving control. Self-directed teams are highly flexible because the people within them can channel awareness of themselves and others in their work. They hold each other to account with empathy and compassion, navigate social complexities and make personal and collective decisions that achieve positive results for their organisation.

Unlocking the Secret

There’s a common misperception that working on this ‘soft stuff’ and personal development is less important than getting on with real work. Many leaders focus on tangible objectives and performance targets. These are measurable and easy to observe. However, in doing so, we miss the opportunity. The secret to the results we desire actually depends upon developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence in ourselves and the people in our organisation.

When leaders invest in their development and that of their teams, we see considerable improvements in productivity, collaboration and overall well-being.

If you’re curious and would like to know more about how you and your team can become more emotionally aware, we’re facilitating The Power of Self-Awareness starting on 27th January 2023. Click here for more information and to book your place.

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