In 1995 Daniel Goleman made the term emotional intelligence popular when his book, Emotional Intelligence remained on The New York Times bestseller list for a year and a half. According to Goleman there are five key elements of EQ, the popular moniker for emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness – knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others
  • Self-regulation – controlling impulses and moods
  • Motivation – loving achievement for achievement’s sake
  • Empathy – understanding others’ emotions
  • Social Skills – building rapport with others to move them in desired directions

Unfortunately most managers are promoted based on their technical skills according to San Francisco-based Susan Schwartz, leadership and management coach and speaker, and author of Creating a Greater Whole: A Project Manager’s Guide to Becoming a Leader. And, according to Harvard Business Review’s On Emotional Intelligence, “technical skills are threshold capabilities, or entry-level requirements for executive positions. But emotional intelligence is indispensable.”

The World Economic Forum agrees, posting in its Future of Jobs Report that emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 most desirable job skills above technical skills.

Building better relationships and communicating effectively are key to becoming an emotionally intelligent manager explains Schwartz. Further, it provides a framework around the essential “people skills” that trusted advisors use to build relationships, earn a client’s trust, and gain the insights to give excellent advice.”

How does emotional intelligence work? Emotional intelligence is composed of five key skills.

Self-Awareness means knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others.

Example: A software engineering manager knows that interruptions will interfere with his schedule, so he plans accordingly, and rather than feeling frustrated, he is in control of his schedule. He leaves chunks of time in his calendar for these interruptions. 

Self-Regulation means controlling disruptive impulses, emotions & moods. 

Example: A team loses a big sale. The manager, instead of yelling & overreacting, takes an analytical approach, engaging her pre-frontal cortex, the logic center of the brain. She convenes the team for a de-brief, to analytically uncover what went wrong and what they can do differently in the future. 

Motivation (in this context) refers to intrinsic motivation, meaning, being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement (rather than salary or ego). This includes optimism, passion for the work, & commitment to the organization. 

Example: A person has a major set-back or defeat, but rather than letting negativity & feelings of defeat get her down or depressed, she rather remains optimistic for the future. 

Empathy is about deeply understanding other people’s feelings, especially when making decisions. It incorporates skills of listening and really feeling what other people feel. Empathy means thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings while making intelligent business decisions. 

Example: A manager notices that one of the team is under-performing for several days or weeks. Instead of approaching him with criticism, she approaches him with care and concern, keeping in mind that something beyond his control might be affecting his work flow or behavior. She approaches him with an attitude of wanting to help. 

Social Skills are about managing relationships and building rapport with others to influence them to buy in to her point of view, or move them in a desired direction. This person is persuasive, has an extensive network, and leads change.    

Example: A manager wants her company to establish a vibrant wellness group. She gathers a few people together to create an informal group which gets people moving more, eating healthy and practicing mindfulness. She persuades other managers around the company to do the same. The involved managers get together and show upper management how effective their teams are performing based on their enhanced productivity and levels of happiness, showing evidence of ROI: productivity, reduced absenteeism, & happiness.

Why are these EQ skills so important?

Because in order to manage teams, managers must realize that they are not managing machines but rather people with human emotions. They have to keep in mind that people are their greatest assets, and that without them, the organization would not thrive.

When people come to work they may be dealing with stress relating to Covid, the vaccine, the Delta variant, or the booster. They may have stressed out families. They may have an ill elderly family member stricken with Covid. Of course they want to do their best work, but if you are demanding, rather than sensitive and empathetic, they probably will not be motivated to do their best, most creative work.

A good manager is a coach and problem-solver, as well as a project manager, who has to focus on budgets and timelines.

Emotional intelligence does not come naturally to everyone, but the good news is that it can be learned. It takes time, commitment, and an excellent executive coach. If you need help with your emotional intelligence skills, ask a mentor or accountability partner to get together.